Waterford's Burrows wouldn't be denied by anyone
Middletown — Before he threw a pitch, the fussbudget home plate umpire, Joe Bellino, made Michael Burrows remove the crucifix that hung on a chain around his neck, the same chain with which Burrows pitched 10 other games this season.
Amazing how this stuff manages to happen in state championship games, isn’t it?
One inning later, Bellino interrupted the flow again by informing Burrows that he “wasn’t square to home plate” before delivering a pitch. Bellino, making himself a nuisance, summoned Waterford coach Art Peluso for a meeting. Peluso returned to the dugout muttering. Burrows merely stood and watched, awaiting the chance for all the adults to clam up so he could, you know, pitch.
This is just the kind of undertaking that would have unnerved the younger Michael Burrows, who has been known to stare down an umpire or two in moments of distress.
Mike Burrows is just the kid who delivered championship No. 10 to the proudest high school baseball program of them all. With an exclamation point.
Burrows, despite the tests of his patience, remained calmer than Sunday morning on Friday night, striking out 15 in Waterford’s 4-0 win over Lewis Mills before 1,200 fans at Palmer Field. He hit as high as 91 on the radar gun early in the game and was a solid 86 in the seventh inning.
“The ump tested him a little bit, didn’t he?” catcher Alex Petchark said. “I can’t say I agreed with it or even understood it. It was a little screwy to me to do that in a state championship game. But it didn’t affect Mike at all. Everything was working for him.”
Burrows, who received the second water bucket dousing of the night, answered all the questions from reporters soaking wet and with a look of satisfaction that only comes from delivering the goods. Maybe the best news of all, though, was this: Burrows passed the maturity test. All in front of UConn coach Jim Penders, too.
“This is amazing,” Burrows said. “No other word to describe it.”
He explained umpire Bellino’s musings this way:
“He was telling me that I wasn’t squared up to the plate,” Burrows said. “I’d been pitching that way all year. Maybe he was trying to take my mojo away. It’s fine. You can’t lose your head, no matter the circumstances.”
It should be noted that nobody would have blamed Burrows had he looked quizzically at Norman Nitpicky behind the plate. Dugout members were irritated, fans were irate and even some of us in the press box lost our sunny dispositions. Can’t you just get behind the plate and call balls and strikes, understanding 1,200 people don’t care who you are?
And yet Burrows, a junior, proved that growth doesn’t come with a manual. Or a timetable. It happens with experience and time. Yes, you can change. You can always change. Now Burrows can use Friday night as a beacon for every other time he pitches. Put it this way: If that guy didn’t get to Burrows, nobody else ever will.
“In the past, yeah, maybe Mike might have gotten a little upset at that kind of stuff happening,” assistant coach Kevin Irvine said. “But his stuff was on another level tonight.”
Peluso – yes, he was a tad nervous before the game – said after state title No. 10 that he was comforted all day by watching Burrows in school.
“Laser-like focus,” Peluso said. “He wasn’t going to be denied. This was his moment.”
And at 8:38 p.m., he earned strikeout No. 15 for himself, state title No. 10 for the Lancers and a spot in program lore and legend.
“With Mike on the mound, how could you not be confident?” Peluso said. “His stuff was electric. A good night for Waterford. No. 10.”
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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