By MICHAEL LETENDRE
MIDDLETOWN – It took 30 years for the East Lyme baseball team to final get revenge for Bristol Eastern defeating the squad for the 1986 Class L championship by an 11-7 final.
That revenge came on Tuesday, June 7 when the Vikings posted a 15-2 win over the Lancers to advance to the 2016 Class L championship game.
And frankly, it’s going to be another 30 years before another team is going to handily defeat the Lancers like that again.
In the world of scholastic sports, you’re allowed one bad game – a mulligan if you will – that you shake your head at, learn from, and move to the next showdown.
But Eastern’s true one stinker of the year came at the worst time of the season – in that one-and done semifinal challenge against East Lyme, a squad that won 16 games to close out the regular season and twenty of twenty-one overall to get to the title tilt.
The Lancers surely earned a better fate but, in terms of the entire season, who can be disappointed with Eastern – sans a state championship?
“Twenty-one wins, a league title, you get down to the final four, I guess you can call the season a success but it’s pretty hard to use the word success after a game like tonight,” said Eastern coach Mike Giovinazzo. “We certainly wanted to come out here and compete, give us a shot to be able to play on the weekend [for a championship] but we didn’t do that.”
For the first time in school history, Eastern (21-3) did not lose a game during the regular season in seven innings, dropping two 7-6 extra-inning affairs to Tolland and Wethersfield, while the 21 wins is a school record for victories in a season.
The 18 regular season victories were also a school record as well and the squad was as high as three or four in all the state poll rankings that mattered.
That final ranking should also be in the top ten as well.
Who could argue those final results and the outstanding senior core consisting of Nate Hickey, Adrian James, Brian McPhee, Evan McGinley, Zach Martin, Greg Lozier, and future Central Connecticut State University pitcher Nate Carney.
Hickey and James helped to make up Eastern’s tremendous defensive outfield component and had speed on the base-paths as well while McPhee at third base and McGinley at second were also defensive standouts throughout the campaign.
And just as indispensable was Lozier behind the plate and Carney (9-0) on the mound.
Carney never lost over the past two seasons and Lozier, bouncing back from Tommy John surgery, proved to be as gritty as ever behind the plate.
And while losing those seven seniors certainly hurts, in terms of next year’s squad, plenty of talent is returning to make another run at it.
Tyler Troth (8-1 overall) had big wins along the way in 2016 and should be even better next season.
Zach Marquis is a talented hitter while Gary Gagnier is a solid thrower as well.
Ethan O’Day could be another special pitcher on the mound in 2017 as will Jake Violette.
Sophomores Cory Fradette and MacGregor Goulet will also be counted on next season and all those youngsters got some time on the field during the Lancers’ final game of the season.
“When a score gets like that, you’ve got to kids a little taste,” said Giovinazzo of the East Lyme game. “You never know. You might get a little spark from somebody that can, you know, can take their career to another level.”
Over the last two seasons, that senior core won the Lancers forty total games and no other team in school history can boost a two-season total like that.
Take into account the CCC South championships, the come-from-behind wins, the hard fought victories over Bristol Central and the time and effort all these boys put into the program and the legacy speaks for itself.
And outside of a state championship, that unit did everything else to promote, not just the program, but themselves on the highest level possible.
It’s certainly an impressive ledger they’ve left behind for other generations of players to emulate.
“Add them up,” said Giovinazzo of the accomplishments by the senior core over the past two seasons. “There were 19 wins last year and 21 this year. So they were part of 40 wins the last two years and two league titles. There were some very good moments in their careers and they certainly have a lot to be proud of and hopefully, the younger guys can follow their lead in the years to come.”