Bit by bit, Peluso is becoming a Fitch guy

Groton - Marc Peluso's road not taken has been purely unintended. He'd rather have taken the road diverged in a yellow wood marked "state semifinals, this way," long ago. Thus far in his high school coaching career, his three previous experiences in the state quarterfinals have gone like the old Groucho line: "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."

But here they are again, the boys of Fitch baseball, with their fourth crack at cracking the quarters in Peluso's five seasons. This has been a good season, too, now 21 wins and counting after Wednesday's 6-1 victory over Watertown in the second round of the Class L state tournament.

"Maybe it's me," Peluso joked after Wednesday's game, alluding to the quarterfinals roadblock.

He'd get no argument from some folks in the hamlets of Groton and Mystic, who were a bit chafed five years ago when Peluso got the job. To them, Peluso is one of ... them. Not "us." That means he's not a Fitch guy. And Fitch guys applied for the job of succeeding Ed Harvey and his more than 400 wins and three state titles.

Peluso grins at the thought of potential detractors, as if recalling JFK's old line: "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names."

"I tell kids all the time that I grew up in Stonington and played at Stonington High School," he said. "I had a great experience there. But I got a job in Groton. I want to stay here. One thing I said in my interview: I'm not here for a year or two. I want to be there for next 32 years.

"I like this community. I like the kids we have, the diversity," he said. "At this point, I'm starting to get to the point that I'm not a Stonington guy anymore. I'm teaching here, coaching here, trying to get involved in the community with summer camps. Hopefully that whole myth is gone."

Say this much: The baseball team's success this spring has been welcome in the land of scarlet and black. This hasn't been a memorable sports year. But it sure could end that way. And it could help recall the memories of the recent past that were part of the golden age of Fitch sports.

From 1999-2009:

Fitch football won two state titles and was honored at Yale during a snazzy black tie dinner as the state's No. 1 team in 2000.

Fitch basketball won the ECC tournament in 2004, authoring a win at New London in the championship game that is among the best played around here ? ever. Tom Doyle, the coach, won the regular season title three times, too.

Fitch baseball won the 2005 state championship, including Eric Korteweg's no-hitter in the state championship game. That team had Matt Harvey, now in Triple-A with the Mets (5-0, 2.91 in his last eight starts), Todd Doyle (played professional basketball in Europe), Justin Walz (record-setting college career as a quarterback at Western New England), Matt Browning (drafted by the Seattle Mariners) and then maybe the best player of all, catcher Brian McGugan, now an assistant coach under Peluso.

Fitch softball won the 2009 state title, snapping Masuk of Monroe's 77-game winning streak. Louisiana State-bound pitching phenom Rachele Fico lost her last game, after a career with nearly 2,000 strikeouts.

Since, though, Fitch's profile sports haven't been very good. Which brings us to this spring and the baseball team coached by, you know, that guy.

"The baseball program here was very storied long before I got here," Peluso said. "There's always been that expectation. As far as I'm concerned, there's always going to be that expectation. The kids believe it and so do the coaches. It comes down to what's been established here."

The Falcons get Jonathan Law of Milford on Saturday at the new Fitch field. Maybe this time. Either way, though, the program should make the townies proud. Take it from a Fitch guy:

"I played under him at Avery Point. Obviously, he comes from good blood, having played for Roger (Bidwell)," McGugan said. "He played at UConn. He teaches here and interacts with the kids. I don't think they could have picked a better guy."

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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