Taconic State Title Baseball Team Honored, Awarded Rings

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Someday soon, they will hang a banner at Taconic High School celebrating the 2017 baseball team’s Division 1 State Championship.


But it will be a long time before anyone needs a piece of cloth to remind them of the accomplishments of Taconic’s Class of 2017.


A dozen members of that storied group were back in the city on Friday to be honored for the crowning achievement of their high school athletic careers: a 24-1 season that ended with the first D1 baseball crown in the school’s history.


The 12 seniors and three juniors who accomplished that feat, along with the coaching staff that guided them to the title, received their championship rings and well earned applause from a packed house at the ITAM Lodge.


They also received reminders of what they meant to the city.


“The fire ride after the state championship, we’re going down North Street, and the community, the business people who were working and came out,” assistant coach Chris Keegan recalled. “That’s when it was just a sense of a community. It was a good feeling for the city of Pittsfield, which can always use some positivity around here.


“I remember coach [Kevin Stannard] and I looked at each other on the bus watching these guys screaming out the windows and stuff. And it was emotional. … It’s just a tremendous feeling about these guys.


“I can’t tell you how proud I am and we are of you, not just as baseball players, but just as kids and people.”


There was plenty of talk about baseball, too, and even some about Taconic’s accomplishments on the football field and basketball court. The Pittsfield/Taconic Athletic Director Jim Abel, the father of one of the senior state champs, noted that the team’s triumph in June was part of a pattern of success for the group.


Many of the baseball players were also key contributors on the school’s basketball team that went to a Western Mass final and or the football team that won a sectional crown in November 2016


“It’s unique to have such a tight-knit group of kids who experience the ups and downs on different playing fields,” Abel said. “I like to think those experiences played a role in your success on the baseball field.”

The very occasional failure played a role as well.


Abel, who served as the evening’s master of ceremonies, talked about how the Taconic seniors took the sting of disappointment from the Western Mass basketball final into the baseball season.

Stannard recalled another time the group came up just a little short.


“The loss to Westfield in the [2016] Western Mass semi-finals was a key motivational tool to put this team in an emotional and mental frame of mind,” coach Kevin Stannard said. “[Senior] Ryan Abel made sure we remembered that by lining the stairwell and locker room with articles from the paper.


“The team knew that they were capable of accomplishing all their goals, and the coaching staff knew it as well.”


And boy were they ever accomplished.


In two years -- counting the 2016 sectional semi-final run -- Taconic went 43-4, and all four losses were one-run games, Stannard noted.


Taconic batted a combined .340 over the two-year period, its pitchers had a combined earned run average of 1.25, and its fielding percentage was .960.


The 2017 team lost just one game, a 2-1 nail-biter at perennial Western Mass power Pope Francis (formerly Cathedral High).


That game ended up being the biggest motivation of all going into Taconic’s 5-0 post-season run. As was noted a couple of different times on Friday night, Pope Francis’ fans taunts after their team knocked off previously unbeaten Taconic, followed by Taconic’s reception of a No. 5 seed in the Western Mass tournament a few days later just added fuel to the fire.


Friday also was a night for honoring those who sparked that fire initially.


“Take inventory of the people around this room,” Abel told the players indicating the family and friends in attendance. “The people who are in this room have a lot of love for you. How many people in this room have thrown batting practice to you at some point? How many people in this room have had a role or an influence in your life?”


Those positive role models did their job well, Keegan said.


“These guys -- it goes beyond their baseball ability,” he said. “The faculty of the school, I’d see them at the grocery store, and they’d comment on how respectful they are.”

Taconic’s principal echoed that sentiment.


“As much as you did on the field, you did a lot more off the field for our community,” John Vosburgh said.

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