The dream comes true

Lancers power way to crown

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sports - By Chris Els­berry

MID­DLE­TOWN — If he knew the Ga­torade bath was com­ing, Bill Maz­zucco didn’t let on. Bob Karosy came up be­hind with the bar­rel full of wa­ter and dumped it over his coach’s head, rev­el­ing in the party as the rest of the Notre Dame- Fair­field play­ers piled on in cel­e­bra­tion.

The dream had come true. When Maz­zucco played base­ball at Notre Dame in the mid- 1990s, an av­er­age sea­son was con­sid­ered a suc­cess­ful. That’s how medi­ocre the pro­gram was, not that Maz­zucco played enough to make a dif­fer­ence. But when he be­came coach, his goal — his dream — was to change the Lancers from medi­core to elite.

Mis­sion ac­com­plished. Notre Dame- Fair­field finished the deal Satur­day af­ter­noon at Palmer Field, knock­ing off Coven­try 10- 6 to win the Class S cham­pi­onship. Dil­lion Hig­gins gut­ted out a com­plete game win and ev­ery player in the start­ing lineup had at least one hit as the Lancers won the state ti­tle for the fourth time in pro­gram his­tory.

“This is great,” Maz­zucco said. “I went to Notre Dame. I sat in the class­room and saw that field out there and I couldn’t be hap­pier to bring these kids, who worked so hard this year, to the cham­pi­onship.”

Notre Dame fin­ishes with a 20- 7 record. The Lancers first won the Class L crown in 1964, the Class M crown in 2003 and the Class S crown in 2009. They also finished as the run­ner- up in Class L in 1965 and Class M in 2004.

“I can’t even de­scribe the feel­ing. It’s not what we wished for this sea­son — it’s what we worked for and it came true. It’s what we worked for,” said se­nior third

base­man Bob Karosy, who went 1 for 3 with a sec­ond in­ning triple that put the Lancers in front for good. “This is very over­whelm­ing … We had hopes of do­ing this at the be­gin­ning of the year, but the feel­ing … you can’t de­scribe it.”

Hig­gins got the ball for the cham­pi­onship game, just a week af­ter pitch­ing a com­plete- game vic­tory over St. Paul in the quar­ter­fi­nals and three days af­ter throw­ing three in­nings of re­lief against Holy Cross in the semi­fi­nals.

He went the dis­tance, sur­ren­der­ing eight hits and six runs. He struck out seven, in­clud­ing strik­ing out the side in the sev­enth to end the game.

“I was work­ing on pure adrenalin in that sev­enth in­ning,” Hig­gins said. “I just tried to gut it out, I didn’t have my best stuff to­day. My break­ing ball, I had trou­ble get­ting it down, but I just tried to go out there and throw enough strikes to let the de­fense to the work be­hind me.”

The Lancers came into the cham­pi­onship game av­er­ag­ing 7.75 runs a game. In the their first four games of the tour­na­ment, the Lancers banged out 43. Against Coven­try, ND con­tin­ued the the hit pa­rade, fin­ish­ing with 13 hits, get­ting two runs in the top of the sec­ond thanks to a lead­off sin­gle from Pete Mi­nore, an RBI from Karosy and a RBI dou­ble from des­ig­nated hit­ter Rich Ker­stet­ter.

“Our ap­proach at the plate has been fan­tas­tic,” Maz­zucco said. “We went af­ter our pitches. We hit them very hard right from the be­gin­ning and we stayed with it.”

In the third, ND added four runs to make it 6- 0 as Tyler Ro­mano and Hig­gins opened with sin­gles and with one out, Mi­nore sin­gled home Ro­mano. Teskey’s RBI sin­gle plated Hig­gins and when the ball got past the left fielder, Mi­nore also scored for a 5- 0 lead. Tier­ney’s triple scored Teskey.

Coven­try got on the board in the third when Jor­dan Jeroszko home­red to left to make it 6- 2.

But ND an­swered right back in the fourth with two more runs. Austin Allen and Ro­mano sin­gled and Rainey dou­bled them home.

Coven­try added a run in the fifth and scored three times in the sixth to cut the lead to 8- 6, but the Lancers re­stored that four- run cush­ion when Ker­stet­ter, just a fresh­man, lined a two- run dou­ble down the left field line.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the kid,” Karosy said of Ker­stet­ter. “He’s shown us that he’s a base­ball player and I he’s go­ing to be amaz­ing these next three years. I wish him the best.”

“If you told me be­fore the game that we’d score six runs, I’d prob­a­bly say we win the game,” Coven­try coach Ryan Giber­son said. “We fought. They put a lot of pres­sure on us, they did a great job. They had great ap­proach at the plate, they didn’t chase a lot and they hit a lot of bar­rels.”

QUOTABLE

“All the hard work we’ve done this year … be­tween the rain and the snow and the gym prac­tices. It takes ev­ery­one and all the coaches to pre­pare for this and it’s very hard to do when you’re in the gym for weeks.” — ND coach Bill Maz­zucco

STARS OF THE GAME

ND’s Ro­mano had three hits, scored two runs and stole a base. Ker­stet­ter had two dou­bles and knocked in three, in­clud­ing two in the sev­enth that gave ND a four- run cush­ion.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Notre Dame- Fair­field play­ers pile onto pitcher Dil­lon Hig­gins af­ter the Lancers de­feated Coven­try 10- 6 to win the Class S ti­tle on Satur­day at Palmer Field in Mid­dle­town.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Coven­try’s John Bounn slides into sec­ond base as Notre Dame- Fair­field Tyler Ra­mano takes the throw dur­ing the Lancers’ 10- 6 vic­tory on Satur­day.

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