Lebanon Baseball Making a Call for Arms
Lebanon pitcher Connor Greeley works out his arm during practice at Lebanon High School yesterday. The Raiders, who reached the NHIAA Division II title game last season, will feature a whole new pitching staff this year. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon coach Doug Ashey works on pitching with junior Matt Owens during practice at Lebanon High School yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon sophomore Noah Mayes uses his glove to hold an ice pack on an injured ankle while talking with coach Patrick Gilbrith during practice. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon —Until further notice, everyone on the Lebanon High baseball team is a pitcher.
After losing three seniors who combined to account for all of the Raiders’ 18 wins on the way to the NHIAA Division II state championship game last season, 20th-year Lebanon coach Doug Ashey considers everyone wearing maroon and gold these days to be a potential pitching prospect. After all, the Raiders return just one player, Grayson Hardy, who saw any varsity innings a year ago.
Unbeaten ace Brady Boisvert (8-0) and solid alternates Clint Goodwin and Colin MacNamee all graduated, along with four other starters from a team that was nosed out by St. Thomas Aquinas in the final, a 10-inning, 4-3 defeat.
As for the 12 Raiders projected for this year’s roster, just about any of them can expect to be called on for time on the mound.
“They’re all pitchers until I tell them they’re not,” said Ashey, tongue only partially in cheek. “We had guys (warming up) in the bullpen last year, but none of them really played. It was a senior-laden team and a real ‘go for it’ type of year. We’re proud of what they accomplished, and the challenge for us is to get these kids to embrace being the next generation of leaders on the team.”
Aside from Hardy — who started and pitched three innings in a win over Plymouth last year — 6-foot-3 junior Connor Greeley is vying for the No. 1 role. The Grantham resident and former middle school and junior varsity starter fires a crisp, accurate fastball and is beginning to add to his repertoire.
“I have two different (releases) for the fast ball, and I’ve been working on a change-up and curve,” Greeley said. “I think one of the things that’s good for both me and Grayson is that, even though we didn’t play a lot, just the fact that we watched guys like Brady, Clint and Colin is going to help us. They had a work ethic that I think was positive for the whole team.”
Ashey also expects junior Matt Owens to earn time on the mound, and hopes one or more of five first-year sophomores will show enough promise to make an impact.
Pitching isn’t the only area where the Raiders are in search of contributors.
Ryan White, a Raiders’ hockey captain now doing the same on the diamond, takes over at catcher for Jake Davis. Mike Servant moves to first base after backing up MacNamee there last year and Austin Pelletier will likely start at second base after alternating with Hardy there a season ago. Sophomore Cam Broughton is the frontrunner to replace the versatile Cody Pelletier at shortstop, and Hardy could resume a third-base spot previously occupied by his older brother, Cooper.
“That’s the way it looks right now, but we could have a lot of stuff that’s interchangeable this year,” Ashey said.
In the outfield, the Raiders will have to replace would-be right fielders Kalin Sou and Will Sanborn, who did not return, along with graduated Justin Judd at center. Owens, sophomores Scott Caswell and Tanner Simms and senior Walker Camp should all be in the mix.
“And we may have to play (catcher) Ryan White at center some, because of his athleticism,” said Ashey, who also has Simms pegged as a catcher. “It’s tough to tell before we even get outside.”
With no returning full-time starters, the Raiders — one of just two teams (Portsmouth) to reach the semifinals each of the last four seasons — will have a steeper learning curve this season. Yet despite all the new faces, Lebanon isn’t concerned with being overmatched in the competitive D-II.
“Our schedule’s tough. We start at Hanover (April 8), then we’re at Souhegan, who’s going to be good. We’ve got Gofftstown twice this year, they’re real good ... But I’m optimistic. You’re going to see us improve day to day. The biggest thing we’ve been working on so far is just fundamentals. We try to drive those home until they’re second nature. No matter what level you’re at, fundamentals are the most important thing.”
White feels like those skills are already intact.
“I remember in fourth grade, the coaches talking all the time about muscle memory, whether it’s swinging the bat or fielding the ball,” he said.
“Most of the guys on this team have come through Lebanon and West Lebanon youth baseball since T-ball all the way through Little League, middle school and jayvee,” he added. “Individually, we might not have guys whose skills really jump out at you, but collectively, as a group, we’ve got a lot of who know how to play the game well.”
Servant, fresh off a disappointing season with the Raiders’ boys hockey team, likes the idea that many of their opponents this spring might not expect them to be as strong as in recent seasons.
“The fact that we’re going to be underdogs, I think that’s something we could really take advantage of and capitalize on,” he said. “People are going to turn their heads at us, but we’ve got more talent than they think.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.