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Concord, Weare American Senior Legion baseball teams square off in first meeting this season

  • Concord leftfielder Nate Wachter (right) eludes a tag of Weare catcher Noah Brent in the top of the fifth inning at St. Anselm’s College on Thursday, June 30, 2021. Watcher was called out for running into Brent and the run did not count. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord pitcher Jarrad Willette throws to first base during the first inning of a legion baseball on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord leftfielder Nate Wachter (right) eludes a tag of Weare catcher Noah Brent in the top of the fifth inning at St. Anselm’€™s College on Thursday, June 30, 2021. Wachter was called out for running into Brent and the run did not count. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/1/2021 4:45:18 PM

This year’s American Senior Legion baseball matchups between Concord Post 21 and Weare Post 65 are especially intriguing. The bulk of the Concord team is made up of Concord High players who just won the Division I high school championship, while the majority of Weare’s team just won the Division II title for John Stark. It’s a battle of two baseball titans in the capital area, the first of which couldn’t be decided in just one day.

Concord rallied for seven runs in the top of the sixth inning for its first lead of the game – erasing Weare’s six-run lead – but Post 65 countered with a game-tying run in the bottom half of the inning and the game was suspended due to darkness, resulting in a 9-9 tie through six innings.

The seventh inning will be played – and the game will be decided – at Concord’s Memorial Field on July 9, adding onto an already scheduled doubleheader. The game started late on Wednesday night due to thunderstorms in the area.

Even without a final decision for Wednesday night’s American Legion game at Saint Anselm College’s Sullivan Park, those six innings were enough to highlight the strengths of both programs, the local talent dotting the rosters, the challenges of Legion baseball and set up what should be a wild finish to the regular season.

Concord and Weare both play in District A with five other legion teams that began district play in mid-June. Concord Post 21 is nearly halfway through it’s 18-game schedule with a 4-4 record, while Weare – at 3-2 – still has 13 games to complete by July 17.

The top four teams from District A and District B will compete in a double elimination state tournament at Holman Stadium in Nashua on July 23-27.

Pitching has been Weare’s strength so far and Post 65 starter Alex Moore (a recent John Stark graduate and D-II Second Team pick) threw three shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four in that span.

Recent John Stark grad and D-II First Team selection Brady Philibotte (2-for-3, three RBI, double, run, walk) scored on a passed ball in the first inning and drove home two runs on a single in the second inning. Noah Brent (a rising senior at John Stark) had an RBI single in the second inning, Austin Hazzard (D-II First Team and recent Stark grad) scored on a passed ball in the second and rising Stark senior Jason Crean (three walks, two runs) scored on a passed ball in the third to give Post 65 a 6-0 lead early.

Concord starter Jarrad Willette (recent Concord High graduate) settled down in the fourth with a shutout inning and Post 21 got on the board in the top of the fifth when Ryan Kastle (recent Concord grad) scored on a Nate Vandersea groundout.

Mike Stoddard (2-for-4, double, two runs, two RBI) – a Concord resident who plays for St. Paul’s School along with legion teammates Vandersea, Jake Sullivan and Trevor Smith (1-for-3, triple walk, two runs) – scored on a passed ball to make it 6-2.

Peyton Marshall (a rising senior at Hopkinton and D-III First Team pick) scored on an RBI single by Brent (2-for-4, two runs) and Philbotte sent Brent home on a double for an 8-2 Weare lead.

While Post 21 has struggled to find some consistency in its pitching so far, Concord has been supported by its hitting, scoring 57 through its first eight complete games, an average of 7.13 per game.

Concord batted around the order in the top of the sixth, with Stoddard hitting a two-run double, Vandersea driving home another run on a groundout, Kastle (two walks, two runs) scoring on a passed ball, D-I Second Team selection and recent Concord grad Tyler Wright (2-for-3, double, run) connecting for an RBI single and recent Concord graduate Kevin McDonough smacking a two-run single to give Post 21 its first lead of the game, 9-8.

Rising John Stark senior Nathan Innerfield (2-for-2, two walks) hit an RBI single to tie the game, scoring Hazzard (3-for-4, double, two runs) who led off the bottom of the sixth with a triple.

While Concord flexed its power at the plate in the last couple of innings, Post 21 walked six batters, threw six passed balls and committed four errors.

“It’s been an up and down season so far,” Concord head coach Josh Jarnot said. “You need a ton of pitching to get through a legion schedule. We are developing pitching on the fly. We have some good pitchers on the team, but they’re not able to throw for us every week (due to commitments to AAU and travel ball). We’re just doing our best to get kids out there who can throw strikes. We’ve got some big arms if we can qualify for the tournament.”

Weare’s pitching staff has been solid so far (only 16 runs allowed through five complete games), but it will be put to the test over the last three weeks of the season. Post 65 still has a huge mountain of 13 games to climb in just 17 days.

Weare only has 14 players on its roster – 11 of them from John Stark – which highlights one of the challenges facing Post 65.

“You look these legion teams and they all have big recruiting areas and all these people to pick from – and we don’t,” said Weare coach Dennis Pelletier who has coached the majority of his players over the years at John Stark. “We have us (John Stark), Goffstown and Hillsboro-Deering.”

Nobody from H-D or Goffstown came out for the legion team this year, so Pelletier had to pick up a couple players off waivers from Concord’s recruiting area (Marshall from Hopkinton and Jeff Wagner and Ryan Ardine from Pembroke) to fill out the roster.

“It’s all based on your location,” Pelletier said. “It makes it difficult, but we manage and it makes it better for John Stark in the long run that these kids are getting some crucial playing time against some tough competition. The New England College coach came to our games and said ‘you’ve got a D-I lineup, no doubt about it.’ That’s why we play legion. We play against (teams made up of D-I players) so when we’re playing D-II teams in the spring we’re playing with confidence.”

For most circumstances, Weare’s current roster has more than enough talent and depth, but with so many games in such a short time, that depth wears thin in legion play.

Hazzard, who made a spectacular catch in the outfield and threw out Concord’s Nate Wachter (1-for-2, two walks, run) at home, threw 80 pitches the previous night and had to move to the infield after making that play, forcing Pelletier to reshuffle the fielders around. While Weare didn’t commit any errors, Post 65 had two outs with an 8-5 lead, but couldn’t get the final out. Weare also had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the sixth, opportunities that can’t afford to be wasted in a district that is so competitive.

As of Thursday morning, Merrimack (2-1), Weare (3-2), Laconia (4-3) and Concord (4-4) are the top four teams in District A, with Keene (3-3), Lebanon (4-5) and Manchester’s Sweeney Post 2 (4-6) on the outside looking in, but those standings don’t mean much with the majority of the schedule still to be played over the next two and a half weeks.

Despite the slow start, Pelletier still sees Concord as the team to beat in District A.

Jonah Wachter – who threw a no-hitter in the D-I championship game and a D-I First Team selection – still hasn’t played much legion ball yet (he didn’t play Wednesday night), while eight of his legion teammates were also part of the championship team.

Four Concord-based players play for St. Paul’s, while Bow rising senior Kyle Martin (drew three walks) and 2020 graduates Matt Hamilton and Spencer Cheney played for Bow when it won the D-II championship in 2019.

“I think they’re going to be great games down to the end,” Jarnot said. “Anything can happen at any time, as you’ve witnessed today. It was wild.”




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