Thomaston's great day could be its greatest day
THOMASTON – Championship Saturday. A great day already in Thomaston. When the sun goes down in may be the greatest day ever at Thomaston High School.
For the second time in less than three months the Clockmaker’s town will empty out to follow its pride and joy – the Golden Bears baseball and softball team. Only this time it will be a bit different than in March when all roads pointed to Mohegan Sun and the Class S girls’ basketball championship.
This will be an all- day affair with folks piling into Palmer Field in Middletown at noon for the Golden Bears bid for a state baseball title against a red-hot Portland team. They will be rooting for a quick victory so they can head to West Haven High and watch the softball Bears battle Old Saybrook for a state softball title at 3:30 p.m.
It doesn’t get any better than this, does it? One team in the finals is a major accomplishment. Two teams? Now that is off the charts. Only Southington has the chance of a double this year.
But Southington has more than 2,500 students. Thomaston has about 270. That makes the story even more special. This has been the year that won’t quit at Thomaston High School. The little engine that could is the little engine that did.
There is no better story than coaches Gene Torrence and Kelly Finlay’s softball team. The softball story is great and has been for two years now. But this story started during the basketball season.
On the mound, starting forward Morgan Sanson. She throws to catcher and starting guard Nicole Schaefer. Over at first base is starting guard Gabrielle Hurlbert. And if you take a peek at shortstop you see the best – three-sport All-Stater Abby Hurlbert who also hit a couple of slightly huge foul shots in the Class S championship game.
Look around and you’ll see a couple of more familiar basketball faces.
They’ve been the mountain top, it’s not all basketball players, however. Third baseman Nina Barone and center fielder Erin O’Neill didn’t dribble but they are equally essential ingredients.
It is a group that knows nothing but winning and thumbs at nose at the lower score. And it what is now well-documented and, nobody has found the weapon to kill the Bear yet. Comeback victories over Sacred Heart and St. Paul in the Class S basketball final are now part of Golden Bear lore.
It has carried over to softball. Twice the Bears have come up with seventh inning magic. Danielle Genest against St. Paul with a game-tying single to set up a 10th inning victory. A sixth inning rally to dispose of Notre Dame-Fairfield and then another piece of legend against Coventry in the semifinals.
Morgan Sanson, you remember her right? She scored the tying basket the basketball finals to send the game into the first of two overtimes. Well, how about this. Two outs, two strikes last inning and what does Sanson do? Crushes a home run over the fence.
She wasn’t finished. Two innings later, she plates Abby Hurlbert with the winning run with a sliced single to left field. You can’t make this stuff up. Plus, she pitched the Bears to victory.
Here’s a little tidbit for you.
Thomaston last played Coventry in the 1987 softball semifinal and future Connecticut High School and Collegiate Hall of Famer Lisa Hurlbert Sanson shut down the Patriots, 3-1. Why bring it up? Lisa is Morgan Sanson’s mother. Coventry has seen enough of that family.
Win or lose this has been an amazing group of never-say-die Bears. Coach Bob McMahon’s baseball team has written its own special story.
Led by the `core four’ of seniors Brian Butkevicius, Dan LeVasseur, Blaise Russo and Jake Tehan. They hadn’t won a BL title since 1985 but ran past the BL this year.
Butkevicius was the best pitcher in the league and Russo provided a great one-two punch of the mound. Junior shortstop Mike Milius proved to be one of the top hitters in the league (.551) and has stolen 24 bases.
Jake Tehan has knocked in 17 runs. McMahon says he has no hero ball players. No guys who wear Oakleys and wristbands. Just guys who want to play baseball and never want to take the uniform off. McMahon has had to do double duty with his heart.
Those softball players are his basketball players. He was already pulled over in New Britain on the way to his baseball game listening to the end of the girl’s game when Sanson hit her home run.
He loves this baseball team. They have the same look in their eyes the girls team does. Two teams and a town. All linked together in proud atmosphere. It is a great day for Thomaston High School. By days end it could be the greatest day. Either way it has been run to remember. Who knows when or if it will happen again?