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Everybody dug the long ball on the Fourth of July at Fuessenich Park. Story by John Torsiello.

POSTED July 09, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

The winner of the Fourth of July, Tri-Town All Stars versus the Torrington Titans Home Run Derby, Cole Harrison (middle). To his left is Titans manager Gregg Hunt and to his right, Tri-State commissioner, Ed Gadomski. Harrison launched seven homers in the final round to take home the trophy.

Remember when Atlanta Braves pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux did a commercial talking about how they wanted to hit home runs because, “Chicks dig the long ball”?

Well, everybody still digs the long ball. The some 200 plus hundred fans that showed up July 4th at Fuessenich Park to watch a home run hitting contest between members of the Torrington Titans and the Tri-State League All-Stars certainly did and they got a treat as balls were flying out of the stadium and into the Naugatuck River by the dozens.

A total of 16 players, eight from each side, took part in the contest’s first round with the top three advancing to the final round. Batters were given eight outs (or non-home runs) in the first round and 10 in the second.

In the opening round, lefty Thomas Richards, a 6-2, 205-pounder from the University of Buffalo, led the Titans with six dingers, including a blast that hit the top of a brown shingled house that stands beyond the fence in right field, while teammate Cole Harrison blasted five and Ryan Plourde hit four to get into the championship round.

Devin Murphy of the Naugatuck Dogs was equally as impressive in the first round, knocking six over the fences, followed by Paul Novakowski of the Brass City Brew with five and Ryan Soucy of the Wolcott Scrappers with three.

The strapping 6-4, 210-pound right-handed hitting Harrison dominated the finals, slapping seven homers, while an obviously tired Richards wound up with three and Plourde just two. Soucy was tops among the Tri-Staters with five, while Murphy had four and Novakowski two.

Harrison, built like a classic home run hitter with a long stride and slightly uppercut swing, accepted a trophy for winning the home run derby and good-natured ribbing from his teammates.

Harrison’s showing was a nice plus for the 20-year-old outfielder who was a freshman this spring for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is coming back from a fractured hamate bone in his left hand that he broke on a swing during the collegiate season.

“The hand feels great now and I just went into the contest loose and letting the bat do the work. I had won some home run hitting contests before in high school and they are fun to be a part of. I just swing easy and let it go.”

He said he wasn’t worried about messing up his normal swing by going for the fences.

“I don’t think it really matters. I hit my share of home runs anyway.”

Asked by a reporter whether he ate his Wheaties that morning, Harrison smiled and said, “I had a Subway grinder for breakfast.” Hmm, wonder if the chain can market that response?

Novakowski of the Tri-Staters, who played high school baseball at Holy Cross in Waterbury and then spent four years with the Assumption College team, said it was fun to be a part of the derby.

“It’s not for bragging rights or anything. The Titans are young kids on their way up and we’re happy to be playing baseball. I have hit my fair share of home runs over the years and we had a few side bets as to who was going to hit more for our team.”

Offered Titans manager Gregg Hunt, “We wanted to do this and then maybe not because it might mess up the guys swings. But we said let’s do it and I think it was great. The fans enjoyed it and it was nice to see a lot of people in the stands to watch.”

Also competing for the Titans were Kyle Murphy, Josh Band, Aaron Nardone, Josh Simms and Shane O’Connell. And for the Tri-State stars, Vic Desimone of the Watertown Blaze, Matt Hosier of the Amenia Monarchs, Ken Shufelt of the Amenia Monarchs, Chris Beach of the Litchfield Cowboys and Justin McCulloch of the Brass City Brew joined in the fun.

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