Baseball team’s ‘improbable run’ ends at state championship game
By Felicia Whatley - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jun. 14, 2012
The South Windsor High School varsity baseball team made it all the way to the Class LL state finals against Shelton on June 9, and regardless of the 7-2 loss at Palmer Field in Middletown, the team and the community had a lot to be proud of.
SWHS assistant baseball coach Jay Bouvier said the players’ initial disappointment will eventually turn into pride when they look back on the impressive 2012 season. “Right now they are a little down, but later they will see what we did was great with an improbable run,” Bouvier said. “Each player gave 100 percent for each other and never quit.”
Though most of the South Windsor team was somber immediately after the loss, a captain and first baseman Robbie Linnell said, “Thanks to all who supported us. It was a great senior year.”
The Bobcats were known for their strong defense this season, but in the championship game it was difficult to compete with Shelton pitcher Ryan Testani’s fastballs and his team’s quick offense, which gave them a 6-0 lead by the fourth inning. The Bobcats looked shaken, and head coach Jim Abbott tried to help them regain composure.
But the team didn’t give up. They were able to score two runs, and Brian Finnegan, a captain and senior leader for South Windsor, held Shelton off from the pitching mound.
By the sixth inning, it was 6-2 Shelton, and in the seventh inning Shelton clenched the game with another run for the 7-2 win.
“It all starts with pitching, and their guy was really tough today,” said Abbott. “It was a great year, though a little disappointing at the end, but I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.”
“The curve ball got the best of us, but I have never been around guys with the same goal in mind to do this and get there,” Abbott added. “It is a great team. It just stings a little to be so close to that brass ring.” This was Abbott’s first year coaching at South Windsor.
“We just got beat," Finnegan said. "Shelton hit the ball well and they had an outstanding pitcher. It was a tough game. There is a reason why they are the best team in the state.”
Even getting the chance to play in the finals was a big achievement for the Bobcats. “This was exciting and great for our team to make it this far,” Finnegan said. “It was an awesome run for the seniors.” When asked if he thought the team would make it this far, he said, “Honestly, no. The year before, we lost in the first round, we went through many coaches and lacked foundation, but coach Abbott told the senior leadership that this is our team… That was the first time any coach had given us that much control. We showed that we could do this together as a team.”
A large crowd of Bobcats supporters attended the championship game to make noise for their team. “It was an incredible feeling having 400 people cheering for us,” Finnegan said.
The whole school community rallied around the team. SWHS Athletic Director Christine Wanner said, “Being here is huge. It is the second time in South Windsor history we have made it to the finals since 1993.” Regarding the ambitions of the new coach, she said, “Abbott has found his way. He has an established way of doing things that works well with the team, making better baseball players.”
SWHS senior Lyle Rotondo said, “We are the underdog, but look at all the support - especially from the seniors from the sports teams… This is a big deal with all the work everyone put into it.”
SWHS Principal Daniel Sullivan said, “I want to put a big shout-out to the students, parents and community for their support. I am impressed with the team.” He added, “Coach Abbott and the team did well. No matter who [won] the championship, we had resilience and a can-do attitude.”
Basketball coaches Brendon McClay and Scott Waters were also there to support the baseball team and said that the team has been through many changes. “They have been through three coaches in three years,” said McClay. “Coach Abbott has done a tremendous job and the kids really love him.”
SWHS senior Alysson Stearns, who plays softball for the school, came to the finals to support her boyfriend, centerfielder Nick Johnson, and the team. “I think even they didn’t believe it - that they made it to the finals,” she said. “This is the first time anyone from our school got this far. Everyone from our town supports them. It’s unbelievable. What a great way to go out their senior year, with a championship game.”