If you’re an avid reader of newspapers, you know that sports and news are almost always kept separate.
If you’re looking for information on what happened at Town Hall or the latest arrests made by the police department, you turn to one section of the paper. If it’s scores and highlights that are of interest, you turn to another.
But sometimes, something happens in sports that makes it front-page news.
In June of 1993, Cheshire was coming to the end of their school year. As such, all of the sports were finishing up their seasons, and one team in particular was capturing the spring imagination of local sports fans.
Cheshire High School’s baseball team were the reigning Class LL champions, having won the title in 1992. But, as they say in sports, the hardest thing to do is repeat.
That’s exactly what the Rams were looking to accomplish in the late spring of their ’93 season, streaking to an unbeaten record at 23-0.
All that stood in their way was a matchup in the championship game against Norwalk High School, which was riding a 25-game win streak into the contest.
Though the records of the two schools indicated that a close affair was likely in the offing, CHS didn’t allow for any drama to play out. In the end, the Rams won the game 9-3, extending their overall winning streak to 32 games and notching their second-straight Class LL title.
It would be another 25 years before they’d win another.
The game received all the coverage you’d imagine: A front-page story accompanied by a picture of the screaming fans who traveled to Palmer Field to cheer on their Rams, and a full spread of stories in the Sports section of the paper.
The star of the game seems to have been pitcher Dennis Hogan, who used a combination of pitches to keep Norwalk hitters off balance throughout. In the end, Hogan amassed 10 strikeouts and surrendered only seven hits on the way to recording the victory.
After the game, The Herald caught up with Head Coach Burt Leventhal, who spoke glowingly about Hogan and his team.
“We talked about getting early runs and trying to take advantage of Hogan’s fastball and slider in the twilight,” Leventhal explained. “The first couple of innings, he went right after them. Then, as darkness set in, he went to a mixture of pitches. The first inning he had three Ks. He had a good heater. Somebody said he was overthrowing a little bit, but I think he was in command.”
The outing could have been a lot different, Hogan admitted after the game, as some stiffness developed in his shoulder after a semi-final matchup against Notre Dame. However, the youngster overcame whatever injury he had and was more determined to pitch a quality game.
“Actually, i felt pretty good,” said Hogan, after the win. “I’ve been constantly icing my arm. My back started hurting me a little bit, but that wasn’t going to get me out of the game.”
“Every batter I go to get out,” he continued to explain. “You’ve got to go after every batter. I was going to go after them with all I got.”
The Rams got off to a hot start, scoring once in the first and then four times in the second inning, amassing a 5-1 lead before the Norwalk team could even blink. However, it was in the fifth, aided by a two-run home run by Aaron Kady, that the Rams put distance between themselves and the Bears, turning a four-run lead into an eight-run blowout. A rare Rams error in the seventh, only the team’s 21st all season long, led to two runs for the Bears, but it wasn’t a problem, as CHS won convincingly 9-3.
“We stayed confident,” said Kady, after the game. “As we kept winning (throughout the season), everything seemed to be going our way. We stayed happy, and we kept loose. We kept looking forward to things.”
Those who were interviewed after the game, such as brothers Steve and Scott Cassesse, both of whom were credited with playing game-changing defense in the title game, spoke about the camaraderie felt by everyone on the roster and how that equaled sustained success.
They also spoke of how each member of the team made sure to remain confident without allowing it to turn into something negative.
“They’re not really cocky,” said baseball coach Jeffrey Goodrich. “They were loose all weekend and all last week. They’ve been making the plays all year.”
Cheshire baseball would have several good years in the seasons to come, but none would end in a championship. After going back-to-back in 1992 and 1993, the Rams wouldn’t once again be crowned champions until 2018, when a new crop of ballplayers would pull out a thrilling 1-0 win over Ridgefield in Middletown in order to take the crown.
It’s a pleasant reminder of the success Cheshire baseball has experienced in the not-so distant past, but also a painful reminder of what is likely to be lost this year, as the state continues its shutdown over the coronavirus.