Londonderry Junior Legion Baseball Splits First Two at States

The Londonderry Post 27 baseball team overcame the quite palpable frustration of a slim loss on day one of the New Hampshire Junior American Legion Tournament to put forth a successful second performance on day two and forge on in that event, which was being held at Portsmouth’s Leary Field.

The Post 27 squad was edged by a Manchester opponent on Saturday, July 28. But the next day the locals thumped the host Portsmouth squad and knocked it out of the double-elimination tourney to stay alive itself.

Londonderry began its involvement in the state tournament last Saturday by playing in game two of the event against Jutras of Manchester – the second seed from District A – on the Leary diamond.

The locals – who completed their 2018 regular season as the third seed from District B – played a strong game, receiving an excellent pitching performance from Nolan Lincoln and the defense behind him. But what was missing from the effort – along with several key players who took part in AAU action instead of being with their Londonderry squad at the state tourney – were one or two key hits which likely would have made the difference between a win and a loss for the local crew.

The Post 27 bunch suffered a tough, 2-0 loss to Jutras to fall just one defeat away from being knocked out.

As he and the players left their dugout following the tough loss, Londonderry assistant coach Ben Byerly observed, “That’s the best these guys have played in weeks. We just fell short on hits.”

Lincoln went all six innings which the locals played in the field, throwing 84 pitches and holding Jutras to four hits while striking out five and walking four.

Manchester plated both of the runs scored in the contest in the bottom half of the second, tallying just one hit to do so.

Quite frustratingly, Londonderry left some eight runners stranded on the bases as it looked in vain for a clutch hit.

“All of the guys, even the ones you wouldn’t expect, have been doing their absolute best for us,” said Londonderry coach Jake Ratka. “The only thing that was missing today was the clutch hits.”

One other major factor in the slim Jutras victory was the play of center fielder Darren Ceaser, who made three excellent catches. Had any one of those balls gotten past the speedy outfielder Londonderry could conceivably have scored multiple runs.

Perhaps the biggest of Ceaser’s grabs came in the top half of the second inning when Londonderry loaded the bases with two outs.

Londonderry batter Braeden Griffin thumped a hard liner to center and Ceaser managed to get to the ball over his head and snag it.

The locals left two runners stranded on base without scoring in the top of the sixth, but they began the top of the seventh with more reasons to feel optimistic.

Gavin Parent led off by reaching on Jutras’ fourth defensive error of the day, and Tyler Kayo then drew a walk. But Griffin was called out on a close play at first base on a successful 4-6-3 double play, and the Manchester side was able to notch the final out just a moment later.

Chris Tutt, Zach Rheault, and Matt McGill had the three Londonderry hits, and the locals were left looking at a second contest the next afternoon at 12:30.

Londonderry faced off with a host Portsmouth contingent – which ended its regular season as the fourth and final seed from District B – which had already lost one decision in the tourney as well. So somebody in the 12:30 match-up would be putting its uniforms into mothballs for the winter when their battle was done.

As it turned out, coach Ratka’s roster tallied a pleasing 8-3 victory in which the local side scored six runs in the first two innings in racing out to a 6-0 advantage.

Righty starting pitcher Alex Peters went five strong frames for the victors, with Tyler Michaud capping off the team success with two fine relief innings.

The hitting stalwarts for the victors ended up being Kayo, Griffin, Alex Cafaro, and Tutt.

The local crew then looked ahead to the next afternoon Рon Monday, July 30 Рand another 12:30 contest against  Dover in which it would again try to remain a viable title team.

The locals were knocked out of the tourney – despite another strong effort – by an extra-inning, 5-2 defeat delivered by the Dover Post 8 crew early on Monday afternoon.

The locals leaped out to a 2-0 advantage in the latter half of the second inning, with Rheault delivering one of the three hits he smacked on the day.

But Dover knotted the score at 2-2 several innings later, and when the regulation seven frames had been played the score remained deadlocked right there. And the tie wasn’t busted until the top of the 10th when the seacoast contingent scored three more times.

Londonderry received six strong innings from starting pitcher Tutt, and Tyler Michaud was on the hill the rest of the way.

“This was one of the best games they played all season,” said the local team’s general manager Jim Blake. “The kids played three really good, sound, solid games in the tournament, and they should be proud.”

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