Reflections from last final

The Foran High baseball team won the Class L state championship with an 8-4 victory over North Haven on June 10. Head coach Garrett Walker was assisted by Bob Riordan, Justin Lawrence, Christian Grohe and Anthony Raccio. Team members (front row) are: Mike Leson, Brett Huber and J.T. Lanese; (second row) Rich Piscitelli, Tyler Heenan, Matt Kennedy, John Lickteig, Mark Wooton, Angelo Simonelli, Kevin Lanese, Cody Hennequin and Sky Ferris; (third row) Joe Mendillo, Justin DeEll, James Carbone, Shane McCone, Anthony Turlis, Chris Goglia, Nick Hartley, David Payne, Samuel Sinisgalli and Ryan Gosselin. — David G. Whitham photo

Ray Huber couldn’t stop smiling. He and his fellow Foran High baseball fans weren’t in any hurry to leave on Saturday night.

Everyone on the first-base side of Middletown’s Palmer Field hung on to soak in that euphoric feeling that the school’s team had created with its 8-2 CIAC Class L state title win over North Haven.

After all, forty years had gone by since the Lions had made a baseball final.

Only Huber, however, also held the distinction of being a parent who played on Foran’s 1977 team that lost 3-1 in the final to Naugatuck at West Haven’s Quigley Stadium.

He spent the late spring evening watching his son Brett help the No. 32 seed Lions capture their fifth straight tournament game. In doing so they became the first team in any CIAC sport to come from that low a seed to capture a state title.

“I was a part of that team, but I didn’t play much,” said Huber, who was a sophomore. “I was the guy who got to pinch-run and play late in games in the outfield.”

Huber passed the memory test

“I remember that our best pitcher, Mike Dunn, had worked the game before, so he wasn’t able to start against Naugatuck. Coach (Vito) DeVito went with Tony Mazzona instead. He was a big, strong kid and he pitched well.”

Some of the other players on the team included catcher Rick Theriault, who made All-State in both football (as a quarterback) and baseball. He would go on to perform in both sports at American International College (AIC).

The late Daniel Wasson was also a team member. Wasson served in the Milford Police Department before being killed on duty. The field at what was once Milford High School is named in his honor.

Also on the squad were Ken Burns and Ronnie Stewart.

Current Milford American Legion manager Cliff Bugyi was DeVito’s assistant coach back in 1977

“We had players at first and third in the final inning of that game,” Bugyi recalled. “We decided to try a double steal, but the runner at third didn’t go. We were down to our final out and I can’t remember who it was that hit a long fly to left. Their outfielder went back and caught the ball over his head. We were close to having a chance to tie the game up.”

Both Huber and Bugyi also had thoughts about the 2017 team.

Bugyi believed before the title game that Foran was in a good position.

“When you get this far along in a tournament, seeds really don’t mean much,” he said. “Baseball is such a rhythm game. They’re hot, and, when you’re hot, good things tend to happen for you.”

In this case, they did.

Brett’s father kept thinking back to the earlier parts of the season.

“I used to sit with other parents on the hillside (along the first base side at Foran’s Ken Walker Field) and after another loss, we’d look at each other and say, ‘Can they be this bad.’? Then they went and turned it around. All I can say now is, “Wow.’ There’s going to be some celebrating in Milford over the next week.”

Huber said his son never lost hope; rarely got down about the plight of his team.

“My son loves the game too much for that to happen,” he said. “He’d come home and life would go on. I was nowhere near the player he is. He’s a terrific hitter.”

Brett Huber’s baseball career may be on hold for awhile. Foran’s record-setting wide receiver will move on down the road a few miles this fall, where he will play football at the University of New Haven.

Foran’s baseball team now joins an elite group from the school, which opened in 1973, that have captured state titles. They include Ken Walker’s football team (1994), the volleyball team (1975), the boys swimming team (1983, ’84), the softball team (2002, 2011) and the wrestling team (2016).

“It was just amazing what this team did,” said Foran Athletic Director Anthony Vitelli. “After they were 1-11, every game basically was turned into a tournament contest. They couldn’t afford to lose. Then winning five straight tournament games is a tribute to Garrett, his coaching staff and the boys. The support that the school received during from the faculty, student body and the Milford community during that five-game run was really special.”

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