Thomaston Softball Aims for BL, State Titles. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Anybody betting against Thomaston winning a Berkshire League and state title his spring? Right, I didn’t think so.
The Golden Bears begin the season as the reigning state Class S champions. Thomaston, which finished the 2014 season 20-2, came from six runs down against Old Saybrook to capture the title in extra innings, 7-6.
Last year was indeed a magical run for the Bears, who went extra innings to beat St. Paul, 2-1, in 10 innings in the Class S quarterfinals, and then beat Coventry, 2-1, in nine innings in the semifinals. It marked Thomaston’s first trip to the state finals in nine years.
The Golden Bears, who finished 16-2 and behind Northwestern (Thomaston’s only two losses were to the Highlanders) in the Berkshire League race last year, return a number of key players with which to make a run at a league and second straight state championship.
“We have a small team of 13 players,” said head coach Kelly Finlay, “but we return seven starters from last year’s state championship team. We have some promising freshman who will see playing time. Our offense has been improving, and if our bats come around, with our smart defensive play, we will be a top contender in the league.”
Among the top returnees is junior pitcher Morgan Sanson, who should be even better this year with another year under her belt. Other key players will be senior third baseman Nina Barone, senior outfielders Jensyn Cleveland, a bevy of juniors including second baseman Danielle Genest, first baseman Gabby Hurlbert (who scored the winning run in last year’s Class S title game), catcher Nicole Schaefer, outfielders Julia Romaniello and Sam Brostek, and sophomore pitcher and outfielder Sam Laone.
Thomaston lost only two notable players from last year’s squad but they were key graduations; hard-hitting and versatile shortstop/pitcher Abby Hurlbert and outfielder Erin O‘Neil, who drove in the winning run in last year’s state title tilt.
Among the young players Finlay is counting on to contribute quickly are a solid group of freshmen; catcher/infielder Alex Milius, outfielders Katie Everett and Kaitlyn Root, and infielder Alexa Sanson.
That the Golden Bears had three one-run games in the state tournament is somewhat ironic, as they played only a few close games during the regular season, one a 6-5 win over Lewis Mills, another a 10-9 victory over Wamogo, and the third a 5-4 loss to Northwestern in extra innings late in the campaign that gave the Highlanders the BL championship.
Thomaston was a potent team at the plate in 2014, scoring 10 or more runs 12 times and 15 or more runs eight times. The Bears posted seven shutouts over regular season foes last season.
Finlay, who is in her fourth season as coach of the Golden Bears, talked about the Berkshire League and what she sees unfolding as the spring progresses.
“The Berkshire League will have a few top contenders this year. Northwestern was the league champion last season and they have a great program under Stacey Zematis . Lewis Mills is always a top team with many good players and great coaching. Scott Marcucio and Wamogo have key players back, like Sydney Bado and Malia Rebot, both of whom will be among the best players in the league. We have solid pitching, seven starters back and talented freshmen who will see playing time. We will be a top contender in the league.”
This is the first time that Finlay will be on her own leading the Golden Bears. She and Gene Torrence served as co-coaches the last three seasons. Finlay says she is undaunted by the task of going it alone his year.
“I have been involved with the program since 2010, so the players are familiar with what I teach and how I coach the game. Coming off a state championship last year, the girls know what I expect from them in practice and in games. They have high expectations from me and also for themselves, as well as for their school and town.”
Thomaston opens up Wednesday at home at the Bev Lowden Softball Field against Gilbert at 3:45 p.m. The Bears have a key early season test against Northwestern April 17 on the road. An interesting non-league clash has Thomaston entertaining Naugatuck Valley League power Holy Cross on May 1.
Yep, the Thomaston softball team would like nothing better than to duplicate what the school’s girls basketball team did this past season and win a second straight state championship in 2015.