MIDDLETOWN >> If this was North Haven coach Bob DeMayo’s final game, what a way to go out.
Richie DePalma struck out Miles Coe looking with runners on the corners to end the game as No. 22 North Haven downed No. 13 East Lyme 3-2 to capture the Class L championship at Palmer Field on Saturday.
This was the fifth state crown for DeMayo. Amid rumors that he might retire after the season, the coach did not say yes or no. But did say he’s heard the “Will you retire?” question a lot.
“Do people want me to retire?” he said, with a laugh. “I’m not trying to be the poster boy for old coaches, but I love doing it.”
And his team loves playing for him. DePalma said the connection to DeMayo runs deep.
“With my father and uncle playing for him, I mean, it’s so hard to not like the guy,” said DePalma, who got the save.
[Chip Malafronte: Could this be Bob DeMayo’s storybook ending?]
Meanwhile East Lyme’s season came to a heart-wrenching end. The Vikings stranded 11 runners on base despite banging out 10 hits.
“One more hit,” said East Lyme coach Jack Biggs. “A dribbler, who knows? It brings in a run and ties it up.”
East Lyme never got the big hit to turn the game around, but North Haven completed a 180 turnaround of its season. Losers of six out of their last seven regular-season games, the Indians backed into the postseason.
DeMayo said the hardest thing to do is win the first tournament game, which North Haven did over South-West Conference champ Masuk.
Then North Haven just kept winning.
“We all love each other,” DePalma said. “We all have good team chemistry and that really brought us together. We said our goal was, even if we don’t win, just to be here.”
And the odds were against North Haven winning after it fell behind in the first when Owen Tretter hit a sacrifice fly that scored Matt Spang for a 1-0 East Lyme lead. In the previous three title games, the team that scored first won.
However, the Indians came storming back as Micahl DeRosa hit a two-run home run that scored he and Nick Proto, who led the second inning off with a triple, to push North Haven in front 2-1. Hunter Iacobelli later grounded out scoring Dominic Fusco, who was on third and singled earlier, to push the lead to 3-1.
DeRosa was not done putting his stamp on the game. East Lyme was threatening to score in the bottom of the sixth, down 3-1 with Matt Spang up, runners on second and third and one out.
Spang hit a fly ball to DeRosa, the left fielder, who caught it and unleashed a dart to home plate to throw out courtesy runner Corey Leveque and end the threat. DeRosa said the cut off man was not an option.
“The game before I threw home and there was nothing else going through my head,” he said. “Just throw hard and hope I get this guy.”
DePalma was on the mound in the sixth after a solid day from Mike Kurk who went five innings, gave up seven hits, but only one run, halting each Vikings’ rally attempt.
“We had as good a chance as anybody,” DeMayo said. “The kids bought that. They played unbelievably.”
The strong play continued on into the bottom of the seventh. North Haven coughed up a run when Sam Gonski singled home Mike Morgan, who led the inning off with a single.
Still, North Haven believed they had a chance, just like it did when it endured the late season slump, and gave DeMayo one for the thumb.
“I’m real proud to play for Coach DeMayo,” DeRosa said.
“The man’s a legend. I wouldn’t want to end the season any other way.”
The 2015 CIAC Class L Championship
NORTH HAVEN 3, EAST LYME 2
North Haven 030 000 0 — 3 5 1
East Lyme 100 000 1 — 2 10 1
Mike Kurk, Richie DePalma (6) and Nick Proto; Dylan Feeney, Chris Leindecker (4) and Miles Coe. WP: Mike Kurk (). LP: Dylan Feeney (). SV: Rich DePalma (). 2B: (EL) Coe. 3B: (NH) Nick Proto. [polldaddy poll=8929326]