Day to Remeber: John Stark baseball wins first title in program history 

  • The John Stark baseball team celebrates after winning the Division II championship on Saturday at Historic Holman Stadium in Nashua. The Generals beat St. Thomas, 10-3. JENNIFER PELLETIER—Courtesy

  • John Stark senior captains Austin Hazzard (right) and Brady Philibotte take the championship trophy to their team after the Generals beat St. Thomas, 10-3, on Saturday to win the Division II title. JENNIFER PELLETIER—Courtesy

  • John Stark senior Alex Moore delivers a pitch during Saturday's Division II championship game against St. Thomas at Holman Stadium in Nashua. Moore pitched the first three innings and allowed a run, and he also scored two runs as the Generals won, 10-3, to claim the first championship in program history. ALLIE ST. PETER—For the Monitor

Monitor staff
Published: 6/13/2021 10:10:42 AM

During Saturday’s graduation ceremonies at John Stark Regional High, certain boys were all wearing the same thing beneath their gowns – Stark baseball jerseys.

After they got their diplomas in the morning, the already-dressed Generals went to the Division II baseball championship in the afternoon for the first final appearance in program history. They made the most of it, scoring six runs in the second inning on their way to a 10-3 win against St. Thomas.

Asked which memory will last longer, Stark senior Austin Hazzard said: “This game, 100 percent. I woke up in the morning I was ready for the game, but not the graduation. That was in the dust as soon as we had the game.”

And the Generals (14-3) left St. Thomas (11-7) in the dust soon after the game started. Knowing Saints starter Andrew Wertz could get have control issues, Stark coach Dennis Pelletier instructed his team to be patient at the plate. That advice helped spark the game-changing second inning as Jason Crean, Cam Bergeron and Chard Martin all drew two-out walks off Wertz to load the bases for catcher Noah Brent, the No. 9 hitter.

The Stark school district chose to be extra cautious with athletic regulation this season, so the Generals played just two games a week during the baseball season. Wanting his team to have more game-like situations, Pelleiter instituted intra-squad scrimmages on Sunday as part of Stark’s regular routine this season. Those scrimmages also served as auditions for more playing time, and some of the kids, like Brent, worked their way into the starting lineup thanks to their Sunday night performances.

And when Brent came up on Saturday with the bases full and the game still scoreless, he delivered a two-run single to open the scoring. Nathan Innerfield followed with an RBI double to plate Martin, another Sunday night call-up, and then Hazzard came through with a three-run single to make it 6-0.

“That really pumped us up," Hazzard said. “Right after that second inning we felt this surge of energy like we never felt before, so we just kept going and kept pushing and came out on top​​.”

It may have been an energetic highlight, but big innings are not new to the Generals.

“When we sense we’ve got something going we put that pedal to the floor, and we’ve been able to do that all year long,” Pelletier said. 

Stark senior starter Alex Moore, who moved to New Hampshire from Virginia at the start of this school year, was the beneficiary of all the early runs on Saturday. Moore got into trouble in the first when the Saints put three men on base, but he escaped that jam. Two walks and a double led to a St. Thomas run in the third, but the Generals still had a 6-1 lead when Moore gave way to Hazzard, the team’s ace, to start the fourth inning.

“Austin was only pitching on two days rest, and he didn’t have his best stuff today, but he was getting it through is heart,” Pelletier said.

Hazzard gave up three straight hits to start the fourth that turned into a pair of runs, but he settled down after that and Stark immediately got those runs back in the bottom half of the fourth. Moore reached on error to start the inning and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from shortstop Brady Philibotte, and Hazzard walked and scored on a single from Ben McKean to make it 8-3.

The Saints threatened in the sixth when they put two men on and made some noise with long fouls and loud outs, but Hazzard escaped unscathed when he struck out Timothy Bonagura, and then thshowed some emotion walking off the mound and into the dugout.

 “I needed that, especially after they were smacking the ball left and right,” Hazzard said. “To get that strikeout really helped us out, brought the spirits up.”

The Generals added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth when McKean and Crean (2-for-2, two runs, two walks) scored on a single from Bergeron. The Saints got the leadoff man on the top of the seventh, but Stark erased him with a textbook 6-4-3 double play before Martin caught a fly ball for the final out of the game.

“My defense,” Hazzard said when asked what was working for him on the mound. “I threw the ball, they made the plays and there’s really nothing else to it.”

He made it sound so simple, but Pelletier knows building a championship program takes work.

“Go back and look at the record book 10, 12 years ago and you’ll see we were luck to win two games. So to be at this moment is such a drastic change and such a  great feeling for the whole community, the whole school and everyone that puts their time into athletics at John Stark,” said Pelletier, who added, “There’s been a lot of excitement around program, you saw all the people here today, that was pretty impressive. It’s a small community, so when things start happening you get excited and it’s great to see.”

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