The euphoria is only starting to wear off now for Wolcott baseball head coach Tary Scott.
A week ago today, the Eagles captured the program's first-ever state championship, 3-2 in the Class M final over Northwestern Regional on a Ray Bartoli two-run home run.
"It was an amazing run we had," Scott said in a phone interview this morning.
|Wolcott baseball came together as a team, and the result was a Class M state championship, the first in program history.|
"We got a state championship team here," Scott said he told his players. "If we get that one bad inning out of the way, we'll be alright."
Mental toughness was a big key to the team's success.
Only with that toughness can you rebound from a 5-5 start to the season. Only with that toughness can you come back ready to play after blowing a NVL Tournament semifinal game. Only with that toughness can you overcome an 11-4 deficit in the state tournament.
And only with that toughness can you pick yourself up off the ground one more time in the state final, down 2-1 with just three outs remaining in your season, and win a championship.
"We had great players in the past, but they didn't know how to finish," Scott said. "This team knew how to finish."
Bartoli will be remembered forever for his epic blast, but this was a team effort and others need to be mentioned up there with him. There was Steve Urbanski, who went 4-for-4 and started the bottom of the seventh inning with a base hit.
"I knew he was locked in the whole game," Scott said.
Then there was senior pitcher Ike Negretti, who always wanted the ball. Scott said he repeatedly asked his right-hander throughout the tournament if his arm was OK.
"Nah, it'll be alright," Scott said Negretti told him at one point during the postseason.
Negretti was the winning pitcher in all five games, including four complete games, in the state tournament. In the final against Northwestern, Scott could tell Negretti was tired, but the pitcher -- and the thinker -- in him kept working.
"He was mixing his pitches, and Mr. Jackson (assistant coach Tim Jackson) called a good game for him," Scott said.
Scott played in high school, he played in college, and he was drafted into the Boston Red Sox organization. When asked for his reaction to Negretti's performance, Scott said this:
"I've never seen it. I played high school, played college, played in the pros. I've never seen a guy that wants the ball every single day."
This team was indeed a team, and that attitude started early. The seniors made sure freshman catcher Jeff Nicol was welcomed early on. Seniors Negretti, Matt Warren and Chris Hull - who was hurt in the second game of the season -- led by quiet example. Senior Eric Gillotti wasn't going to play, but he came back.
"He was a big key for us," Scott said.
The junior Urbanski started things in the lineup, and Warren was often on base right after him in the No. 2 slot. The junior Bartoli was third, then there was senior Jacob Gabriel in the No. 4 spot.
Gabriel kept coming to practice despite not playing a lot. Scott needed a No. 4 hitter, so in went Gabriel.
"He got his shot, and he didn't come out," Scott said.
The change for Gabriel from junior to senior year -- he grew up, he told his coach.
Wolcott as a team grew up. The Eagles came together as a family and developed the mental toughness necessary to close out tight games, and to rally when down.
Wolcott's biggest hurdle came in the second round at home against Ellington. The Purple Knights blitzed the Eagles for seven runs to take an 11-4 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning.
"We're gonna come back, we're gonna come back," Scott said he told his team. "The whole game to that point, we kept hitting the ball hard. We just had to stop them from scoring.
Wolcott matched Ellington's seven runs with a seven spot of its own in the fifth, then walked off in the seventh for an inprobable 13-12 victory.
When Wolcott stepped off the bus for the quarterfinal at Waterford, Scott knew the team was ready.
"They were so relaxed getting off the bus," Scott said.
The Eagles won that day, 5-2, then hammered Haddam-Killingworth 10-1 in the semifinal to set up the first final in program history.
Wolcott won the state title, and in the process the Eagles proved their coach wrong. It's something he tells each team to do every year, and this team did it. They also rubbed it in on him on the bus ride home, he said with a laugh. Scott didn't mind at all.
When the Eagles returned to Wolcott High School late last Friday night, they were greeted by 60-70 people. Scott said being drafted was the biggest thrill in his life, but that has been pushed aside.
"This is the biggest thrill of my life," Scott said of winning the state title.
Scott gives all the credit to his players and his coaches, who worked hard to bring the glory home to Boundline Road.
Wolcott baseball gave the town the thrill of a lifetime, and the players earned something that will be there's forever.
"They got that ring at the end, and nobody can take that away from them," Scott said.
PLAYERS: Senior Ike Negretti, senior Jacob Ramos, junior Steve Urbanski, senior Nate Murphy, junior Zach Maisto, freshman Jack Drewry, senior Brad Grasso, junior Bobby White, senior Chris Hull, senior Matt Warren, junior Ray Bartoli, sophomore Nick Trager, freshman Jeff Nichol, senior Jacob Gabriel, senior Eric Gillotti, sophomore Nick Longo, senior Phil Olmstead
COACHES: Tary Scott, Dom Angiolillo, Tim Jackson ("The Mayor"), Ed Belval, Charlie Guerrera