The extra weight was a game that got away. Stawarz was a star pitcher for the Falcons in 1999, and the team was a game away from the Class S state final. Standing in the way was Cromwell, but St. Paul handed Stawarz a 5-1 lead in the semifinal matchup.
As for what happened next, Stawarz stated it matter-of-fact: "I blew it."
On Sunday afternoon at around 2:30, Stawarz was one of the happiest people in Middletown's Palmer Field. St. Paul had not only reached its first state final since 1976, it beat Morgan 4-2 and captured the program's first championship since 1972.
"This was 17 years in the making," Stawarz said.
|St. Paul assistant coach talks to pitcher Connor Crean as catcher Chadd Richardson looks on |
during Sunday's Class S state final at Palmer Field in Middletown.
Stawarz had a chance to pursue a dream, yet there was a memory he couldn't escape.
This season was a special one for St. Paul, and it was very special for Stawarz.
"I've been telling those guys since the tournament started that there was a monkey on my back," Stawarz said.
The Falcons entered the state tournament as the No. 4 seed and reached the semifinals. St. Paul beat No. 24 Old Lyme 5-2 at Beehive Stadium in New Britain to clinch a berth in the final.
"It meant a lot to me to get through the semis," Stawarz said.
The Falcons took it one further and beat Morgan. St. Paul's players, coaches and fans erupted in celebration when senior Connor Crean struck out the final batter. Crean and the Falcons were well aware of the extra weight that Stawarz had been carrying.
"It means everything to me, because our assistant coach, they lost in the semis in 1999, and that was our main reason to get that win, get that state title," Crean said.
Head coach Vic Rinaldi also mentioned Stawarz in his postgame interview. It's been a crazy season for St. Paul, but all worth it.
"We've had our pretty games, we've had our ugly games, but a win is a win," Stawarz said.
And now Stawarz has gotten the monkey off his back.