MIDDLETOWN — If he knew the Gatorade bath was coming, Bill Mazzucco didn’t let on. Bob Karosy came up behind with the barrel full of water and dumped it over his coach’s head, reveling in the party as the rest of the Notre Dame-Fairfield players piled on in celebration.
The dream had come true.
When Mazzucco played baseball at Notre Dame in the mid-1990s, an average season was considered a successful. That’s how mediocre the program was, not that Mazzucco played enough to make a difference. But when he became coach, his goal — his dream — was to change the Lancers from medicore to elite.
Notre Dame-Fairfield finished the deal Saturday afternoon at Palmer Field, knocking off Coventry 10-6 to win the Class S championship.
Dillion Higgins gutted out a complete game win and every player in the starting lineup had at least one hit as the Lancers won the state title for the fourth time in program history.
“This is great,” Mazzucco said. “I went to Notre Dame. I sat in the classroom and saw that field out there and I couldn’t be happier to bring these kids, who worked so hard this year, to the championship.”
Notre Dame finishes with a 20-7 record. The Lancers first won the Class L crown in 1964, the Class M crown in 2003 and the Class S crown in 2009. They also finished as the runner-up in Class L in 1965 and Class M in 2004.
“I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s not what we wished for this season — it’s what we worked for and it came true. It’s what we worked for,” said senior third baseman Bob Karosy, who went 1 for 3 with a second inning triple that put the Lancers in front for good. “This is very overwhelming … We had hopes of doing this at the beginning of the year, but the feeling … you can’t describe it.”
Higgins got the ball for the championship game, just a week after pitching a complete-game victory over St. Paul in the quarterfinals and three days after throwing three innings of relief against Holy Cross in the semifinals.
He went the distance, surrendering eight hits and six runs. He struck out seven, including striking out the side in the seventh to end the game.
“I was working on pure adrenalin in that seventh inning,” Higgins said. “I just tried to gut it out, I didn’t have my best stuff today. My breaking ball, I had trouble getting it down, but I just tried to go out there and throw enough strikes to let the defense to the work behind me.”
The Lancers came into the championship game averaging 7.75 runs a game. In the their first four games of the tournament, the Lancers banged out 43. Against Coventry, ND continued the the hit parade, finishing with 13 hits, getting two runs in the top of the second thanks to a leadoff single from Pete Minore, an RBI from Karosy and a RBI double from designated hitter Rich Kerstetter.
“Our approach at the plate has been fantastic,” Mazzucco said. “We went after our pitches. We hit them very hard right from the beginning and we stayed with it.”
In the third, ND added four runs to make it 6-0 as Tyler Romano and Higgins opened with singles and with one out, Minore singled home Romano. Teskey’s RBI single plated Higgins and when the ball got past the left fielder, Minore also scored for a 5-0 lead. Tierney’s triple scored Teskey.
Coventry got on the board in the third when Jordan Jeroszko homered to left to make it 6-2.
But ND answered right back in the fourth with two more runs. Austin Allen and Romano singled and Rainey doubled them home.
Coventry added a run in the fifth and scored three times in the sixth to cut the lead to 8-6, but the Lancers restored that four-run cushion when Kerstetter, just a freshman, lined a two-run double down the left field line.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the kid,” Karosy said of Kerstetter. “He’s shown us that he’s a baseball player and I he’s going to be amazing these next three years. I wish him the best.”
“If you told me before the game that we’d score six runs, I’d probably say we win the game,” Coventry coach Ryan Giberson said. “We fought. They put a lot of pressure on us, they did a great job. They had great approach at the plate, they didn’t chase a lot and they hit a lot of barrels.”
“All the hard work we’ve done this year … between the rain and the snow and the gym practices. It takes everyone and all the coaches to prepare for this and it’s very hard to do when you’re in the gym for weeks.” — ND coach Bill Mazzucco
STARS OF THE GAME
ND’s Romano had three hits, scored two runs and stole a base. Kerstetter had two doubles and knocked in three, including two in the seventh that gave ND a four-run cushion.
NOTRE DAME 10, COVENTRY 6
ND-FAIRFIELD 024 200 2 — 10 13 2
COVENTRY 002 013 0 — 6 8 4
Records: ND-Fairfield (20-7), Coventry (19-6)
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