MIDDLETOWN >> Before this season, Lewis Mills had never even made it past the quarterfinals of a state tournament. So this year’s run to the Class M championship game was both historic and magical.
The Spartans simply ran into a buzzsaw on Friday night.
Waterford ace Mike Burrows struck out 15 while allowing just two hits and one walk to lead the Lancers to a 4-0 victory over Lewis Mills for the Class M title at Palmer Field.
Burrows, a junior who committed to UConn two summers ago, must have impressed Husky head coach Jim Penders, who watched the game from a few rows behind home plate. The righthander got his first seven outs and eight of his first nine by way of the “K,” mostly utilizing a fastball that hits about 88-90 MPH.
“He was outstanding tonight,” Lewis Mills coach Jesse Darcy said. “We knew we were gonna face a top-notch guy today. We knew he threw good velo, had some good secondary pitches. He just pounded the zone and did exactly what we want our pitchers doing — and our guy did.”
Indeed, Spartans hurler Kyle Alvarez put up a good fight, scattering six hits. No. 3 Waterford (22-3) did its damage in two innings. The Lancers’ bottom of the order came up big in the third, with Dan Castelpoggi leading off with a double then scoring on Collin Bakken’s single. Sonny Pezzello sacrificed him over to second, and Bakken scored on a base hit by leadoff hitter Dylan Bosco.
In the sixth, Alex Petchark clubbed a one-out triple and scored on Burrows’ double on a sinking liner to left. Burrows later scored on Tyler Yeomans’ two-out single.
That was more than enough support for Burrows.
“I just did what I could, I stayed within myself and didn’t try to do too much with it,” he said. “All the hard work that brought me to this game paid off.”
The only time Burrows appeared to get a bit rattled was in the second, when home plate umpire Joe Bellino called a balk on him for not being lined up properly on the mound. There was no one on base, but Burrows was charged with a ball and seemed a bit peeved. Mike Ciccarelli promptly lined the next pitch up the middle for Lewis Mills’ first hit of the game.
“It’s just something I’ve got to work with the rest of my baseball career,” said Burrows. “I can’t lose my head, ever. It’s alright. It was a balk, and then I got down on the count, and there was nothing I could do about it but stay focused and get the next guy.”
Burrows struck out the next three batters to get out of the inning.
No. 4-seeded Lewis Mills’ only real threat came with two outs in the fifth, when Owen Lacourciere drew a walk and Michio Agresta hit a sharp, first-pitch single back up the middle.
But Burrows got leadoff hitter Will Coughlin to pop out.
“I figured, he’s going D-1, he’s throwing a fastball for a strike, I’m gonna swing first pitch,” said Coughlin. “It’s hard when you’re a senior, and you don’t get a hit to help your team. He’s a great pitcher, I can’t deny it.”
There’s also no denying Lewis Mills had a wonderful season of its own.
“I don’t have words,” said Coughlin, his voice cracking a bit. “This group of guys worked their butts off the whole year. Even if they’re sitting on the bench, they did their job. When you’re down, they pick you up, they do what they’ve got to do to win. Even though we lost, we couldn’t have asked for any better (season). We’ve never been here before. I’m proud of these guys, proud of this team. I’m happy to be there.”
Added Darcy: “It’s an outstanding season for our guys. These group of guys have changed this program throughout their four years. We were always a fairly strong program up in the northwest, but we showed up this year and to have a turnaround season like we did from last year, having seven wins, to this year having 21 … it’s just incredible. It’s a great memory for them to keep.”
It’s Waterford’s 10th state title and first since winning the Class M crown in 2005.
“We needed that state title,” said Burrows. “We wanted it bad this season. That was our goal, to get here and win it.”
Class M Championship
Waterford 4, Lewis Mills 0
Lewis Mills 000 000 0 — 0
Waterford 002 002 x — 4