Terriers win state title!

The Rocky Hill Terriers punctuated a great season with a thrilling victory in the Class M finals. A walk-off walk capped the 4-3 win over the Haddam-Killingworth Cougars and gave Rocky Hill its first-ever state championship.

The Terriers trailed for much of the game, which seemingly included a bit of everything, including a few controversial umpiring calls.

H-K scored the first (unearned) run of the game with two outs in the first inning, plating a runner from third when Rocky Hill shortstop Christopher Bouchard bobbled the play and couldn’t get the throw over to first in time.

It wasn’t until the fourth inning that Rocky Hill got on the scoreboard. Runners were on first and third with one out, and first-baseman Josh Zawisa hit a bloop single to short left that scored Bouchard.

The Cougars scored again in the fifth, when a dribbler just past the mound scored an easy run from third.

The Terriers looked like they would answer that run in the bottom of the inning, when Tommy Seaver was on third base and left Brandon Grover was at bat. With a full count, Grover appeared to call for time, but the plate umpire apparently did not see the signal, and called a third strike as Grover was already backing out of the box.

Haddam-Killingworth seemed to be going for the jugular, when a pair of bloop hits put another run across in the 6th, and the Cougars were up 3-1.

But the game’s pivotal play came in the bottom of the sixth when the Terriers had the bases loaded, and Tommy Seaver at the plate. A wild pitch by the Cougars’ Griffin Bremmer bounced on the ground, ricocheted off of the catcher, and seemed to confuse everyone, including the umpire, who inexplicably began walking toward the dugout. Two Terrier runners crossed the plate in the confusion, tying the game.

Seaver came in to pitch the seventh inning, relieving Spencer Bunting, and made two great fielding plays – fielding a bunt and getting the lead runner at second, and then nabbing a comeback grounder and staring a double play that ended the inning and fired up the Terriers for their at-bat in the bottom of the inning.

David Sevigny got himself on base, and Grover knocked him over to third with a base hit. Bunting was walked intentionally to load the bases with two outs. Zawisa handled his at-bat like a major leaguer, fouling off pitches and watching a fourth ball miss the plate, which was all the Terriers needed to score Sevigny for the walk-off walk victory.

Coach Chris Farrell said the game had a lot of emotional ups and downs, but his team – especially the seniors – were accustomed to that.

“When it went to 2-1, you could tell the kids were deflated a little bit, but I told them we’ve been down before and to get right back after it,” Farrell said. “Then they got that third run, but we didn’t stop.”

About the game-tying wild pitch, Farrell said that Bremmer had thrown a lot of pitches to that point, and had done very well, but he felt that his Terriers had worn him down.

“He got a little wild there, and things happen,” Farrell said, adding that his team didn’t exactly play its best game, either. “It got a little sloppy, defensively, which is uncharacteristic for us, but we’ll take it.”

Zawisa had struck out, swinging on three straight pitches at his previous at-bat, but his plate discipline kicked in at the high pressure moment.

“Josh had a great time at the plate last year, but this year he struggled a little bit,” Farrell said. “He’s still hitting .400, but not .600 like it was last year. The kid knows the strike zone and knows what he’s doing. He really didn’t get a pitch to hit and he battled, fouled off three or four pitches, then gets the walk to win the game.”

The Terriers had been counting the postseason outs that it would take them to get to the state title. They had to add a few more, as it took 8 innings to find a quarterfinal win over North Branford, and a marathon 12 innings to get their 1-0 semifinal match over St. Joseph just 4 days before the final game. But, Farrell said his squad didn’t lack any energy for the championship.

“They didn’t take any wind out of our sails,” Farrell said. “These guys love to play the game of baseball, so any extra innings, they just love it.”

“This is a special group,” Farrell added. “This was the first time Rocky Hill has ever won a state final, or even a semi-final. They really stuck together. We had an injury to [starting catcher] Trevor Whalen, and he was out for three weeks, we had those two losses to E.O. Smith and South Windsor, but we didn’t stop. We just kept going, and it was excellent.”
Farrell added that Seaver and Bunting were excellent on the mound, as were several younger pitchers who played roles, and the final result was an all-around team effort.

“We felt like we had a good chance to win,” Seaver said, “and we never gave up on it during the game. All the work we put in this year – in the off season and during the season – all paid off. We were down, but we never lost hope and we knew we could make something happen. It feels great. It’s the best feeling ever.”

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