MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — Brian Hourigan
, coach of the Oxford (Conn.) baseball team
, held a newly-won CIAC Class S title under his arm on Sunday afternoon as he described the salad days of the program.
The Wolverines' trying, embryonic stage was just five years ago.
"We started this (program) six years ago," Hourigan said. "We were 1-19 our first varsity season (2009). We had a lot of games where they weren't even close and we just kept fighting. Maybe that's where that fighting spirit developed over those years. They (former players) all participated in this, building to get to this point.
"It's been incredible."
Incredible might be underselling what Oxford accomplished. The school opened just six years ago. It began varsity sports the following year. The baseball team didn't make state tournament last season after going 7-13.
On Sunday, the Wolverines beat defending champion and top-seeded Cromwell, 4-0, at Palmer Field to win the program's first title.
Rags to riches in just five years.See entire Connecticut Class S playoff bracket.
Oxford senior second baseman Steven Mahoney
was asked what he would've said if someone told him prior to this season that he and his team would win a state title.
"I'd call them crazy," Mahoney grinned. "We knew we had a good team. I didn't know it was going this far, but now we're here, and it feels great.
"Coming here was insane. It was surreal. I can't believe we actually made it. And to win it, it's incredible."
The win capped an astonishing weekend of championships for Oxford. Its boys volleyball team
won a state title on Friday night. Oxford's boys 4 × 800 relay team won a New England championship on Saturday.
On Sunday, Katelyn Wentz's game-ending RBI double gave the softball team
a 1-0 win over Terryville in the state Class S final.
Hours later, the Oxford baseball team gave their school yet another title.
Oxford had had four CIAC state championships prior to the weekend — one in girls cross country, and three in cheerleading.
The school nearly doubled that in less than 48 hours.
"The volleyball and the softball (teams) put some pressure on us," Hourigan smiled. "It's outstanding. If you've been around the school at all, to see how the kids support the other teams. If we weren't playing a couple of hours before softball, pretty much my full team would've been there. They were there on Friday night (for the volleyball final).
"I almost feel like the whole school won a big championship. It's an amazing feeling for Oxford."
The Wolverines baseball team caught a break when the Class S final was rained out Friday night and moved to Sunday afternoon. That allowed Hourigan to start ace Kyle Chudoba
(7-0). He had gone the distance in Tuesday's 3-2 semifinal win over Old Lyme and wouldn't have been able to pitch Friday.
Chudoba tossed a five-hit shutout with five strikeouts and a walk in the final for Oxford (18-7).
The Wolverines also made their own breaks, living up to their namesake by clawing and fighting for everything they got. They scored their first two runs without hitting a ball out of the infield.James Michaud
led off the game with an infield single, was sacrificed to second base by Mahoney, went to third on an error, and scored on Bryan Peterson's
two-out infield single.
The Wolverines loaded the bases on two walks and another infield single with two outs in the third. JP DeFrancesco
drew a walk to force in Mahoney and gave the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.
"Honestly, that's how we've been doing it all year," Chudoba said. "We get a guy on. We move him over somehow. We're not a big power-hitting team, but we find ways to score."
Oxford didn't need to manufacture runs in the top of the seventh. Dale Keller
received a leadoff walk and went to third on Neil Ring's
double. DeFrancesco's two-out single scored Keller. Ring scored on an error.
Keller, a shorstop, and Mahoney were also responsible for two remarkable double plays when Cromwell had runners in scoring position.
"Seeing my former players over there (in the stands), they all helped build to this moment," Hourigan said. "They all helped build to this moment. This is just a team that happened to break through, but really, it was all them (the former players) that contributed to this. I really feel that way.
"I had some outstanding players that weren't on the field today, but they showed these guys how to be better ball players. It's just been an amazing experience being at Oxford."Ned
Griffen has covered high school, college and professional sports in the
Northeast since 1992. A 2003 New England Associated
Press News Executives award winner, he may be reached at email@example.com or follow him @MetalNED