HIGGANUM >> Haddam-Killingworth baseball coach Mark Brookes was drenched with Gatorade following the Cougars’ historic 4-0 victory against Morgan on Sunday. The traditional shower also soaked Brookes’ granddaughter, who promptly started to cry.
But for Brookes, his wife, Rae, and the rest of the H-K baseball family, it was all tears of joy.
H-K’s win against the Huskies was the 600th of Brookes’ career. Brookes, who started the program in 1976, joins Bob DeMayo (North Haven), John Fontana (Southington) and Jim Penders (East Catholic) in the state’s 600-win club. DeMayo is the leader with 800-plus victories.
Brookes’ remarkable tenure on Little City Road has, indeed, been a family affair.
“We preach commitment and have for almost 40 years,” said Brookes. “So for me it’s the same. I’m just committed to baseball here at Haddam-Killingworth. I have support from my family. Without my wife’s support it becomes extremely difficult staying coaching. If it’s not a family type commitment then you can’t possibly do this. It’s been a great 38 years.”
Brookes’ won-lost record is 600-264. His teams have captured 10 Shoreline Conference championships and appeared in four state finals. Since 1978, the Cougars have never had a losing record, qualifying for the state tournament 37 consecutive seasons.
“(Mark’s) the best coach in the state,” said former Old Lyme coach Charlie Wolfe, who was in attendance. “His teams come out and they do the same thing every year. They’re always solid. They make plays, they put a lot of pressure on you and they win.”
Cougars senior lefthander Griffin Bremer was brilliant against the Huskies (10-7) on Sunday. Bremer (8-0) flirted with a perfect game until walking Jake Mastroianni with two outs in the fifth inning. In the sixth, Morgan’s ninth-batter Dylan Ketch spoiled Bremer’s no-hit bid by lining a single just inside the third-base bag.
“(A no-hitter) would have been the cherry on top,” said Bremer, who struck out 12. “I’m very excited for my coach. He’s worked very hard every week he’s been coaching. He’s really earned this.”
H-K took advantage of a pair of errors to score all of its runs in the fourth against Huskies starter Chad Neri.
Luigi Fazzino’s RBI single and Tom Kostek’s sacrifice fly were the key hits in the frame as the Cougars took a 4-0 lead.
Ty Schuler, Joe Aitken and Fazzino each had two hits for H-K (12-5).
“You can’t give that team extra outs and that’s what we did today,” said Morgan coach John Litevich.
Litevich is a former Husky who played against Brookes in 1980.
“He’s a great coach and I’m very happy for him,” said Litevich. “I wish it wasn’t against us but that’s how it should be…H-K and Morgan have been rivals forever. So I’m happy that he got his 600th, not so much against us, but he deserves it.”