Victory helps boost Weare Post 65’s tournament chances

  • Weare third baseman Jeff Wagner fires to first for an out during a 3-2 win over Keene in a Senior American Legion District A ballgame at Saint Anselm College’s Sullivan Park in Manchester earlier this summer. Weare defeated Merrimack on Monday night, 5-4, to improve to 8-6 in District A. JASON ORFAO / Monitor file

  • Weare’s Brett Patnode follows through on a swing on during a 3-2 win over Keene at Saint Anselm College’s Sullivan Park in Manchester earlier this summer. Weare defeated Merrimack on Monday night, 5-4, to improve to 8-6 in District A. JASON ORFAO / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 7/15/2019 10:01:54 PM

Weare Post 65 might have the smallest recruiting area in the state, but it hasn’t held coach Dennis Pelletier and his Senior Legion baseball squad back.

Goffstown native and St. Anselm pitcher Taylor French pitched four innings of relief and struck out the final Merrimack batter with runners on second and third to preserve a 5-4 victory on Monday at Merrimack High School.

“We’re making it work,” Pelletier said. “We’ve got the smallest recruiting area in the entire state by far, but we’ve got a good smattering of players.”

Weare is now 8-6 and sits in fourth place in District A play, holding on to the final spot for qualification for the Senior Legion State Tournament, which will be held on July 26-31 at Holman Stadium in Nashua. Weare has games on four consecutive days to end the week, so Pelletier got creative with his pitching staff in Monday’s victory.

Pembroke’s Jeff Wagner pitched three shutout innings to start the game and threw just 38 pitches total before Pelletier replaced him with French, opting to save Wagner for later in the week.

Post 65 only hits .260 as a team, so it has relied heavily on its pitching staff this season and will continue to do so – meaning Pelletier has needed to be economical with how he uses his personnel.

“It worked like a charm (on Monday),” Pelletier said. “(French) is a tough kid. These four innings today is the most he’s pitched this season. He pitches for St. A’s so I try to use him more as a situational pitcher.”

After four scoreless innings to start the game, Weare’s No. 9 hitter, Goffstown’s Brian Berthiaume was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and came home on a Brett Patnode RBI single to put Post 65 up, 1-0.

Merrimack countered with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, taking advantage of an error (ball hitting the cut-off man’s glove and rolling out of play) to take a 2-1 lead.

In the top of the sixth, Weare drew a couple of walks to load the bases and Berthiaume, who was hitless on the season entering Monday’s contest, blasted a three-run triple to give Post 65 a 4-2 lead.

John Stark product Brady Philibotte hit an RBI single that scored Berthiaume, extending the lead to 5-2.

Merrimack took advantage of a hit by pitch, an error and two singles to score a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to cut Weare’s lead down to 5-4, and had the game-tying run on third and the game-winning run on second, but French’s key strikeout closed out the victory.

“When they’re not at their best, they’re winning on pure desire,” Pelletier said of his players. “It’s pretty exciting to watch. They’re winning more on heart than on their stuff.”

Post 65 will need all of its heart in Wednesday’s game at Sweeney (8-5), Thursday’s game at Keene (0-14), Friday’s game at Concord (11-3) and Saturday’s game at Laconia (7-8) to close out District A play.

Around half of the team consists of players who play for Pelletier on the John Stark baseball team, while Post 65 also includes a couple of players who attend St. Anselm’s College, Pembroke Academy and Hillsboro-Deering High School.

H-D’s Sean Morin has the highest batting average on the team, although Philibotte’s isn’t far behind and has many more plate appearances and clutch RBI, despite being the smallest and one of the youngest kids on the team.

H-D’s other player, Gunner Hagstrom, will likely be the starting pitcher on Wednesday.

“Gunner attends the Advanced Studies Program at St. Paul’s, so I only have him on Sundays and Wednesdays and try to use him as a pitcher when he’s available,” Pelletier said. “He understands his role. It’s not as big as he would want it to be, but he’s a really good pitcher.”

Weare will have Hagstrom, Wagner and Milford’s Tyler Gendron available to pitch in the middle of the week, while French won’t be available until Saturday’s finale due to the number of pitches thrown in Monday’s win.

Gendron, made available to Post 65 after Milford dropped its Legion program and Merrimack had already filled its roster, pitched a shutout on Sunday night, leading Weare to a 1-0 victory over Sweeney.

There’s still a few games to go, but it could all come down to Saturday night’s game against Laconia.

Laconia is currently in fifth place with a 7-8 record, but has beaten Weare twice and would therefore bump Weare out of the fourth and final tournament spot should the two teams finish the season with identical records.

Concord Post 21 wins

Concord maintained its first-place spot in District A thanks to a 1-0 victory at home over Sweeney.

Eric Sullivan was the hero on both sides of the field, pitching a complete-game shutout and driving home the game’s only run on a sacrifice fly in the first inning.

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