Return to Headlines

Woodstock Academy captures first-ever baseball state championship

As the bus carrying the Woodstock Academy newly crowned Class L baseball state championship team approached the Bungay Fire Department, the lights began to be seen.

A lengthy procession of fire trucks and emergency vehicles were waiting, ready to escort the yellow bus back to South Campus and a victory celebration after a 5-2 win over RHAM at Palmer Field in Middletown Saturday night.

It was a fitting end to what had been a rather eventful day in the lives of the 18 young men on the baseball team as well as the Woodstock Academy community as a whole.

Just a little over 12 hours before, the school’s seniors turned the tassels on their graduation caps and officially departed as graduates.

But for those on the baseball team, the mission was not quite complete.

The four seniors on the team skipped the graduation celebrations and got ready for the final, most important for most, baseball game that they would play.

The win over the Raptors was the first state championship in the sport in the long history of Woodstock Academy.

“It’s hard to not be romantic about baseball. You saw what happened to us (Saturday). During the season, everyone counted us out, everyone doubted us, no one talked about us preseason. Look at us now. We have the plaque, we got the banner at the field, we got everything. People asked us, ‘What are you going to do if you don’t win?’ And I guess, we will never know,” said Woodstock Academy senior captain Eric Mathewson to those assembled inside the South Campus gym on the Woodstock Academy campus on Saturday around midnight.

For Mathewson, it completed a special day.

“It’s awesome. It’s a very rare chance that you get to graduate and get to play in a state championship on the same day and it’s even rarer that you get to win a state championship. I can’t be more grateful,” he said prior to leaving the field.

Mathewson, unfortunately, did not get a chance to play in the semifinal or championship game.

His left ankle was still encased in a boot after he sprained it in a quarterfinal win over Guilford.

On Saturday, the Centaurs were missing not only Mathewson but fellow senior Jack Sumner who suffered a sudden illness and did not make either graduation or the game.

“Jack Sumner has been a solid second baseman for us and with Eric out, we were down two, but we have guys we trust. Brady Lecuyer would be a starter on most other teams in the state. He’s a very good player and getting him in and he had some awesome at-bats. We knew we had guys ready. This team believes in each other,” Woodstock Academy coach Connor Elliott said.

The game, actually, ended pretty quickly for RHAM.

The third-seeded Raptors’ dugout quickly grew quiet in the bottom of the first inning.

On a 1-0 count. Fayz Baig threw a fastball to Brady Ericson.

The junior sent it high into the twilight sky.

It didn’t come down until it cleared the bleachers beyond the 322-foot mark in right field.

Keon Lamarche, who had reached on an error, preceded Ericson to plate to give the Centaurs a 2-0 lead.

“It did feel really good,” Ericson said. “It was a nice little energy shift to our side, they got knocked back a little bit.”

RHAM never really recovered.

“We scored those two runs and it set the tone for the rest of the game,” said senior Noah Sampson.

Not that the Centaurs allowed them the opportunity.

Ericson, pitching for the second time in four days, admitted to being a little sore coming in but he put together a 5 2/3 inning effort, allowed only one hit in the sixth inning and struck out 11.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Elliott said of Ericson. “He deserved the Gatorade bath (Saturday). Coming back on short rest, he threw (104 pitches) on Tuesday, came back (Saturday), gave everything he had and he probably would have made it through the sixth if a ball had not got lost in the lights. What can you say? He shows up in the biggest moments and he has really grown into a leadership role.”

Logan Coutu came on in the sixth to get one out and senior Riley O’Brien finished up, throwing only 13 pitches and striking out the side in the seventh.

Maxx Corradi helped his classmate in the second inning.

Tanner Graham drew a one-out walk, stole second and one out later, Corradi singled home Graham for the 3-0 Centaur lead.

Woodstock Academy (26-2) added two more insurance runs in the fifth.

Lamarche singled and one out later, Hernandez added a base hit. O’Brien drew a walk from reliever Sean Connolly and, one out later, Graham (2-for-2) delivered a two-run single.

“I was seeing the ball well (Saturday). I had a single earlier in the game so I felt like nothing could stop me at the plate and I was aggressive early in the count, swung at the first pitch, and it resulted in two RBIs,” Graham said.

There was a little concern in the sixth.

Ericson (9-0) got the first two outs relatively quickly but Cam McPeck had the only hit of the game for RHAM, a line drive single to left. Ethan Boisvert then reached on the ball getting lost in the lights and Joey Tyler reached on a walk. A passed ball allowed the two Raptor runs to score but Coutu got the fly out to end the threat.

“It’s surreal,” Ericson said of the championship standing in front of the scoreboard sporting the final score, drenched from the water bucket dousing he received from his thankful teammates. “This was an unreal environment. There were so many people here. I’ve never played a game of the caliber of this and to walk away with a win, I could not ask for anything more.”

For Ericson, who still has another year at Woodstock Academy, it will likely not be the last time he plays in front of a big crowd as he has verbally committed to play for UConn.

The state championship was also a vindication of sorts for hockey players like Corradi and Sampson who had anticipated winning a state title, after falling just short the year before, in that sport this past winter.

It was not to be.

“I needed this one definitely,” Sampson said with a smile. “It definitely makes up for it. It would be nice to have two rings but now I have one. It feels great.”

It also left Elliott in a bit of a quandary.

A first-year head coach who wins the ultimate prize- the state title.

That’s difficult to eclipse.

“I don’t think you can better this. You have to go 28-0, I guess. This season is always going to be special. I don’t think you can top it. It’s a testament to the guys and the hard work. Wanting to get better every day, building the team, building that bond with each other. We lost our leader and, arguably, our best player. Doesn’t matter. Next man up. We will find a way and that’s the story of these guys’ season-finding a way. They come back if they need to, run away with it if they need to, they have done a heck of a job all year,” Elliott said.

 

 

Semifinal

In the middle of the Class L state tournament semifinal game on Tuesday at Dunkin’ Park, Ericson found himself next to O’Brien in the dugout when the Centaurs were at the plate and trailing by two runs.

“I told Riley that I was not ready to be done playing on this team,” Ericson said.

O’Brien and the rest of the team apparently agreed and wanted to go the distance in the state tournament, finish up in the championship game.

The top-seeded Centaurs made that happen as they rallied for a 3-2 victory over No. 13 East Lyme to vault them into the championship game.

“I don’t know if it’s relief or joy. I’m pretty sure it’s joy but it’s like, all of a sudden, it’s over. All of a sudden, we’re winning and it’s heart attack after heart attack and then it’s over. If that is how it is going to be the rest of the way, I’m OK with it,” said Elliott.

The Centaurs came back in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the sixth inning and then endured a nailbiter of a seventh.

Woodstock Academy fell behind the Vikings (18-9), 2-0, in the first three innings as Liam Cochrane had a first-inning RBI double and A.J. Montesano doubled and later scored on a wild pitch.

East Lyme starter Alex Dreyfus did the rest as he held the Centaurs to two hits and struck out 11 in the first five innings.

But was there panic in the dugout?

No.

“We never give up on this team,” O’Brien said. “We always know that when we’re down, we’re coming back. We weren’t done fighting.”

Still, it was the sixth inning and the Centaurs had just two base hits, one by Corradi in the first inning and the other by Ericson in the fourth.

“We had to change up our approach a bit, which helped, but not that much. Noah Sampson, a kid who has been there before and is great in that nine-hole. I told him, “It just takes one. Get us one ball in play, give us one baserunner, put the pressure on a little, and see where it goes from there. It took six innings but we got there,” Elliott said.

Sampson delivered.

The senior started the game-winning rally when he had an infield single.

That begat a Corradi double to right field that put the tying run in scoring position.

Caleb Simoneau cut the lead in half with an RBI groundout and, after walks to Lamarche and Ericson loaded the bases, Hernandez tied it with a sacrifice fly.

O’Brien followed with what proved to be the game-winning hit when his infield single plated pinchrunner Will Bushey.

“I felt like I wasn’t swinging well at the beginning of the game, wasn’t seeing the ball straight. (Dreyfus) wasn’t easy to hit. The new kid (reliever Dylan Joyce) came in and I just stuck with the slider and put it out there,” O’Brien described.

Ericson got the first two outs quickly in the seventh but Montesano reached on an infield single and both Garrison Biggs and Dreyfus walked before the junior lefthander sealed the win with a strikeout.

“It gets a little scary but in moments like that, I can’t let the game get bigger than it is. I’ve seen these guys three times already. I knew what they could and couldn’t hit and I just had to trust myself. You see me talking to myself out there. I work for these moments and as long as I trusted myself, I knew I would get the job done,” Ericson said.

It was a bit of a gut check.

But Ericson was up for it.

“If that’s how it’s going to be, so be it. He got the job done at the end and he sure did. He was phenomenal. He battled (Tuesday). He makes it look so easy so much of the time. His ability to stick with it and not give in when things are down and that’s how the team as a whole is. We’ve learned to this point that we can play with anyone, we’re in every game and we have one more game to prove it,” Elliott said.

The happiest person in the dugout was Mathewson.

Still wearing his boot because of a sprained ankle suffered in the quarterfinal win on Saturday,

“Being able to beat this team (East Lyme) that we have beaten three times and they didn’t have their guy (Dreyfus) in one of those games and this time, we didn’t have our guy. The fact that we still beat them, shows how good a team we are, how much we are working toward this final goal,” Ericson said