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Hallmarks of a deep postseason run at any level of baseball tend to be strong pitching and timely hitting. Haddam-Killingworth baseball followed suit with that in having the two play big roles in getting the 11th-seeded Cougars to their second Class M State Tournament final in three years, but they came up on the short end of a big-time call.
HK reached the final on June 14 against top-seeded Rocky Hill at Palmer Field in Middletown by edging out No. 2-seeded Plainfield in a 13-inning semifinal duel on June 10 thanks to a big two-RBI double by junior Brian Moskey, who also tossed a perfect game in the bracket's opening round, in the eventual final frame. Yet for the Cougars' fifth state final in the program's history, HK fell 4-3. While the Cougars held a 3-1 lead in the sixth, the Terriers tied the game by scoring two on a bases-loaded wild pitch. Senior pitcher Griffin Bremer looked to make the tag on the tying runner, yet the home plate umpire, who didn't appear to have a clear view of the play, called him safe.
"I feel like I got robbed almost. I don't want to blame it on anyone, but I feel like we played a heck of a game, and we deserved it more, but that's baseball," said Bremer. "We worked hard this year. We were never this good in the beginning, yet we worked our butts off and got here. I'm proud of my team, and we put up a good fight."
Bremer pitched a strong six innings, striking out nine and walking four-including notching five of his first six outs by way of the strikeout-and he helped his own cause by driving in the first Cougar run. HK skipper Mark Brookes asked for an explanation of the tying play at the plate and was told that the vision of the dish was clear.
"I thought the throw beat him, and we had everything there but an out called," said Brookes. "When I went out and looked over, [the home plate umpire] is blocked between their players and the plate, but they told me that he had a clear view, and I said there's no help there with four umpires?"
In the first, HK (19-8) took an early edge when Moskey (2-for-4) reached first on an error, and then later scored on an RBI infield single by Bremer, who then struck out the side in the bottom of the first. After the Cougars stranded a runner on second the following inning, Bremer struck out another pair of Terriers.
HK went down in order for its third up at the plate, but so did Rocky Hill (23-2). For the fourth, the Terriers had runners at the corner with one down and tied the game on a single that just cleared the infield. Moskey ripped a double into left field with one down the following frame, and then first baseman Trevor Mann gave HK the lead again on an infield base knock as two were out.
The Terriers held a runner on third with one out for the fifth, yet Bremer and HK got out of the jam when he notched his sixth strikeout. Senior designated hitter Joe Aitken (1-for-3) then sent sophomore leftfielder Anthony Marino home to give HK a 3-1 edge in the sixth on a right field single thanks to another clutch two-out hit.
Rocky Hill had bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the sixth and tied the game on the wild pitch that scored two tallies. The Cougars couldn't get one back in the seventh and, with the bags full in the bottom half of the seventh following a hit batsmen, a single, and base-on-balls issued by reliever Moskey, the Terriers clinched the crown on a walk.
"I told them at the beginning of the tournament that we weren't expected to go very far. We were the 11th seed and been struggling at the plate, so they shouldn't be ashamed of what they've done," said Brookes, who was assisted in the dugout by Chris Anselmo and Greg Annino. "It was a great run through a tough tournament. We knocked off a No. 2 seed in Plainfield and the No. 6 seed with Weston, so they have a lot to feel good about."