Groton - It was at the end of practice earlier this week when Shawn Nadeau, on whose left arm rests the hope and wonder of a state championship today, surveyed the inhabitants of dugout at the new, snazzy Fitch baseball field.
All of his guys were there, mostly pooped from coach Marc Peluso's baserunning drill. It wouldn't have taken Nadeau long for roll call.
"We have 10 guys, basically," he said.
And they are 10 guys who generally elicit a "who?" among anyone who cares about high school baseball in the region. Except that the answer to the question, "Who are these guys anyway?" is the best answer of all:
They're the guys playing for a state championship today.
The third-seeded Falcons seek the program's fourth state title at noon, facing upstart No. 24 New Canaan in the Class L finals at Palmer Field in Middletown.
"By no means are any of us all-stars, other than (pitcher) Jon (Mewha)," catcher Zach Wolfgang said. "We fly under the radar. No one knows about us. We're not that big physically. But we surprise them."
Indeed. The Falcons, once winners of 15 straight this season, do not have the star power of other programs in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
But they have a group of seniors who throw strikes, pick up the ball and play for each other more than for themselves.
Peluso gushes at the contributions of seniors Mewha, Nadeau, Wolfgang, Al Jordan Johnson, David Hall, Jeremy Santerre, John Conley, Ollie Auerbach and Chris Corum-Giles.
"They have some talent," Peluso said. "But when you look around the league and there are names like (Nolan) Long and (Jordan) Hamler (both of Waterford), "(Chase) Livingston (East Lyme), (Tre) Gonzalez (Montville) and you see guys like Mewha, Jordan Johnson and Nadeau, it's who are these guys again? But they've proven they know how to win games. Talent alone doesn't win. You've got to believe in each other."
Fitch began the season 1-2, which included a notable 6-1 loss to Waterford. At that point, a trip to Middletown on the first Saturday of June didn't feel so much like a plan.
"We won an 11-inning game at North Kingstown (R.I.)," Peluso said. "David Hall made a full-out dive for a ball (at third base) and threw the guy out in extra innings. We've been rolling since."
Fitch's opponent, with an otherwise exemplary athletic program, hasn't won a state baseball title since 1950. New Canaan was 7-8 well into May this season and didn't qualify for its conference tournament. Suddenly, the Rams are 14-10 and full of belief.
New Canaan has two senior starters. The Rams hand the ball to sophomore Dan Rajkowski today against Nadeau.
"I don't think about being last ECC team left," Wolfgang said. "I think about being one of the last eight teams able to practice. And I want to be one of the four who wins a state championship."