Thomaston Baseball Team Goes for the Glory Saturday at Palmer Field in Middletown. Story by John Torsiello.
THOMASTON-Thomaston High School head baseball coach Bobby McMahon knew he had a bunch of battlers on his hands early this spring.
“We were tied in our second game of the season against Housatonic and they bring in (Willy) Yahn (voted the Berkshire League’s best pitcher in 2014). We score a run and win the game. Then we go up and beat Northwestern (fourth game of the season) for the first time in forever at their place after being down 3-1. We scored three runs the seventh and we went home. That told me the kids were fighters.”
Fighters indeed. The Golden Bears, who won their first Berkshire League title in 29 years this season, will seek their own piece of local fame in a year filled with success for Thomaston High School teams Saturday at Middletown’s Palmer Field when they take on Portland in the Class S state tournament championship game at high noon.
“I thought there was a possibility we could have a special season and I figured our chances were as good as anybody’s. Well, we are still playing.”
Third-seeded Thomaston, now 21-3 overall, will take on tournament surprise, 17th-ranked Portland (15-9), for all the marbles. The Highlanders have gotten to the finals on the strength of solid pitching, having allowed just two runs in their previous four tournament games, wins over Coventry, East Hampton, Old Lyme and Trinity Catholic.
Portland had an up and down season playing in the rugged Shoreline Conference. The Highlanders started the season 6-1, but then lost four of their next five before winning five of their next six contests. They ended the regular season with a three-game losing streak before catching fire in the tournament. They knocked off the tourney’s top seed, East Hampton, in the second round, 4-1.
Junior right hander Cole Ogorzalek threw a complete game one-hitter in the semifinal win over Trinity-Catholic, striking out nine batters.
While Thomaston pitching has been solid it has been the Golden Bear bats that have done the damage in victories over Valley Regional, St. Paul, Morgan and Cromwell, scoring 28 runs in those four contests.
Thomaston won the Class S title in 2008, while Portland won its only state title by beating the Berkshire League’s Shepaug in the Class S championship game in 1988.
McMahon will send senior right hander Brian Butkevicius to the mound against Portland. He got the final two outs in the 5-4 win over Cromwell in the semifinals, after senior lefty Blaise Russo started and gutted out six-plus innings. Butkevicius has been a stud for the Golden Bears this season, posting an 11-1 record with two wins in the post-season. His earned run average was 1.44 during the regular campaign and 1.08 in the post-season.
Asked who would be ready to come in to support his ace in need be, McMahon said “Everyone.”
Butkevicius will throw to junior catcher Tyler Donofrio (.439 average, 10 RBI). McMahon’s batting order will be junior Mike Milius (.551, 12 RBI, 24 stolen bases) leading off, followed by sophomore designated hitter Matt Tehan (.421, 15 RBI, 15 stolen bases), senior third baseman Jake Tehan (.415, 17 RBI), Donofrio, Russo (.415, 13 RBI), who will play first, senior leftfielder Dan LeVasseur (.397, 13 RBI), junior second baseman Anthony Moura (.233, five RBI), junior leftfielder Frankie Romanelli (.386, five RBI, eight stolen bases) and sophomore centerfielder Justin Taylor (.321, six RBI, nine stolen bases).
Russo, Romanelli and Taylor have all seen mound action during the season.
Thomaston likes to make things happen on the base paths and McMahon will look to cause havoc for Portland’s infielders when the occasion presents itself in the title tilt.
“Everybody is healthy and ready to go,” said the head coach.
McMahon said the support the team has received from the town of Thomaston has been key to its success this spring.
“We would get around 200 people for our home games and that is great. I had fiends drive by and say they couldn’t believe how many people were at our game.”
For sure, hundreds of Thomaston fans will make the 45-minute drive to venerable Palmer Field Saturday to cheer on their local heroes.