BERLIN >> No. 3 Thomaston took it to No. 2 Cromwell, 5-4, in a game that seemed farther apart at the beginning than at the end in a Class S semifinal baseball game at Berlin’s Sage Park.
The Panthers were state champions just two years ago, runners-up last year. Their two senior pitchers, lefty Logan Lessard and righty Jake Regula were lights out for most of Cromwell’s competition all season long.
“We had no pressure on us,” beamed Thomaston senior Jake Tehan (3-for-4, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 1 run).
“We don’t want to show anyone we’re better than them. We just want to score one more run,” said Golden Bears coach Bob McMahon.
Both teams came in 20-3, Thomaston with a pretty good senior pitching tandem of its own – lefty Blaise Russo and righty Brian Butkevicius.
The lefties got the start for each team.
Despite pitching reputations, both teams proved their bats early.
Thomaston’s Mike Milius and Jake Tehan got hits for the Bears. A double play and a strikeout ended the threat.
In the bottom of the first, the Panthers made good on theirs. Kevin Radziewicz and Lessard got hits. Cromwell led 1-0.
Thomston evened it in the top of the second on a smash back to the mound by Russo, a hit by Dan LeVasseur and a perfect squeeze bunt single by Anthony Moura.
The Panthers played leapfrog one more time. In the bottom of the second, a hit by Maciej Dawidowski, a bad throw and a ground-out put the Panthers ahead one more time, 2-1.
Thomaston grabbed the game in the top of the third. Sophomore Matt Tehan started with a walk. Brother Jake doubled him home. Russo popped another double, scoring Jake.
At 3-2 Thomaston, Lessard was done on the mound.
“All tournament, our bats have been on fire,” said Tehan.
Regula, trading spots with Lessard from first base, dampened the fire, but couldn’t put it out.
Thomaston’s Russo (6.1 innings, 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks) gave it his all for three strikeouts in the fourth, stranding Panthers on second and third.
Regula (4.1 innings, 1 earned run, 2 hits, 8 strikeouts, 1 ball, 1 hit batter) fanned the first two Bears in the top of the fifth, then got burned.
Tyler Donofrio lined to right, Russo got hit. Donofrio stole third, then got up on a bad throw to score 4-2.
It stayed there through the sixth.
Milius led off the seventh with a walk. Jake Tehan lit his bat again with his second double, 5-2.
The bottom of the seventh proved a lot, both sides.
The Panthers didn’t think about quitting, with a one-out hit and a walk.
Blaise proved his senior leadership with Coach McMahon’s trip to the mound.
“I didn’t make the decision; he did,” said McMahon. “Even before I got there, he said, ‘Go with Buck.’”
It was the right thing to do.
A Thomaston error and RBI ground-out by Regula kept the drama going, 5-4.
Butkevicius plowed through with two more ground-outs for the win.
“I wanted to throw as fast as I could, put the ball inside and out,” said Butkevicius.
By then, Blaise was in the dugout cheering.
“It’s a dream I’ve had since the fifth grade,” he said.
The Bears, state champions in 2008, get their chance for another this weekend against No. 17 Portland at a time to be announced.
No. 3 Thomaston 5, No. 2 Cromwell 4
At Sage Park, Berlin
Thomaston 012 010 1 – 5 8 3
Cromwell 110 000 2 – 4 7 3
WP: Blaise Russo. LP: Logan Lessard. 2B: Jake Tehan 2; Russo.
Records: Thomaston 21-3; Cromwell 20-4.