Print this story

Final Chapter for Sanson, Hurlbert and Schaefer in Thomaston.

POSTED August 21, 2015
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

THOMASTON – So here we are, the final chapter(s). In one sense almost startling because the trio of contributing authors of the story started when they were so young and there always was another year, another title, another parade.

Like a relentless stream that flows day after day, year after year, it seemed they would go on indefinitely, forever young, forever winning and winning some more. Ahh, but however slow that clock has moved for some it does plod on, even here.

For others, it is an appreciative `it’s about time’ sigh, born of being on the other side of the brilliance so many times, so many years, so many sports. Respectful with a go-now restlessness. Bye, so long, nice job, see ya. Enough already.

Sanson, Hurlbert and Schaefer. No law firm here although you have to figure it would be a good one. Instead, a trio of unprecedented triumph. Individually talented and memorable. Collectively history-making and unforgettable.

Morgan Sanson, cousin Gabrielle Hurlbert and Nicole Schaefer begin their senior year at Thomaston High School Wednesday (Aug. 26).  You will hear no more the common refrain, “and they’ll all be back next season.”

With 180 school days and three complete seasons yet to unfold the story is still only three quarters of the way to the finish line, still incomplete. There are a multitude of bus rides yet to be ridden, more field hockey balls to whack, a few baskets yet to be made and more than a few fastballs to be faced yet. So why do this now? Why not wait until it is all said and done and in those history books before appreciating and in many cases exalting in the accomplishment?

   Simply because it is all still here and now front and center instead of gone and done. There is still time to watch and witness what it is all about, to watch it happen instead of remembering it happening. That time will come quick enough and the now will become the then and the sentiment about how quick it went will be dominant. The clock won’t stop ticking but there it time to watch it tick before the time is done.

With strong returning contingents and past success Thomaston will be heavily favored to win the Berkshire League basketball and softball titles again this school year. Once again hopes of state titles in both sports figure heavily into the thinking.

But already this is a story and an era that most high school athletes can only dream about and maybe not even put their mind around because it transcends two sports. A league title maybe even a state title is one dream, this all goes way beyond that, past what the mind will allow.

Even Sanson, Hurlbert and Schaefer couldn’t have imagined this. Do we really think as promising freshman they would be looking at these kinds of numbers and accomplishments? In basketball a 69-10 record, two Class S state titles, three Class S title appearances, three Berkshire League titles and three BL tournament titles.

Okay, you rest in peace the rest of your life and live and luxuriate in that. But this is where the story gets extra special and takes on a unique life of its own. It has never stopped here. That has never been enough.

Seasons, venues and the size of the ball has changed. Yet spring has become winter and the cheering really has never stopped. In three seasons of softball a 61-7 mark, a Class S title, two Class S title game appearances, two Berkshire League crowns, one undefeated regular season and a 31-game win streak.

Field hockey hasn’t been bad, either. How about a 38-12-2-1 mark, a first-ever Class S semifinal appearance two seasons ago and what should have been a share of one league title only to be done in by a bad, bad BL rule.   

And there is still a year to go. I don’t know if `wow’ or `holy cow’ or `my God’ captures it all but wow, holy cow and my God. And method has shared time with magic, in fact method has been part of the magic.

The `You Can’t Kill the Bear’ winter and spring of 2013-14 that saw the Bears rally from 11-points down at halftime against Sacred Heart in the Class S basketball semifinals and ending up winning by 12 points. The 10-point rally against St. Paul in the Class S championship game highlighted by Abby Hurlbert’s miraculous three foul shots with 0.2 that tied the game, led to a double overtime victory and will be talked about as long as basketball is played around here.

The ensuing softball season that saw the Bears come back in every state tournament game when it seemed like the Bear would finally be put down. All highlighted by Sanson’s incredible two-out, two-strike home run in the  bottom of the seventh  to tie the game and eventual RBI single in the ninth to win the semifinal battle against a stunned Coventry team.

Then erasing a six-run rally against Old Saybrook in the final to win on Erin O’Neill’s RBI single in the eighth inning. Heck the TV stations had left. So much for any kind of `Eye Witness News.’   You can’t make this stuff up.

This past season, Gabrielle Hurlbert’s steal at the end of the Class S basketball game against Canton that preserved a 52-50 victory.  Big plays, big time fueled from a reservoir of grit that nobody else has found the secret to. A modern day fountain of victory that the Bears have seemed to own.

It is all not perfection.  Class S title losses to a ridiculously talented Capital Prep team in basketball and a Sarah Lawton-led Holy Cross team in softball are on the resume. But it has been perfectly astounding. All of it.

And there is a year to go. So you get the idea why you need to play attention now and not in June. Nothing is assured but it has all left you shaking our head and wanting more before the clock whisks the `now’ away.

It has never been just a three-man show or a two-man or one-man story. The basketball brilliance started with the 2010 undefeated BL champion team that included Sciarra and Brittany Brandt, Steph Keith, Morgan Doyle and Lizzie Eberhardt.

Along the way there have been others including Sydney Keith and most notably all-time greats and 1,000-point scorers Maggie Eberhardt and three-sport All-Stater with ice-water in her veins Abby Hurlbert.

These days there are the likes of junior Casey Carangelo, senior Charlie Eberhardt and guard Julia Quinn along with Sam Brostek providing the finishing touches for success.

On the softball field BL All-Star Nina Barone, All-Stater, pitcher, shortstop, All-everything Abby Hurlbert, Julia Romaniello, Danielle Genest, Jensyn Cleveland, and Alexa Milius have made and are making big marks.

But for this four-year period ending in June of next year, the core, the three Musketeers has been Sanson, Hurlbert and Schaefer.

Sanson is the relentlessly rugged warrior with a deep, deep competitive strain. A 5-foot-9 lefty of linebacker toughness. A three-sport All-BL and two-sport first-team All-State performer, she is the most decorated of the trio.

She will go well over the 1,000-point mark, fires pitches from the mound during softball season and has a habit of making the big moment hers. Her Coventry heroics, a game in which she was also the winning pitcher, her performance against Old Saybrook after the first two innings in which she gave up six runs and then threw a no-hitter the rest of the way.

The game-tying basket against St. Paul off an offensive rebound that sent the Class S title game into overtime.  After that she batted the ball away on an in-bounds pass by St. Paul that prevented a final shot for the Falcons in regulation.

Hurlbert doesn’t always show up on that stat sheet. The silent but deadly type, tougher than a good old piece of shoe leather. She made the steal against Canton after missing two foul shots. She has been the point guard who manages to toss a key three-pointer. She plays first base with a steady flair.

A two-sport All-Star in field hockey and softball, she has been the indispensable piece the Bears have cherished.

Schaefer doesn’t show up as a first-team All-Star and none of her coaches would trade her for most that do. She has a three-point flair and has torched Nonnewaug in two BL Tournament matchups. After a scoreless championship game against St. Paul she came back a year later and hit for 11 key points in the win over Canton.

Basketball coach Bob McMahon gives the toughest defensive assignment to Schaefer.

Schaefer has been the Bears’ catcher for Sanson, the steady partner behind the plate with a bat that has to be respected.

Individually there is much here. But collectively, well, that is their strength. They hang together, they make the honor roll together, and they win together. For three years they have won together.

Softball and basketball – 11 titles, three state titles, five state title game appearances, five BL titles, two more semifinal appearances. Combined record 130-18. That’s why you take notice. That’s why you tip your hat. As former Torrington High boys basketball coach Tony Turina says, “This is a story that deserves recognition beyond this area.”

Accomplishment buoyed by the idea that this is small public school with an enrollment of between 225 and 250 depending on the year.  The winning kids are Thomaston kids living no more than three-point line away from where they do business.

And, it isn’t complete. So we say all of this now. There is still time to capture the final chapter (s). The story lives now, it is not yet final memories. An incredible three years. You wonder what the rest of the story holds.

You think it gets better. So hard to believe. So special. No matter what side you are on, enjoy it. Like Seals and Crofts said, “We May Never Pass This Way Again.” So good and still going.

For more from Rick Wilson click here