Baseball Tournaments: Bow rallies to D-II title game, Stark falls short; Lancers drop Tide in D-I

  • John Stark pitcher Brett Patnode fires to the plate on Tuesday during an 8-6 loss to Hollis Brookline in the Division II baseball semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord. Jason Orfao—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Nathan Isabelle lays down a bunt on Tuesday during the Division II baseball semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord. The Generals lost to Hollis Brookline, 8-6. Jason Orfao—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Jaimason Lacasse scores in front of the throw to Hollis Brookline catcher Kyle Hsu during the fifth inning of Tuesday's Division II baseball semifinal at Memorial Field in Concord. Hollis Brookline won, 8-6. Jason Orfao—Monitor staff

  • John Stark's Nathan Innerfield slides into home plate as the ball skips past Hollis Brookline catcher Kyle Hsu on Tuesday during the Division II baseball semifinals at Memorial Field in Concord. Hollis Brookline defeated John Stark, 8-6. Jason Orfao / Monitor staff

  • Hollis Brookline's Joe Messina (9) leads the celebration after the Cavaliers defeated John Stark, 8-6, in the Division II baseball semifinals on Tuesday at Memorial Field in Concord. Jason Orfao—Monitor staff

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • The Bow baseball team celebrates after rallying for a 6-5 victory in the Division II baseball semifinals on Tuesday night at Memorial Field in Concord. Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

  • Rich Miyara / NH Sports Photography

Published: 6/4/2019 11:39:57 PM

They gave up the first runs, the trailed by four runs in the middle of the game and were still down one in the bottom of the last inning at Memorial Field. But the Falcons never gave up.

With the belief on its side, and a little bit of luck, Bow pulled out the 6-5 comeback win on a walk-off suicide squeeze play to advance to Monday’s Division II title game against Hollis Brookline.

“It was a little bit unconventional,” Bow coach Ben Forbes grinned. “You put pressure on good teams and sometimes the ball rolls your way.”

Trailing 5-4, the Falcons (17-2) got a single from Matt Hamilton (2-for-4, two runs) to open the seventh. Ben Harris followed by popping up a bunt, but St. Thomas pitcher Nate Burnett dropped the pop up. He still had a chance to get Hamilton at second, but his throw was wild. Steve Guerette (three runs) then laid down another bunt, and again Burnett couldn’t field it cleanly and the bases were loaded.

Riley Elliott followed with a line drive that was dropped by the Saints’ Ryan Zubricki in right field, allowing Hamilton to come home with the tying run. Burnett then got a fielder’s choice out at home, but the bases were still loaded and the game was still tied as Bow freshman Matt Lamy came to the plate with one out. Lamy calmly laid down a bunt on the first pitch he saw with Guerrette already on his way home with the winning run.

“Didn’t want to hit into a double play there and just be done with the bases loaded and watch the momentum slip away,” Forbes said of the decision to go with the suicide squeeze, a risky play. “We had them on their heels. They were already making mistakes, they just showed us they couldn’t deal with the bunt a couple of times, and I just figured, ‘Hey, we’ve got a kid with good hands up there.’

“(Lamy) has been hurt most of the season, offensively anyway, and today was his first day back. He looked great at practice, so we put him in at DH and he had double, single and the game-winning squeeze. Hell of a comeback for him.”

St. Thomas (14-5) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth, but Bow answered with a run in the bottom half when Lamy’s single plated Guerette. The Saints responded with three runs in the top of the fifth as their top four hitters delivered four straight singles to spark the rally. But again the Falcons answered right away, this time with three runs of their own – Hamilton scored on a wild pitch, and Harris and Guerrette came home on a two-run double from Lamy (3-for-4, three RBI).

Elliott started for Bow, giving up two runs (one earned) and two hits in three innings of work. Lamy and Nick Kiah each worked an inning of relief, and then Harris came on for the final two innings, striking out three, walking one, allowing no hits and no runs as he earned the win.

Scratching together runs, using multiple pitchers and finding a way to come back was nothing new for the Falcons, which is why they were calm heading into the bottom of the seventh down by one.

“They were fine. We’ve done it all season,” Forbes said. “We’ve come from behind, we’ve pieced things together, we’ve thrown four or five pitchers in a game. ... This has been a fantastic group, fun to coach and very exciting, but real bad on the heart.”

No. 2 Hollis Brookline 8, No. 3 John Stark 6

The John Stark baseball program has been moving in the right direction, but its historic season ended one step shy of the Division II championship.

Joe Messina ripped a tie-breaking, two-RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning and No. 2 Hollis Brookline finally put away the resilient No. 3 Generals with an 8-6 victory in a back-and-forth battle on Tuesday at Memorial Field in Concord.

The semifinal appearance was the first in John Stark baseball history for the Generals, who finished a stellar season at 16-3.

“We’ve taken a step up every single year. … From where this program has come to where we are now, I couldn’t be more proud,” John Stark coach Dennis Pelletier said. “The fact that these guys were taking punches, and popping right back up after every inning ... we fought really hard.”

The Generals were one step away from escaping the decisive bottom of the sixth with the tie intact.

Hollis Brookline junior Grant Snyder – who starred for the Cavs (16-2) with two hits, four RBI, a stolen base and an outfield assist – bounced a potential inning-ending double play, but he beat the throw to first on a bang-bang play to keep the inning alive.

“It’s baseball. It’s a game of inches,” Pelletier said. “I’m very proud of these guys. They did a great job this year.”

Max Mello followed with a single up the middle before Messina hit a towering shot to the center-field fence to drive home the game-winning runs.

“We’ve had eight different kids on this baseball team win baseball games,” Hollis Brookline coach James Sartelle said. “I’m just waiting for one kid. There’s no easy outs in this lineup.”

It was the third time John Stark had faced a deficit, but the first time it couldn’t be overcome.

The Generals jumped on top in the first inning after Nathan Innerfield led off the game with a single and came around to score on a Brett Patnode hit and HB error.

The Cavs answered in the bottom of the second as Patnode, Stark’s ace pitcher, struggled with control. He hit a pair of Cavaliers and they both scored when Snyder belted a two-RBI double with two outs to right-center field.

“He’s been stroking the ball,” Sartelle said of Snyder. “He’s seeing it like a watermelon at this point, to be honest. He’s a clutch player and a nice kid.”

Despite trailing by a run, Stark had a chance to seize control of the game in the top of fourth after loading the bases with no outs. However, Carter Pike’s sharp line drive found the glove of Hollis Brookline first baseman Ryan Coutu, who tagged first base for a double play and then fired across the diamond to third in an attempt for the triple play.

An accurate throw would have finished the rare feat, but the third baseman couldn’t handle it, allowing Jaimason Lacasse to scamper home for the tying run.

The following batter, Ben Stogner, singled home Jake Cole to put Stark back in front, 3-2, going to the bottom of the fourth.

Although HB had surrendered the lead, Sartelle was relieved the rally only produced two runs.

“That might be the game. You have to maintain control when things get out of control,” the HB coach said. “If you’re looking backwards, you’re going to crash your car. You don’t look in the rear-view mirror when you’re driving.”

As quickly as Stark had gained the lead, it again slipped away.

The Cavaliers returned the favor in the bottom of the fourth and loaded the bases with no outs. Snyder drove home two runs with a drive to the center-field fence and Mello’s hit brought home two more, although the second was due to an error. The outburst supplied HB with a 6-3 advantage through four innings.

Stark wasn’t done yet, though.

The Generals applied pressure to the Cavaliers and pushed across three runs to tie it back up with the help of some defensive mishaps.

“That’s what impressed me, the resiliency,” Pelletier said of his Generals.

HB played a clean game the rest of the way, though, including a diving back-handed stab on a liner to rob Innerfield of a hit to lead off the seventh. Patnode followed with a laser that was corralled by second baseman Brandon Hsu, who pitched the first four innings for the Cavs, before Henri Boudreau earned the win in relief.

Patnode tossed the first for Stark and struck out six but walked three and plunked two batters. Austin Hazzard pitched the final two frames for the Generals and endured the loss despite setting down the Cavaliers in order during his first inning of work.

It was a tough way to end the season for Stark, but the team’s progress illustrates the bigger picture.

“The growth of this program has been incredible to be a part of,” Pelletier said. “I attribute it just getting people to follow the team, play summer ball and do extra things. A lot of kids are doing that. We have senior and junior Legion in a little town from Weare. Most big cities have trouble fielding one. There’s a commitment to wanting to play baseball.”


No. 4 Londonderry 4, No. 1 Concord 1

The Crimson Tide scored in the first inning to take an early lead and created plenty of chances to score more, but Londonderry pitcher Nolan Lincoln won the key battles as the Lancers (18-5) earned the win at Holman Stadium in Nashua to earn a trip to Monday’s D-I final.

“We had some good at-bats, good swings, but (Lincoln) made the pitches he needed to make,” Concord coach Scott Owen said.

Concord (17-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first after Zach Miles led off with a single and then came home on a double from Trevor Smith. But, in what would become a theme, the Tide stranded Smith on second and had to settle for the one run.

“We got a lot of guys to second base, but we left them there,” Owen said.

Londonderry took the lead with three runs in the second off Concord starter Ryan Merchant. The senior threw four innings, striking out two, walking two and giving up six hit. Sean McDonough got one out in his relief appearance before Adrian Kennedy came on to work the final 2⅔ innings for the Tide, striking out two and allowing just one hit.

“We had a great season from our 13 seniors, really couldn’t ask for anything more out of them,” Owen said. “One of the hardest things to do as a coach is say goodbye to a senior group that did everything you asked of them. They gave that again tonight, but it just wasn’t enough.”

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