THOMASTON >> Before last season Thomaston head coach Bob McMahon was confident in his hitting and wasn’t too sure about his pitching staff.
Fast forward to June and the Golden Bears sported a 17-5 record overall, good for second place in the Berkshire League and reached the quarterfinals of the Class S State Tournament on the arms of now seniors Blaise Russo and Brian Butkevicious.
The Thomaston duo had a year to remember. Russo went 8-3 with 48 strikeouts to go with a 1.79 ERA in 65 innings and Butkevicious pitched even better going 9-1 with 38 strikeouts to go with a 1.51 ERA in 68 innings.
The bats for the Golden Bears were up and down all year, collectively batting .308 and averaged 5.7 runs per game, being shut out twice and failing to score more than three runs in five games.
“Both of them went after hitters, they weren’t afraid to go right at them,” Thomaston head coach Bob McMahon said. “I had no problem going with either of them, they are 1A and 1B.”
Russo and Butkevicious combined to throw every inning for the Golden Bears except for 17 of them.
“I am confident in both of those guys,” McMahon said. “It’s a luxury you don’t normally have, it’s nice to say but they have to go out and make their pitches.”
Both Russo and Butkevicious aren’t going to light up the radar gun with overpowering stuff; they will, though, move the ball around the zone.
“Just get the ball in the zone and let them hit it,” Russo said. “A strikeout now and then doesn’t hurt.”
“I really rely on my defense. I am not going to overpower anyone,” Butkevicious added. “Like they say, defense wins championships.”
If the Golden Bears have their eyes on a chance at the Berkshire League title they will have to replace six starters from their everyday lineup.
“We have new faces, we’re confident in our pitching staff, they kept us in every game last year,” McMahon said. “The new kids, they want their opportunities.”
One of the new starters for the Golden Bears will be junior second baseman Anthony Maura.
“Anthony has been waiting for his opportunity,” McMahon said.
Maura will team up with junior shortstop Mike Milius, who won the job last year before the season and hit .328, up the middle.
“I believe Mike was good enough to make first-team last year, we are expecting a lot from this year,” McMahon said.
Senior Jake Tehan who is making the move from first base across the diamond to third base, is the other.
The Golden Bears figure to be atop the league again this season but will have tough competition.
“Northwestern, Mills they are always good, Terryville has Taylor Donofrio back,” Russo said. “You can’t take any team lightly.”
McMahon won’t count out any team.
“You don’t know what the other teams have,” McMahon said. “Housatonic has Willy (Yahn), I don’t know who else they have, but every fifth day, one team will be in trouble.”
Thomaston might only be returning two starters in the field, but with two aces on the mound the Golden Bears aim to be back atop, fighting for the league title.
“Everyone is in first place right now,” McMahon said. “We’re going to try and stay there.”