BERLIN — St. Paul’s baseball team had it all worked out. Play a Class S semifinal game vs. Immaculate at 1 p.m., hopefully win and head home with plenty of time to spare for graduation back in Bristol at 6.
Then the game’s umpire needed a breather in the excessive heat. Then a thunder crack, mandating a 30-minute delay that stretched over two hours. Then Immaculate tried to make things worse by rallying from a four-run deficit to take a one-run lead.
But nobody on St. Paul was leaving here without finishing this game off. Graduation? Please. A state championship was on the line.
Leave it to one of the seniors to make sure it happened.
Shaun Remillard smoked a two run double to reclaim the lead for good in the fifth and St. Paul weathered one, last Immaculate rally to punch its tickets to the Class S championship in a 12-8 snoozer-turned-slugfest at Sage Park Tuesday afternoon.
The game ended at approximately 5:45, and the seniors immediately headed back to school for commencement.
“There was talk about postponing, I was like no way, we’re playing,” Remillard said before running out of the park. “I’m probably going to show up in uniform and be late. But it’s worth it. We won. We’re going to play for a state championship.”
St. Paul will face Coginchaug, a 12-0 winner over Northwest Catholic in the other semifinal, at Palmer Field in Middletown either Friday or Saturday.
St. Paul was up 4-0 and cruising behind ace Owen Davis. But then came the delays and, when Davis returned, he had trouble finding the strike zone and Immaculate put six runs on the board to take a 6-4 lead in the fifth.
The big blast was a bases-loaded double by sophomore Patrick McKenzie off St. Paul reliever Jamie Leggett. Suddenly, the 28th seeded Mustangs had come alive and St. Paul coach Vic Rinaldi had an uneasy case of déjà vu.
Two years ago, his team lost to Coventry in this spot under similar circumstances.
here’s, a St. Paul senior, on getting this game in at the risk of missing graduation. The game ended 18 minutes before commencement began back in Bristol.
“I’m probably going to show up in my uniform… But it’s so worth it. We’re playing for a state championship.” #ctbase pic.twitter.com/wwVuVM8LCa
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) June 9, 2021
“They (Coventry) scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth, I believe, and I turned to my assistant coaches and said, ‘Oh my God, this can’t be happening again,'” Rinaldi said. “But give our kids credit for battling back to take the lead and not losing that lead.”
Indeed, St. Paul rallied with a big inning of its own, scoring three runs on Remillard’s double to right off starter J.T. Gunzy to reclaim a 7-6 lead.
The Falcons batted around in the sixth and tacked on five more insurance runs to make it 12-5, aided in part by a handful of Immaculate mistakes in the suddenly rainy conditions.
“They’re a resilient group,” Immaculate coach Dean White said of his team. “Coming off a year like last year, which obviously didn’t happen, these guys all came out hungry. They had a lot to prove. They’re a young squad. They started played good baseball at the right time in the season.
“You cant afford the little mistakes against St. Paul. They’re a good team, they’re well put together. At this stage in the tournament, the little things are what’s going to cost you and I think that’s what happened.”
Immaculate did make it interesting late. The Mustangs scored two runs and had the bases loaded with the tying run at the plate. But Mario Izzo got Cody Meier to fly out, sending St. Paul to its seventh state final and first since 2016 when it last won a title.
“If you’re a high school baseball player there’s no other way to end your senior year,” Rinaldi said.