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Lebanon Baseball Looking Ahead After ‘Ugly’ 2013

  • Cam Rogers hurls a pitch while being watched by coach Doug Ashey during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Cam Rogers hurls a pitch while being watched by coach Doug Ashey during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cameron Broughton gets chased down by Austin Putnam during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Cameron Broughton gets chased down by Austin Putnam during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cam Rogers hurls a pitch while being watched by coach Doug Ashey during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)
  • Cameron Broughton gets chased down by Austin Putnam during baseball practice at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, N.H., on April 22, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

Lebanon — The next beautiful car wreck Doug Ashey sees will be his first.

The nice thing about a new baseball season is the freshness of a new start. Ashey, the 14th-year head coach of the Lebanon High baseball team and a 21-year veteran of the coaching realm, could use a new beginning, as could the returning Raiders who endured an uncharacteristic 2-14 campaign last year that junior Joe Flanagan described on Tuesday as “ugly.”

Two good things have happened since then. For one, most of the players from last spring’s squad are back with a year of high school action under their belts. Furthermore, a number of Raider returnees spent the summer on Lebanon Post 22’s two American Legion squads, both of which made deep runs in their respective New Hampshire state tournaments.

Monday’s season-opening 8-1 win at Pembroke served as a favorable start. Ashey believes more positives are on the way.

“I’m really optimistic about these kids,” Ashey said during the Raiders’ workout at Lebanon High School on Tuesday afternoon. “I know we’re still young in some spots, but I like the attitude. They’re working hard; there’s enough competition to keep pushing the kids to get better.

“(Legion) does (help), but most of it comes from within the team. There’s a lot of pushing for playing time, and anytime you’re doing that, the kids will get better.”

Previously the head coach at Kearsarge High, Ashey chalks up 2013 to his team falling victim to the law of averages. Lebanon made the NHIAA Division II finals in 2012 and the semifinals the three previous Junes.

The Raiders — particularly a roster as young as last year’s — were bound to come down to earth at some point.

Inexperience and miscommunication did much of the damage, Flanagan said. Lebanon’s defense was prone to frequent errors, something the program set about changing as soon as indoor practices started in March.

“Communication helps with team effort,” the outfielder said. “Communication also helps with team spirit and attitude on and off the field and in the dugout, guys talking.”

What senior co-captain Grayson Hardy has liked so far is the Raiders’ approach to work.

“There was a mishmash of kids who hadn’t had a lot of time together,” Hardy said of last year’s crew, which finished last in the D-II standings. “Now we have a year under our belts. We’re doing better because we’ve been working on talking, on being more of a team than last year.”

Post 22’s summer success could end up benefiting Ashey in the long run, too.

The Lebanon senior team won four of its final five games to squeak into its eight-team state tourney. Post 22 followed that with a pair of games in the double-elimination draw before being ousted by eventual champion Rochester.

The junior squad did even better, battling Plymouth all summer for divisional honors and winning three straight games out of the losers’ bracket (eliminating Post 66 in the process) at states before falling to Nashua in the finals. It was the furthest run by Post 22’s juniors at states in the program’s short history.

Ashey expects four Raiders who played on the Post 22 juniors — Caleb and Cam Broughton, Noah Mayes and Tanner Simms — to slot into important roles with the Raiders. Cam Broughton and Mayes will join Hardy in the starting rotation, all pitching to returning catcher Simms. Caleb Broughton is projected as Lebanon’s starting shortstop.

Cam Broughton, a junior, kicked Lebanon’s baseball season off in fine fashion on Monday, throwing a complete-game two-hitter with eight strikeouts in an 8-1 win at Pembroke. The Raiders begin their home schedule this afternoon against John Stark.

“It was great to get that first win out of the gate,” admitted Flanagan, who singled, doubled and scored twice. “It’s definitely a confidence builder, great for the team. Especially after last year.”

To Ashey, last spring was a “crash landing.”

This spring? The engine’s running smoothly thus far.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.