Spiegel a big game pitcher

For Gerard Spiegel, choosing to sign a letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Connecticut was an easy decision for the Trumbull High senior.

Not so easy, but a reason Spiegel was sought after by the Huskies, William & Mary and Bryant College, was the will to win he showed in big situations as a junior.

The right-handed Spiegel received the pitching nod from Trumbull coach Phil Pacelli when the Eagles met three-time defending FCIAC champion Staples of Westport in the conference semifinals at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport on May 24 of 2012.

Trumbull had won five straight games to qualify for the FCIAC Tournament, and the 7th-seeded Eagles had knocked off 2nd-seeded St. Joseph 1-0 in eight innings a day earlier.

“It was the biggest game I ever pitched,” Spiegel said of his assignment against Staples’ ace Chris Speer. “I was pretty amped up.”

It appeared as though Spiegel would last less than an inning against the 6th-seeded Wreckers.

“It was strictly reaction,” Spiegel said of reaching for a hard ball hit up the middle by the second batter he faced in the first frame. “The ball was hit right back at me and I reached out and it pinned my thumb back.”

Pacelli took his time, and Spiegel threw a couple of pitches, before he got the okay to continue.

Spiegel pitched eight innings of shutout ball and Trumbull went on to win a 1-0 decision in 10 innings.

“Coach asked me every inning how I was doing,” Spiegel said. “It started to swell up, but really with the adrenalin pumping it didn’t hurt much. I wanted to finish the game.”

The Eagles knocked off top-seeded and unbeaten Greenwich High 7-1 two days later to win their first FCIAC title since 2005.

Spiegel was pretty much left alone in his other signature start — a no-hit performance against Darien High on April 11.

The date had meaning, because it was Jerry McDougall’s birthday. The patriarch of the THS baseball and football programs, McDougall had passed away in October 2011.

Spiegel faced the minimum 21 batters and retired 19 batters in a row, with 12 strikeouts in the 8-0 victory.

“I didn’t notice (the no-no) until the fifth or sixth inning when the guys were pretty much leaving me alone on the bench,” Spiegel said. “A couple of teammates almost blew it, but it was a perfect day.

“After the game the coaches got real emotional and told us about Coach Mc and it being his birthday. We signed the baseball and took it out to the cemetery to put it at his grave site.”

Spiegel will study kinesiology, the scientific study of movement as it relates to physical activity, health and disease prevention, exercise and sport, at UConn.

“I hope to one day go to medical school and become an orthopaedic surgeon,” he said. “UConn is perfect for me. Coach Jeff Hourigan (former Masuk High, Clemson and UConn star) said he sees a lot of promise in me, but of course everyone has to prove themselves.”

Spiegel has a strong support system.

“The Trumbull coaching staff is awesome from Coach Pacelli to Coach (Bob) Maffei and Eric August, they’re not afraid to keep things light or get in my ear when I need it,” he said.

“Coach Joe Iannucci runs my Explosion Baseball travel team and is there twenty-four/seven always willing to help me out.”

And then there is his catcher — James DeNomme.

“James and I are great friends and teammates since eighth grade,” Spiegel said. “We have different demeanors. James gets after it every second and I’m a little more laid back.

“Sometimes he’ll come out after one pitch and get on me and I have to tell him to get back behind the plate. Then, I look in and he has this big smile on his face as he puts the mask back on.

“We’re great friends.”

Spiegel has been eating right and working out to add 10 pounds to his 6-1, 175-pound frame.

“As a freshman I didn’t take baseball too seriously,” he said. “It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I started training year-round and everything fell into place.

“I’m looking forward to our senior season. Nothing is guaranteed and we’ll have a target on our back. Winning FCIACs definitely put us on everyone’s radar.”