THOMASTON >> With two on and no outs in the top of the seventh Thomaston head coach Bob McMahon walked out to the mound to talk to his senior pitcher Blaise Russo, who was three outs away from the school’s first Berkshire League baseball title since 1985.
“He wanted to take me out,” Russo said. “I told him, ‘No way.’”
“I was taking him out,” said McMahon of Russo, who gave up two singles to open up the inning. “He ‘Grady Littled’ me. The look in his eye, I knew he could get them.”
Unlike Little, the Red Sox manager left Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS vs. the Yankees with disastrous results, McMahon was rewarded when Russo got a ground out and two fly balls, the last one right to center fielder Justin Taylor, clinching the league title.
The bench poured onto the field making a dog pile of brown and gold.
“It’s been too long,” Thomaston shortstop Mike Milius said, smiling.
“It’s awesome, we wanted a league championship,” McMahon said. “We’ve had our fair share of second-place finishes.”
One of those second-place finishes came last season. Northwestern won the league outright, but the Golden Bears brought back a big core of last season’s team.
“We came back with the same pitchers and we graduated key parts of the team,” McMahon said. “It’s nice having the pitching back.”
On top of bringing back his one-two punch of seniors Brian Butkevicius and Russo, Thomaston brought back seniors Jake Tehan, Dan LeVasseur, Frank Romanelli and junior Milius, all of whom had significant playing time last year.
With the rise of juniors, Anthony Moura at second base, Tyler Donofrio behind the plate, Brian Sousa at first base, Matt Tehan and sophomore Justin Taylor in centerfield, the Golden Bears formed a team whose goal was to win the league this season.
McMahon credited the players for the title, giving an example of Saturday.
After it rained throughout Friday night the Golden Bears players got to the field at 7 a.m. armed with quick dry. They got the field in playing shape so they could play against rival Terryville.
“These kids want to play,” he said.
After the game Thomaston was guaranteed a share of the league title. The Golden Bears needed the Housatonic to beat the Lewis Mills to win the league outright.
Behind a solid pitching performance by Willy Yahn, the Mountaineers beat the Spartans, 3-1, giving the Golden Bears the league title outright.
Shepaug got on the board early. It scored in the bottom of the first inning when Sam Jones knocked in Travis Fitch with a sacrifice fly. But that would only last three more batters.
After Russo got Ryan LaMay to groundout, Milius took the first pitch he saw from Shepaug starter Wes Meeker and drilled it for a standup triple. The next pitch Meeker threw to Thomaston’s Matt Tehan was hit deep enough to score Milius on a sacrifice fly, tying the game.
“That was something,” McMahon said. “Just when you thought you had to play from behind and it’s tied.”
Thomaston added two more in the bottom of the second with two RBI groundouts giving it a 3-1 lead it would not give back.
Shepaug got one back in the top of fifth on a RBI groundout by Meeker. But the Golden Bears roared back with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Milius led off with a single and then scored on an error by Shepaug shortstop Logan Racz. Jake Tehan then came around from second on a bloop base hit by Russo and then freshman Jared Kahn scored from third when LaVasseur broke from first and drew the pickoff throw from Meeker that went into centerfield.
“They took advantage of mistakes and they don’t do a lot to hurt themselves,” Shepaug head coach Scott Werkhoven said. “We certainly could have done better.”
McMahon, who was on the 1985 Thomaston team as a freshman, took over as Golden Bears coach in 2008 and led that team to a Class S title but didn’t win the league title.
“I was sitting on the bench cheering and hollering,” McMahon said of the 1985 team that also featured current Thomaston softball co-head coach Gene Torrence.
Thomaston 6, Shepaug Valley 4
Shepaug Valley 100 011 1 — 4 7 0
Thomaston 120 030 X — 6 0 4
Wes Meeker and Sam Jones`; Blasie Russo and Tyler Donofrio.
WP: Blaise Russo (). LP: Wes Meeker (). 2B: (SPV) Clayton Schneider. RBI: Meeker, Jones (2), Kleisner (SPV); Mike Millius, Matt Tehan, Blaise Russo, Anthony Moura (THOM);
Team records: Shepaug Valley 6-10; Thomaston 15-1.