MIDDLETOWN >> Either way, this was going to be an historic night at Palmer Field. And when the dust settled, it was Rocky Hill who took home its first state championship.
The top-seeded Terriers tied it with a two-run rally in the bottom of the sixth and then won it in the seventh when senior Josh Zawisa drew a bases-loaded walk as Rocky Hill captured the Class M title Saturday night in front of 1,800.
“This is a special group,” said Rocky Hill coach Chris Farrell. “They definitely just made history. This is the first time we’ve ever been in the game. We’ve never been to the semifinals. The senior group really stuck together. They’re resilient. And (Tom) Seaver and (Spencer) Bunting on the mound this year have been unbelievable.”
For Cougars coach Mark Brookes, who founded the team in 1976 and built it into one of the Shoreline Conference’s most storied programs, it was another heartbreaking loss in his fifth championship game appearance.
“I told the kids, even at the beginning, that we weren’t expected to go far,” said Brookes. “They shouldn’t be ashamed of what they’ve done. It was a great run through a very tough tournament. So there’s a lot to feel good about.”
The Cougars took a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth when Joe Aitken dropped a two-out single into right field.
But Rocky Hill stunned the Cougars with a two-out rally.
“We were down, but we never lost hope,” said Seaver, who pitched the seventh to earn the win. “We knew we could make something happen.”
After H-K senior Griffin Bremer (10 Ks) struck out the first two batters in the sixth, junior Brian Batalis lined a single to center. A pair of walks loaded the bases and then Bremer uncorked a wild pitch that scored both Batalis and pinch-runner Nick Bogus.
Rocky Hill (23-2) turned a double play to end the top of the seventh, and that set the stage for the game-winning run.
H-K reliever Brian Moskey plunked Dave Sevigny and with one out Brandon Grover singled to right. Bunting was intentionally walked to load the bases and the game ended when Zawisa drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch.
“Zawisa wants a big hit in that situation,” said Farrell. “And he battled and fouled off three or four pitches.”
The 11th-seeded Cougars (19-8) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first against Bunting when Moskey scored on an infield error. Moskey led off the game by reaching on a throwing error by Terriers shortstop Chris Bouchard. Moskey stole second and moved to third on Tom Kostek’s sacrifice bunt. Bouchard then mishandled Bremer’s hard grounder.
Rocky Hill tied it on Zawisa’s RBI infield hit in the fourth. But the Cougars took a 2-1 lead when Moskey laced a one-out double to left, moved to third on Kostek’s sacrifice and scored on Trevor Mann’s infield hit.
“I feel like I got robbed almost,” said Bremer. “I felt like we deserved it way more than them, but that’s baseball. We got here and I’m proud of my team. We put up a fight.”
Said Seaver: ”It feels great. The best feeling ever. It’s our first baseball state championship, so it means a lot to us and to the school and the town. They all came to support us and it helped us out a lot.”
ROCKY HILL 4, HADDAM-KILLINGWORTH 3
Haddam-Kill. 100 011 0 — 3 4 1
Rocky Hill 000 102 1 — 4 5 3
2B: (HK) Brian Moskey.
Haddam-Killingworth IP H R ER BB SO
Bremer 6 3 3 3 4 10
Moskey 0.1 1 1 1 2 1
Bunting 6 4 3 2 4 4
Seaver 1 0 0 0 1 0