Old school Spartans club has a memorable run
The Shepaug High School baseball team had quite the run in its 2018 season but the foundation was built a long time ago.
A hard-nosed team, playing for each other, enjoying the game and tracing their roots all the way back to T-ball, these Spartans played for the love of the game and their results showed it.
Shepaug finished the regular season with a record of 19-1, including a 17-1 mark in the Berkshire league that gave the Spartans their second BL title in the last three seasons (they shared the league title with Northwestern Regional in 2016).
Their only regular season loss was to 2017 BL champion and Class M finalist Lewis Mills. The Spartans earned the No. 1 seed for the CIAC Class S tournament.
Ethan Hibbard and Chance Dutcher were named to the Class S All-State team and both were named to the All Berkshire League first team along with Alan Stinson, while Joe Brunelli and Jack Schneider earned Second Team All-Berkshire League honors.
Coach Scott Werkhoven had a feeling he had a special group early on and his hunch was correct as the Spartans went on to win the first 17 games of the season.
“We were very fortunate this year to get to work with such a good group of kids. From the first day, their attitude and effort were outstanding,” Werkhoven said. “They set high goals for themselves this season and they worked hard to achieve those goals. Although it’s hard seeing the season end, especially with a tough loss, this team has a great deal to be proud of.”
After the 3-1 loss to Mills, Shepaug rebounded to beat Wamogo, 11-1, and Gilbert, 14-3, to lock up the top seed in Class S. The Spartans beat Terryville (8-0), Griswold (14-2) and Somers (13-0) in the Class S tournament to advance to the semifinals where their run came to an end with a 4-1 loss to Coventry.
Werkhoven credits his four seniors, James Kennedy, Alan Stinson, Nick Fleming and Kyle LaMay, for setting the tone with the team this season.
“All of the seniors this season were significant varsity contributors since their sophomore year. They will be missed but provided us valuable leadership this year,” Werkhoven said.
You often hear about good teams having a love of the game and a love of being together, competing for each other and that holds true for this Spartans team, a team that gave it their all every time they were on the field together, the coach said.
“This was an old school Shepaug team, in that these kids loved coming to the field everyday, whether it was practice or a game, and worked hard to get better,” Werkhoven said. “They enjoyed playing baseball and being with their teammates.”
The kids had a hard-nosed mentality and loved the game, but according to Werkhoven, that didn’t just magically happen, rather it was nurtured and encouraged from when they first picked up a glove and a bat.
“This group was also old school in how these kids got here, as they had a lot of good people work with them from the time they were playing T-ball,” Werkhoven said. “Parents and other community members dedicated a lot of time working with these guys at the younger levels and with field maintenance to give them these opportunities. But it all keeps coming back to a great group of kids that took a lot of pride in how they played.”