Juniors Taste Sweet Victory
Post 22 Squad Staying Alive In Tourney
Bryar Rouillard of Lebanon Post 22's junior American Legion team offers a celebratory fist bump to a teammate on July 27, 2014, after throwing a four-hit victory over Salem Post 63. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Baserunner Bryar Rouillard of Lebanon Post 22's junior American Legion baseball team prepares to avoid the tag of Salem Post 63 catcher Connor Suech and score on July 27, 2014, at Gill Stadium in Manchester, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Manchester, n.h. — Two dozen doughnuts, please. The Lebanon Post 22 junior American Legion baseball team will be needing them Tuesday.
Spurred on by circular pastry and a dominating pitching performance from Stevens High’s Bryan Rouillard, Post 22 eliminated Salem Post 63 from the state tournament losers’ bracket at Gill Stadium Sunday, 9-3.
Rouillard, a rising senior, took a no-hitter and shutout into the seventh and final inning before tiring. That’s not too surprising, given that 17-year-old is not often a pitcher and was making his season’s debut on the mound with the junior team.
“I only pitched a couple of times for the (Lebanon) senior team,” said Rouillard, referring to Post 22’s older squad, which was eliminated from its own state tournament Saturday morning, a contest during which Rouillard said he threw three innings. “I think the runs at the end today were just about my fatigue.”
The Post 22 players won’t be getting bored with doughnuts anytime soon. Assistant coach Carlos Fleming bought 24 to share before Saturday morning’s victory and, being the superstitious sort, did so again Sunday. Even though Lebanon is next scheduled to play at 7 p.m. Tuesday, against the victor of tonight’s game between Dover Post 8 and Rochester Post 7, Fleming plans to keep the budding breakfast tradition alive.
Sunday, the sugary buns preceded Rouillard’s strong outing, which saw him primarily throw a fastball and curveball with a developing knuckleball mixed in. Although the latter offering appeared to flummox Post 63 hitters, Rouillard said he used it sparingly because his first two pitches were working so well.
“My knuckleball has some rotation to it, but it does the job,” he said. “Sometimes it would travel straight and then drop and sometimes it would have sideways movement like a slider. Other times it would just spin like a fastball.”
Lebanon leadoff man Will Smith began the game by drawing a walk, taking second and third on wild pitches and scoring on a Steve Cerrone groundout. Post 22 (11-6) tacked on runs in the second and third innings for a 3-0 lead before blowing the contest open in the fourth frame.
Cerrone began the onslaught by drawing a walk before Levy Byrd, Tommy Jenkins, Chase Hussey and Rouillard followed with singles. After a popup out, Nate Perkins, Matt Sullivan and Smith produced a walk, a single and another walk, respectively. The visitors stranded three runners during the inning, but by then the score was 8-0 and the game was effectively over.
Salem (11-6) “didn’t seem like they wanted to be here,” said Lebanon coach John Grainger, noting that Post 63 had played and lost a four-hour game Saturday night. Sunday’s contest was scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. start but began a little after 2 p.m. because of rain.
“That five-run inning took the wind out of their sails. They didn’t do anything until the last inning and then it was too little, too late. There was no way they were going to get nine runs in the (seventh) inning.”
The only uncertainty was whether Rouillard could polish off the no-hitter. His teammates and coaches were keen to observe the superstition of not mentioning what was occurring, but the pitcher himself kept bringing it up.
“Whether you talk about it or not, it’s going to happen,” said Rouillard, adding that he didn’t realize Salem had no hits until the fourth inning. “I just knocked on the wood of my bat.”
The righthander, who primarily catches for Stevens and plays third base with the Post 22 juniors, allowed four hits (three singles and a triple) while striking out three batters and walking none. Lebanon had a chance to potentially end the game via the 10-run mercy rule with a 9-0 lead and a runner on first in the sixth inning, but two pop fly outs ended that opportunity.
“The umpire’s strike zone was low and we played good defense until that last inning,” Grainger said. “Bryar was mixing his speeds up and he had them off-balance all day with the curveball and the knuckleball. He sets himself up pretty good with those off-speed pitches and it makes his fastball look faster than it is.”
Rouillard had his own unique look going on once he doffed his cap or batting helmet. He got a Mohawk haircut with the senior team last week, but left stubble on the sides and longer hair on the center stripe. He played with the coiffure while sitting in the dugout, sometimes running it between his fingers and on other occasions using the palms of his hands to squeeze it for maximum height and sharpness. At one point a passing teammate told him he resembled a swordfish.
“ I just wanted to get it comfortable in my hat,” Rouillard said. “I didn’t want it twisted and mangled under there. I wanted it to sit fine.”
Post 22 is sitting pretty at the moment. Another victory and there may be a run on doughnuts in the Upper Valley.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to be No. 1 and get to (New England) regionals and that’s still our goal,” Rouillard said. “Let’s hope we come out on top.”
Notes: With Rouillard struggling in the seventh, Grainger sent potential reliever Jake Tetley, who pitched four plus innings Saturday, down to the bullpen to warm up. The coach sounded, however, like he was more inclined to start Cerrone or Parker Thurston on Tuesday… Thurston was erroneously announced as “Thurston Parker” before an at-bat and was jokingly called that by his teammates for the rest of the game… The senior American Legion World Series tournament will be held Aug. 14-19 in Shelby, N.C., with its games streamed live on ESPN3.com and its title contest televised on ESPNU. Shelby has hosted four previous ALWS and drawn as many as 100,000 fans during a five-day period.
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.