Chiefs Roll into Baseball State Final, but ‘Job Not Finished’


Declan Curtin

The Nonnewaug baseball team poses with the Chiefs’ student section after beating St. Joseph, 7-5, in the Class M semifinals Tuesday at Muzzy Field in Bristol.

Samantha Conti, Editor-in-Chief

BRISTOL – “Job not finished.”

That’s what Dylan Chung posted to the Nonnewaug baseball Instagram on Tuesday night after the Chiefs made history by defeating St. Joseph, 7-5, in the Class M state semifinals at Muzzy Field, advancing to the final for the first time since 1999. 

No. 3-seeded Nonnewaug will represent the Berkshire League by competing for a state title against No. 13 Wolcott at Palmer Field in Middletown on June 10 at 3:30 p.m.

Chung, a senior pitcher, let up just seven hits over seven innings. 

“I was definitely nervous,” said Chung. “I know all year I have been struggling with my control. There have been a couple of games where I went out and just have been able to find the zone, so those past experiences were definitely adding to my nerves. I felt like I was able to lock in and play one of my best games.”

Chung got into trouble in the top of the sixth inning when St. Joseph’s offense sprung to life with two runs to make it a two-run game, but this didn’t discourage the Nonnewaug coaches from allowing Chung to finish out his game. 

“You’ve got to go with the senior, the senior that’s taken you [this far],” Nonnewaug coach Jim Alberto told the Republican-American. “He’s had great starts, especially the last two games. You’ve got to finish with him.”

Chung got out of a pinch with runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth. Senior first baseman Ryan Ponte picked a ball thrown by third baseman Owen Palmer to secure the first out of the inning. 

“We were probably one more hit or walk away from taking Dylan out and going to Owen,” said Kyle Brennan, Nonnewaug baseball assistant coach, “but to Dylan’s credit, he kept making the pitches and our defense stepped up and made a couple of big plays to preserve our lead in the sixth. We had been warming up Owen; that was part of our plan anyway. Going into the game, our plan was to get Dylan through the lineup twice – we thought we were going to be doing very well if he could do that. He kept hitting the spots and our defense kept making plays.”

Brennan had full confidence within Chung’s abilities to keep the lead, and that’s what he did.

But Nonnewaug’s defense wasn’t the only thing keeping the Chiefs alive and advancing to a state final. Their offense claimed an early lead in the first inning, scoring two runs off four hits and never allowing the Cadets to catch up. 

“We really did preach about how important the first inning was going to be,” said Brennan. “We came through and swung the bats better than I think I even expected us to, and we never looked back.”

Chung added two hits and a run, while Ponte secured two more hits, two runs and an RBI. Ben Stewart also drove in two runs and contributed one of the Chiefs’ 10 hits. 

The Chiefs’ plan going into the game was to instill confidence within their players. 

“It dealt a lot with making sure these guys were confident going into the game,” said Brennan. “They knew they belonged and they knew St. Joe’s didn’t respect them too much. We just prepared for the game. We had a good scout and we were ready to go, and we took it right to them.”

Entering the seventh inning, the Nonnewaug dugout had some decisions to make about whether to keep Chung on the mound. 

“Going into the seventh, Jimmy asked me, ‘What do you think? When should we pull him?’ And I said, ‘We’ve got to ride with him here,’” said Brennan.

With a man on second and the tying run up to bat, the final moments of the game were placed in the hands of Chung. 

“I tried to stay super calm all game. Even in the last inning, I just tried to relax because I knew we were so close to finishing it and moving on,” said Chung. “That man on second definitely had me nervous because I knew their tying run was up.”

Chung delivered by forcing the batter to ground out to Palmer, and just like that, the Nonnewaug baseball team was moving onto the state finals. 

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Chung. “We were ecstatic. That was the best moment of my life right there. When Owen Palmer made that play, I threw my glove up in the air. I just started screaming and looking at our crowd screaming. It was a great feeling.”

“We let ourselves enjoy that one after the game,” said Brennan. “There was very little talk about what was coming next, with the exception of the guys on the team rallying around the point that we are not finished.”

The Chiefs headed back to practice Wednesday with their sights set on winning the program’s first state championship.

“You enjoy something like that for a day,” Brennan said, “then by the time the next practice rolls around, it’s like, ‘So what? That [semifinal] game doesn’t matter anymore.”