Boys  can't
find the magic
The Woodstock Academy baseball team went into its Class L first-round state tournament game last week at North Haven with the same approach that it took in games against Waterford and Montville earlier this season.
Why not us?
“I told them, ‘We have nothing to lose. Roll the dice, play the game of your life and let’s beat these guys,” said Woodstock Academy coach Brian Murphy.
That philosophy worked against the Lancers and Indians.
Unfortunately, the 31st –seeded Centaurs could not find the magic for a third time. They fell to the No. 2 Indians, 3-1, May 29 and saw their season come to a close.
The Centaurs finished with a 10-13 record.
“We won 10 games with a young team, I’m happy,” Murphy said. “I lost 10 seniors last year. In retrospect, when I look back at the whole season, there were four or five games that could have gone either way and made a difference in our state standings. But when you see how these guys competed, I think I’m starting to get the kids to believe that we can compete and play with the kids down the other end of the state.”
Murphy had to get a little more animated with his team prior to the game as the Centaurs were watching, somewhat in awe, of North Haven’s batting practice.
“I made them run and I got their attention,” Murphy said. “I told that Luke (Mathewson) was going to go out and pitch the game of his life, which he did, he deserved to win. We just couldn’t get the big hit.”
The Academy scored its only run in the third inning.
Zach Ellsworth reached on an error to lead off the inning, Doug Newton and Pete Spada drew walks to load the bases. After a popout, Eric Preston drew a walk to force in a run. A fielder’s choice cut down a run at the plate and a pop out ended the threat.
The game was tied at one going into the bottom of the sixth but North Haven finally reached Mathewson for a pair of runs to pull out the victory.
Mathewson finished with a 3-5 record and a 2.68 earned run average. He struck out 79 batters and walked only 13.
Mathewson was the only true starting pitcher for the Centaurs after Tommy Li (2-2, 4.12 ERA, 21 K’s in 18 2/3 innings) went down with a sore shoulder with a month left in the season.
“I took Tommy out and now, I have to pitch my catcher (Preston). To do what we did with one true starter was phenomenal. The kids battled, accepted the challenges and I’m very optimistic about next year,” Murphy said.
Preston came on to post a 3-2 record with a 2.66 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings.
As far as pitching, Murphy expects some arms to be coming up through the ranks and he hopes a couple of newcomers could possibly further bolster the staff.
Offensively, outside of Mathewson, the team struggled at the plate.
Mathewson finished with a .444 batting average with 21 RBIs and 10 doubles.
Preston had a hot bat early, but it cooled off and he finished with a .303 mark with 11 RBIs and the team’s only home run. He also walked 21 times, the only Centaurs to reach double digits in that category.
The Centaurs hit .225 as a team, but only .195 if Mathewson’s 32 hits are taken away.
“We have to improve. We worked at it. If you come to one of my practices, our kids are getting 80-100 swings a practice. We just have to continue to play,” Murphy said.
That’s what makes this summer so important.
Murphy wants to see most of his players take advantage of the American Legion baseball program. Tri-Town, a conglomerate of Putnam, Thompson and Woodstock players, recently added a second Junior Legion program which should open more opportunities for that to happen.
“We have to get kids playing in the summer- that’s the bottom line. That’s what (other areas of the state) do and we have to replicate,” Murphy said.
The good news is that the Centaurs only lose four seniors including third baseman Cam Lotter.
Lotter was Murphy’s nominee for the sportsmanship award for the Centaurs. He finished with a .269 batting average and knocked in five runs.
“He wasn’t sure he was going to play and he did. He had a great season and I was so happy for him. He came up with some big hits and big plays. I don’t like it when kids don’t play their senior year because you only go around once. You’re going to make yourself some memories if you stick around and he left everything on the field,” Murphy said.
It’s players like that who lead Murphy to believe the culture of the program is changing.
“Woodstock has been a basketball, soccer type of town. We’re trying to change that. We’re going on a spring trip next season. The stars didn’t align with our spring break this year. I hope that will attract kids here. We want a program. We don’t want baseball to be a club, we want it to be a program- a winning program,” Murphy said.
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director

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