WATERBURY – You know the old saying when it comes to winning titles – It’s hard to get there but even harder to stay there. Really? Maybe the Tri-Town Trojans never heard it. Maybe they’ve heard it but don’t believe it. One thing is for sure they certainly don’t abide by the thought. In fact they treat it with disdain.
Tri-Town captured its third straight Tri-State League baseball championship Sunday in the heat of Municipal Stadium, dismissing Bethlehem in authoritative fashion, 9-0, in front of 250 or so fans. It was the second straight year the two teams have met in the finals and the results haven’t changed. With the title the Trojans set themselves up with a chance to make history next season. Torrington owns the league record with four consecutive titles.
“This one is sweet it’s hard to do it three times and if the guys want to come back and do it again I’ll be right there with them,” said coach Dan McCarty. “Everybody played a role.”
The Trojans (24-3) made it clear they aren’t going anywhere with a vintage performance. After losing, 5-4 Saturday, they retooled and looked every inch like the team and program that has played in 10 of the last 13 championships, winning five times and four of the last five.
If you were looking for some drama and rightly so with each team having won a game, you were better off home watching the golf or finding an old episode of One Life to Live. There was none to be found. What you got is a veteran championship team playing championship baseball.
And nobody was better than Tri-Town pitcher Connor Gannon. The Western Connecticut hurler has been the team’s closer this season which turned out to mean absolutely nothing. All he did was allow three hits in eight innings, two of them from Jon Wilson, and just three baserunners. After Wilson singled to start the fourth inning, he retired 11 in a row. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.
“I was a starter at WesConn and on my summer team in N.Y. so this was not that different,” said Gannon. “I noticed that (Bethlehem) hit the curveball so focused on starting them with fastballs. The whole idea was to throw strikes and not walk people.”
With a superb defense behind him fueled by former minor leaguers Mike Fabiaschi (SS) and Willy Yahn (3B) on the left side of the infield, Gannon kept the Plowboys off balance and let his gloves do the work.
“These guys are so good. It’s always fun to come out and play with this kind of talent,” Gannon said.
“Last year Connor closed it out and today was his game,” McCarty added. “He kept them off balance. I told him that we are going to make plays. I said play to your surroundings. He did that.”
With Gannon cruising on the mound, the Trojans didn’t need much at the plate but they got plenty. Two errors led to a run in the third inning on Matt Troy’s fly ball. It was just the beginning.
Tri-Town added three more runs in the fourth inning.. Four hits were strung together highlighted by RBI singles from Austin Patenaude and Joe Grantmeyer and a run scored on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead enough to chase Bethlehem starter George Bielinzna.
It didn’t get any better for Bethlehem (21-6). Another error in the sixth inning helped lead to two more runs while Matt Troy had a sacrifice fly in the frame.
Three more runs on three hits completed the scoring in the seventh inning. Coleby Bunnell plated a run with a sac fly while Mike Fabiaschi and Patenaude drove in runs with singles.
Fabiaschi tortured the Plowboys in the three-game series going 8-for-12 and scoring six runs. On this day he was 4-4. Patenaude and Grantmeyer added two hits apiece to the 11-hit attack.
Tri-Town’s glow as Bethlehem’s disappointment. They took the Trojans one game deeper than last year when they were swept in two games and they are knocking on the door. But they have not been able to force it open and the lack of close game did not sit well.
“I think we came out flat and we kicked the ball around like we did in game one (5-1 loss),” Bethlehem coach Rich Revere said. “We didn’t do a good job of playing clean baseball. That will kill you against a team like Tri-Town. They are a great team and Connor kept us off balance. He never wavered and hit his spots. “
“We needed to hit well, play good defense and pitch well and we didn’t do any one of them,” Bethlehem’s Jon Wilson said.
Tri-Town has now won four of their titles in three games – 2013, 2018, 2021, 2023. The big game doesn’t bother them and father time is being held at bay. Champions again.
Harder to stay there? Really? Can’t prove it by Tri-Town.