When I started at The Southington Observer last month, I knew a bit about the town’s sports history.
I had covered Southington sports with The New Britain Herald, then laid out pages that contained stories about the Blue Knights and other teams at the Meriden Record-Journal. I went to a couple Southington football games as a kid, and I read about the Blue Knights from time to time.
My first true introduction to Southington sports was the Post 72 American Legion baseball team. It was one of the best experiences of my professional life, and I wound up covering a state championship team. What a way to start the new job, and the bar has been set pretty high.
Head coach Marc Verderame, his assistants Bob Borkowski, Josh Makles and Vito Boccuzzio, and general manager Bob Kalvinek made me feel right at home, and their team was fun to watch.
I have never seen a team will its way to victory the way this Southington team did. If you knocked Post 72 down, you needed to make sure they stayed down. Any opening was an invitation to a comeback victory. Throughout the season and the state tournament, Southington was knocked to the canvas, but it got back up. Post 72 beat its rival Cheshire twice in the state tournament regional, then rallied in both games against Ellington for the state championship.
“We just stay with it, we’re a tough team, we’ve been here before, we’ve been coming back all season,” first baseman Brayden Cooney said after winning the championship. “It takes a lot to stay with it the whole time. It takes some heart, and we’ve got a lot of that.”
Heart is the full-out dives that center fielder Brandon Kohl made to catch opponent’s fly balls. Heart is going head-first into first base to get a base hit, which Jeremy Mercier did a couple times.
“We’re never out of it,” Mercier said after the last Ellington game. “That’s what we feel like now.”
Heart is not giving in when the going gets tough on the mound or in field.
“We just fight back, we don’t count ourselves out. Ever,” pitcher Ryan Henderson said after the championship series. “Just keep hitting, throw strikes, and make the plays.
There were plenty of Southington fans at Meriden’s Ceppa Field to witness the championship-clinching win over Ellington on Aug. 4 and share in the celebration that followed.
“They’re a Southington kind of team, to not give up,” Verderame said after the season ended in the Northeast Regional in Auburn, Mass. “They were playing for the town, the town got behind them. Everybody was sending texts and messages, following us online. It was a great run, you didn’t want it to come to an end.”
Alas, the run ended, and did so via a 10-3 loss to Braintree on Aug. 11 in some extremely poor weather conditions at Auburn High School. The Northeast Regional had to be finished on Sunday to keep the national tournament on schedule, so Southington and Braintree, the Massachusetts champion, were forced to play in the rain on Auburn’s soaked turf baseball field.
It may have been hard to recall the glory of a great run through all of the raindrops that fell during that loss, but Post 72’s coaches, players and supporters still can hold their heads up high.
“We’re state champs, and they can’t take that away from us,” Verderame said.
That was introduction to Southington sports, and what a ride it was. I can’t wait to see what the Southington High School fall sports season brings.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.