High Schools: Concord and Stark baseball head to championship games

  • Keene infielder Jared Schmidt doesn’€™t know how to react as he watches Concord outfielder Ryan Kastle celebrate by jumping up and down on second base as the Crimson Tide started their rally after being down 4-0. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord High outfielder Ryan Kastle slides home safely as Keene catcher Jaden Phillips misses the tag on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Concord bench erupts as the team starts their comeback from a 4-0 deficit against Keene on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at Memorial Field. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord High outfielder Ryan Kastle gets up from his slide at home plate as teammate Nathaniel Wachter begins to celebrate while the umpire calls him safe against Keene on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/10/2021 9:54:24 AM

Concord senior Ryan Kastle saw the warning signs before Wednesday’s Division I baseball semifinal against Keene.

“We were a little too loose, if I’m being honest,” Kastle said. “We started out thinking we were going to take a dub (win) easy, but they came out fighting.”

The Crimson Tide’s loose attitude led defensive miscues, and Keene used them to take an early four-run lead at Doane Diamond. But Concord regained its focus, and when Kastle dove head first across home plate with what proved to be the game-winning run in the fourth inning, the pre-game feelings were replaced by something else.

“That was awesome, just amazing,” Kastle said after his team’s 6-4 win. “It was electric, man.”

Now, Concord (16-4) will face Winnacunnet (18-4) in Saturday’s D-I championship game, a place the Tide thought it could reach but hasn’t talked about in a long time.

“We talked about one game at at time. There were times early on in the year that I said that’s our ultimate goal, I said I think we have the talent, but how quickly we can adjust to varsity baseball is going to determine how far we go,” Concord coach Scott Owen said. “Once the playoffs start, there’s no talking about. At that point there was no talk about ‘ship. The first time I mentioned the championship to them since a month or two months ago was right now.”

The way the semifinal started, it looked like Owen might not need to talk to his players about a championship at all. After striking out the first two batters of the second inning, Concord starter Jarrad Willette walked a batter. Then, his defense committed two errors (one from first baseman Jonah Wachter, one from third baseman Kevin McDonough) and Keene’s Jared Schmitt made them pay with a two-run single.

The Blackbirds (13-7) added two more runs in the third on a walk, two more errors (again from Wachter and McDonough) and a sacrifice fly from Alex Charles to make it 4-0. That was still the score in the bottom of the fourth, but before the Tide went to the plate, Owen had a message for his team.

“I said we’re not going to give up another run this game. We pitch too well and we play too good of defense, we haven’t early on, but we’re a good defensive team,” Owen said. “The difference would be at the plate and could we change our approach and just start staying on the ball and hitting line drives.”

They could. Willette started the inning with a single and Tyler Wright drew a walk from Keene starter Zach Mooers, who be playing at the University of Southern Maine next year. Wachter then delivered a hit to atone for his errors and load the bases for the next man up, which happened to be McDonough. The burly senior, who will be playing football and Alpine skiing at Castelton University, came through with a single down the third base line to plate Willette and Wright and cut the Tide’s deficit to 4-2.

“We knew there was a job to be done and we came through,” McDonough said. “That hit was good for me, it got me out of my own head after the errors, so that was good.”

It’s also the sign of a good team, or maybe even great.

“If you make one (a mistake) either at the plate or in the field and then to be able to go back and do the opposite thing is the difference between whether you can be a good team or a great team, and i think we proved today that we’re a pretty good team,” Owen said. “We had guys that made mistakes, Jonah and Kevin, and they were able to come back up and get big hits for us when we needed it.”

Kastle came through with the next big hit, a line drive single up the middle that plated Wachter and McDonough to the tie game at 4-4.

“That was a lot of pressure for me, to be honest,” Kastle said. “To be down 0-2 and to see that fast ball low and drive it up the middle, no better feeling that.”

Kastle had some more good vibes when he scored the go-ahead run on a single from Ryan Philbrick, who used some heads-up base running and a ground ball out from Brooks Craigue to come home himself and give Concord a 6-4 lead after four.

“To be able to battle back and have that fourth inning was amazing,” Kastle said.

Tide senior Donnie Cote, who came on to relieve Willette in the third, made sure the advantage Concord built in that fourth inning stood up. Cote worked 3.2 innings, stuck out three and didn’t allow a hit, walk or run.

“He was nothing but incredible,” Owen said of Cote. “It’s a simple thing, you pound the strike zone, you get ahead and you’re able to do good things, and that’s what he did.”

Wachter, the Tide’s ace, worked a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the save and set the stage for Saturday’s final.

“To have Jonah Wachter come in and close it down, that’s a lot of security right there, that’s a good word for it," Kastle said. “And we can still throw him on Saturday, it’s just amazing. It’s electric.”

D-II Baseball

John Stark 12, Souhegan 5

Key players: John Stark — Austin Hazzard (4.1 IP, W, 2 H, 0 ER, 5 K, 1 BB), Cam Bergeron (2-for-3, triple, RBI, 2 runs), Jason Crean (1-for-3, 3 RBI, 2 SB, run), Nate Innerfield (1-for-3, 2 RBI, 2sb, run), Chad Martin (1-for-3, 2 runs, SB)

Highlights: After Souhegan scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth to break a scoreless tie, John Stark rallied to score 10 runs in the top of the fifth highlighted by big two-run singles from Innerfield and Crean. The generals will now face St. Thomas in Saturday’s D-II championship game, marking the first time in porgram history that Stark has reached a baseball final. 

Coach's quote: “Our boys never quit and when they seized the momentum they were relentless and kept pushing. Our running game was on today and we got some key hits and contributions from the entire line-up in the 5th inning. Austin was brilliant on the mound again today, and we were fortunate enough to get him out when we grabbed the big lead.” — Stark’s Dennis Pelletier

Records: John Stark 13-3; Souhegan 13-5

D-III Baseball

Monadnock 13, Hopkinton 0

Key players: Hopkinton – Armen Laylagian (hit, threw out a runner stealing)

Highlights: The Huskies hit a two-run homer in the first inning to fall behind early, traild 6-0 through five and allowed seven runs in the seventh inning, ending the Hawks’ tournament run in the semifinals on their home field.

Coach’s quote: “A great season came to a tough end today, losing to a very good Monadnock team. (Monadnock was) certainly the best hitting team that we saw this season. Making it to the final four with this group was a huge accomplishment. Only three players had any varsity experience! I couldn’t be prouder of each player.” – Hopkinton’s David Chase

Records: Monadnock 10-2; Hopkinton 10-5

Boys' Lacrosse

Trinity 12, Hopkinton 7

Key players: ​​​​​​Hopkinton — Ryan Brown (3 goals, 3 assists, 3 GB, 2 caused turnovers), Spencer Burdette (goal, assist), Josh Duval (goal, 3 GB, 2 caused turnovers), Sam Brown (goal), Hayden Lynch (goal), Aidan Burns (assist, 5 GB, 6/9 FO), Steven Newton-Delgado (great defense, 4 GB, 5 caused turnovers), Vince Waddell (great defense, 10 GB, caused turnover), Steven Reddy (great defense, 5 GB, 2 caused turnovers), John Sullivan (great defense, 4 GB), Danny Lee (7 saves)

Highlights: Trinity held the lead or kept it tied throughout this Division III semifinal, with first, second, and third quarter scores of 2-1, 6-4, and 9-6, respectively. The Pioneers accomplished this by playing patiently and capitalizing on possessions. Hopkinton played well in transition and found quality inside shooting. Both teams repeatedly put up big defensive stands, in both even strength and man down.

Coach's quote: “We did a really good job of executing our game plan and making adjustments. Our shots didn't find the net enough times and we let up a few too many open shots on defense. Trinity kept the ball out of our hands enough that this made the difference. I am proud of the legacy we have developed and the hard work the team has put in over the season. Many thanks to our incredible seniors and their families for their years of dedication. Go Hawks!” — Hopkinton’s Deacon Blue

Records: Trinity 12-4; Hopkinton 10-5

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