MIDDLETOWN >> Sheehan baseball coach Matt Altieri said the game plan was to score first and fast in the Class M state final against Montville Friday night.
So when Kyle Brennan was thrown out at home trying to score the team’s first run off a ground ball with the infield in during the first inning, Altieri wasn’t too upset with his team’s aggressive baserunning.
“We really felt like if we scored first and we scored maybe more than two (runs) first, they wouldn’t catch up with us on the sticks,” he said.
The No. 4 Titans not only eventually scored first, but kept it going throughout in a 5-0 victory over No. 2 Montville at Palmer Field to capture the Class M crown in front of about 1,500. This was the team’s first state title since 2010. The Titans continue a streak of 10 straight years of Southern Connecticut Conference teams winning a state title.
Pitcher Zach Hart said the Titans made a promise to each other after getting knocked out of the tournament in the first round last year that it would win the SCC Housatonic, which it did, the SCC tournament, which it fell short of doing, and Class M.
Two out of three isn’t too shabby.
“This year we knew we had the talent,” he said. “We knew we had the talent to get here. We worked all season to get here.”
Meanwhile Montville goes down for just the third time this season. The Indians won the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament and went into the state tournament only giving up 1.6 runs per game.
“I don’t know if there’s a tougher group that we’ve had,” Montville coach Phil Orbe said. “They just really battled for us. They always believed in the process and anything that comes out of the coach’s mouths.”
As for Sheehan, its road to the state title was equally as impressive. The Titans defeated Class LL finalist Amity twice during the regular season, GameTimeCT.com/Register Top 10 poll No. 1 team East Catholic in the semifinals and No. 2 Montville in the final.
“We’ve got four guys that can shut down anyone in the state,” catcher Paul Gozzo said. “Offensively, we came up with some big knocks in the tournament.”
The Titans got their big knocks early in the first after Brennan was thrown out on the aforementioned groundball from Nolan Cloutier, who reached on the fielders choice and then stole second. He scored after Gozzo doubled him in for the important 1-0 advantage.
“In the beginning, we knew (Montville starter Buddy Dewaine) threw hard and hit his spots,” Gozzo said. “We knew we had to jump on fastballs. We took advantage of some of his mistakes.”
Gozzo scored after Hart doubled to left for a 2-0 lead. The lead ballooned to 4-0 in the third after Tyler Daly hit a hard groundball to Montville second baseman Eric Ross. He kept the ball from getting into the outfield, but Cloutier scored and Gozzo came in to score while Ross, who dove to stop the ball, was getting up.
As Sheehan was busy being aggressive on offense, the Indians struggled to put anything together at the plate as starter Brandon Rentas went three and two thirds, struck out three, gave up one hit and walked two.
“I didn’t think (Montville) would catch up to any of our pitchers,” Altieri said. “We have superior pitching.”
The coach’s confidence in the depth of his pitching staff was the driving force behind him lifting Rentas after Isaiah Mack reached on an error and Tom McDonald walked on four pitches in the fourth. Altieri made the switch to Hart. Hart, who started in the semifinals victory and was relieved by Daly, said the pitchers had no issues coming out of games this season.
“We have faith in the next guy coming in,” he said. “We know we can all pitch well against any team in the state. I think when we come out, it’s not anger. We know the next guy’s going to come in and kill it.”
Hart did just that, going three innings with five strikeouts, one walk, one hit and collected the win. Hart even got the last out, corralling a softly hit groundball from Seamus Berry and tossing it to first to end the game.
The promise was kept.
SHEEHAN 5, MONTVILLE 0
Sheehan 202 001 0 — 5 9 1
Montville 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Brandon Rentas, Zach Hart (3) and Paul Gozzzo; Buddy Dewaine, Tom McDonald (4), TT Bowens (6) and Jordan Zeppieri.
WP: Zach Hart. LP: Buddy Dewaine. 2B: (SH) Kyle Brennan, Gozzo, Hart, Pete Abate.
Team records: Sheehan 21-5; Montville 25-3.