Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sports

Brookes Gets 700th Win as Head Coach of H-K Baseball

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The members of the Haddam-Killingworth baseball squad rejoice after the Cougars gave longtime Head Coach Mark Brookes career win No. 700 with a 2-0 victory at Old Saybrook on May 3. Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

The members of the Haddam-Killingworth baseball squad rejoice after the Cougars gave longtime Head Coach Mark Brookes career win No. 700 with a 2-0 victory at Old Saybrook on May 3. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Mark Brookes receives a plaque commemorating his 700th victory as head coach of the H-K baseball team after the Cougars blanked Old Saybrook by a 2-0 score last week. Brookes is pictured with junior catcher Nick Glynn and wife Raye as he gets the plaque. 

Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Mark Brookes receives a plaque commemorating his 700th victory as head coach of the H-K baseball team after the Cougars blanked Old Saybrook by a 2-0 score last week. Brookes is pictured with junior catcher Nick Glynn and wife Raye as he gets the plaque. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Junior Alex Sheehan tossed six scoreless innings to help H-K post a 2-0 shutout versus 

Old Saybrook and give Head Coach Mark Brookes his 700th victory with the Cougars. 

Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Junior Alex Sheehan tossed six scoreless innings to help H-K post a 2-0 shutout versus Old Saybrook and give Head Coach Mark Brookes his 700th victory with the Cougars. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Senior captain Luke DiMauro and the H-K baseball team improved to 10-3 on the year after winning two of their three contests in last week’s action. Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Senior captain Luke DiMauro and the H-K baseball team improved to 10-3 on the year after winning two of their three contests in last week’s action. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

When Mark Brookes started coaching the Haddam-Killingworth baseball team in 1975, he simply wanted to have fun with the job. As his 45-year career with the Cougars has unfolded, Brookes has had plenty of fun and won a ton of games, recently recording his 700th career victory when H-K earned a 2-0 win at Old Saybrook on May 3.

Brookes said that his coaching dream never would have lasted this long if it wasn’t for his wife Raye, who has attended nearly every game that he has coached. It meant a lot to Brookes that he got to experience his milestone victory with Raye by his side.

“If you don’t have family support, you’re not going to get anywhere. Raye enjoys baseball as much as I do, so that’s made it easy for me to stay involved,” Brookes said. “It becomes difficult if you get taken away from that lifestyle, but fortunately enough for me, we’ve maintained this commitment for 45 years now.”

Junior Alex Sheehan pitched six shutout innings when the Cougars blanked Old Saybrook by a 2-0 score to give Brookes win No. 700 as H-K’s skipper. Senior captain outfielder Luke DiMauro came through with a two-run double in the top of the fifth inning to account for the only runs of the game. Senior Alden Halfinger tossed a scoreless seventh inning to solidify Brookes’s historic win.

Brookes is the only head coach in the history of the H-K baseball team. He sees his 700th career victory as another stepping stone and has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

“There’s a couple of different angles to it,” said Brookes. “When I first started coaching, 500 was a lot. When that came, I felt good about coaching and the kids still, so I said, ‘Let’s coach some more.’ Then 600 came. Now, 700. It’s a lifestyle at this point, and I’m going to keep coaching as long as me and Raye are happy.”

Raye Brookes is one of H-K’s most passionate fans, and the players view her as a part of the team. While Coach Brookes doesn’t tolerate his players and fellow coaches arguing with the umpires, he will occasionally hear Raye Brookes sounding off from the stands.

“The players appreciate her, because she’s very vocal at the games,” Mark Brookes said. “One of the reasons I don’t argue with umpires is because my wife will do that for me. We don’t promote any kind of arguments with umpires. I have to fit that mold, and we expect them to behave with the utmost of maturity and class.”

After defeating Old Saybrook, the Cougars split their next two games on the week by earning a win versus Cromwell and then taking a loss against North Branford. H-K now has a record of 10-3

On May 6, H-K hosted Cromwell and notched a 9-5 victory over the Panthers. Senior captain Alec Erskine got the start on the mound and earned his third win of the season. DiMauro, Halfinger, and fellow senior Caven Burrell each had two hits for the Cougars, who scored four runs in the sixth inning on their way to the win.

“Cromwell is very talented, especially at the top of their lineup. Alec threw well, but he didn’t have his best stuff. Alden ended up coming in and closing out the game for us,” said Brookes. “[Cromwell] wouldn’t go away all game. They scored four runs in the last two innings. It was a difficult win for us. Most importantly, senior Caven Burrell got his first start of the season in right field and made the most of his opportunity, getting two hits for us.”

In its last game of the week, H-K took a 6-5 loss at North Branford on May 7. North Branford won the game in walk-off fashion by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh inning. DiMauro and Erskine had two hits apiece for the Cougars.

Coach Brookes knows that there is still room for H-K to improve. Overall, though, Brookes is happy with how the Cougars are performing this spring and feels positive about the strong chemistry on his squad.

“I’m pleased with the number of players who have contributed this year. We’ve had a lot of different pitchers and a lot of different players in and out of the lineup,” said Brookes. “I’m pleased with the sense of team that is going on with them. They seem to encourage each other. There’s no real contention between one player or another.”

One of the things that Brookes is focusing on going forward this year is for H-K to improve with its offensive execution. The Cougars’ offense was mostly held in check when they faced Old Saybrook, but DiMauro’s two-run double was enough to help Brookes put his 700th win in the books.

“We have hit the ball well, but we need to do a better job of moving runners up in scoring position. In situations where we have to move runners up, we haven’t always been the greatest this year,” Brookes said. “[Old Saybrook’s] starting pitcher did extremely well. We weren’t able to get much off of him until Luke came through in the fifth inning with a double. That was a tough game, and I would say we were somewhat lucky, because Alex was able to work out of a couple of jams.”

H-K had seven games remaining on its regular-season schedule coming into this week. Coach Brookes’s expectations are for the Cougars to finish the regular season strong and then enter the playoffs with their sights set on claiming conference and state titles.

“We are focusing now on positioning ourselves as close to the top as we can for the Shoreline Conference Tournament,” said Brookes. “If we can do well in Shorelines, hopefully, we can carry that success over to the State Tournament.”




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