Brennans feel extra emotion as Bucs win softball title

Joe Brennan

MILFORD — February was a rough month for Sean Brennan and his family.

While his father, Joe, had been battling diabetes, the elder Brennan’s death on Feb. 7 came as a shock.

Sean was still coping with it when his Milford High softball team opened preseason practice on March 1.

“At the end of that first day of tryouts I got all teary-eyed,” said Brennan. “They (the players) were like, ‘Coach, what’s wrong?’ I was like, ‘This is the first day without my Dad where I had to do a sport.’

“They’re all like, ‘We’re so sorry,’ and they all gave me a hug and everything.”

Brennan had already been impressed with the maturity of his older players and the way they helped the younger ones. He remembers walking away from practice that day thinking that he had a really good group of kids.

Milford Head Coach Sean Brennan sends batting signals during the state championship game. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

“Seeing them prepare for the season that day,” said Brennan, “I knew how special this team really was.”

Last Tuesday night, the Buccaneers proved again they were pretty special when they downed Delmar, 17-9, to capture just the program’s third DIAA state crown.

Seeded only 11th, Milford is probably the lowest-seeded team to capture a softball state title — the Bucs that won the state championship in 2009 were No. 10.
Milford also overcame a 4-4 start to the season and had a remarkable power surge in the state tournament, launching 18 homeruns in four games.

“To see what those girls accomplished. … to see a dream placed in their heart and see it come to fruition was jut a humbling experience,” said Brennan. “It was great, It was an awesome time.”

Milford’s Darby Brennan throws to first base after making the out at second. (Special to the Delaware State News/Chuck Snyder)

For Brennan, getting to share a state championship season with his daughter, Darby, made it a spring the family will never forget. A junior, Darby Brennan starts at second base for Milford.

Of course, the two were also united by the loss of Sean’s father.

Sean Brennan said his dad tried to always call Darby before she had a field hockey or softball game or a swim meet.

“He always talked to her and made sure it was going to be a good day,” said Sean. “Me, too. We talked every day. And, so, when you don’t have that, there’s a big hole.”

“I know every time I played, I could just feel his presence,” Darby said about her grandfather. “I could feel him with me. I took every step for him, every ball I took for him. I tried to make the best of it — like he was here.”

This actually wasn’t the first time that the Brennans experienced a state championship game together.

In 2010, Sean Brennan took the Bucs to the state finals as a first-year head coach.

Darby, who was only about 10 at the time, was a regular at Milford’s games. She clearly remembers the way it felt when the Bucs lost to Caravel, 6-2, in the title game.

“Seeing the heartbreak on the girls, on the parents, on the coaches. …,” said Darby.

“That day, I was like, ‘This is where I want to be, I want to do this with my Dad,’” she said. “‘I want to win a championship with my Dad.’ He’s coached me all my life in softball. We’ve had accomplishments all along the way but nothing compared to this. This is just amazing.”

Darby said several other current Milford players were there that day in 2010 not to mention parents who were there last Tuesday when the Bucs won their state crown.

Sean Brennan said he couldn’t ask for better fans, assistant coaches or players.

Indeed, the Milford coach couldn’t help but be amazed how the whole thing came together — like it was somehow all meant to me.

Brennan said there were more than a few times during the season when he found himself having a mental conversation with his dad.

“There were a lot of times I’d be at third base just saying, ‘Hey Pop, can you just give Darb a hit,’” said Brennan. “Or, ‘just give her a pitch to hit.’ … And it would just happen. Things would just happen.

“When you can’t explain things like we did in the tournament, I give that up to God. That’s coming from somewhere other than here, where all the parts just fit together.”

Darby, too, remembers thinking about her grandfather after the Bucs won their state championship.

“I know that night, I was sitting at home and I had the trophy,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Wow, we really accomplished this.’ And I know if he (her grandfather) was here, he would be so proud of not just me but (all) the girls.”

Notes

Brennan will be one of the Gold coaches in the Blue-Gold All-Star Game, which is slated for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Dover Little League. … Three Milford players — Megan Fry, Rajene Bowe and Nia Bowe — are also slated to be on the Gold roster. … Along with the 18 homers in the state tourney, the Bucs also had 12 doubles and a triple in the four games as 31 of their 59 hits went for extra bases. … That’s a big reason why Milford also scored 55 runs in the tournament, which may also have been a record.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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