Marauders Top Raiders for First Win
Hanover High second baseman Elise Austin-Washburn, left, embraces shortstop Halli Valentine yesterday after the visiting Marauders beat Lebanon, 9-4, at Elks Field for their first victory of the season. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover High pitcher Amara Nichols releases a throw yesterday against Lebanon during the Marauders’ 9-4 victory at Elks Field. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Hanover High softball coach Mike Landau expects a torrent of good-natured, verbal abuse tomorrow when his team plays at Stevens under the lights. Landau teaches English at the Claremont school and knows his students will be out in force to serenade him.
“They’ll be yelling that I stink,” Landau said with a grin. “Happens every year.”
One thing the hecklers won’t be able to call Landau and the Marauders, however, is winless. Not after yesterday’s 9-4 defeat of arch-rival Lebanon at Elks Field gave the visitors their first victory of the season. Hanover scored three times in the seventh inning to exorcise memories of a late collapse against the Raiders during the teams’ season opener.
The Marauders entered the seventh inning up 4-2 that afternoon at Norwich’s Huntley Meadows, but surrendered four runs in the top of the frame and wound up losing, 6-5. Yesterday, Hanover led 6-4 going into the final inning and Landau wasn’t about to deny he had a case of the nerves.
“I was like, ‘Not again,’ ” said the fourth-year head coach, who guided the Marauders’ junior varsity program for three years before earning the top job. “I was just hoping it wouldn’t be an instant replay.”
This time, however, it was the Raiders who came unglued. Pitcher Kaylee Rogers struck out the first batter, but walked the second. The next hitter reached on an infield error and that brought up Elise Austin-Washburn, whose long fly ball to center field was dropped, scoring a run and pushing Hanover’s lead to 7-4.
Katie Fenton hit a flare that landed behind shortstop and made the score 8-4. Another infield error, Lebanon’s ninth, combined with a hit batter to load the bases. Amara Nichols drew a walk that forced home the final run as a rain storm moved in.
“You guys showed a lot in the top of the seventh,” Landau told his damp, but joyous, troops at game’s end. “That’s a game we could have let get away from us but you went out and had good at-bats and didn’t swing at junk and got hits.”
Nichols went the distance as Hanover’s pitcher, allowing five hits and two earned runs while striking out four Raiders and walking two. A Lyme resident who’s something of a rarity on the Marauders in that she’s played softball nonstop since third grade, the sophomore said she was inspired by her team’s strong defense. The visitors made two errors.
“We’ve been working really hard on that,” Nichols said. “Over the years, this hasn’t been a solid softball team, but we’re really improving and it’s really exciting to see.”
Hanover’s last winning season came with a 10-9 mark in 2003, but it hasn’t won more than five games in a spring since then. The Marauders were 0-16 in 2006 and 2010, the first and last seasons under former coach Leslie Swenson. Landau has guided the program to back-to-back 2-14 records, but just a glance at pregame infield practice makes its clear this year’s team is better, even if its record doesn’t reflect that growth.
“This is the most talented team we’ve had since I’ve been here but we’re also playing the hardest schedule since I’ve been here,” said Landau, whose team led 6-2 after four innings before surrendering two runs in the fifth. “To see these kids get what they deserve for all their hard work makes me ecstatic.”
Landau and former Lebanon coach Jeff McGuire each said that to the best of their recollections, Hanover’s last defeat of the Raiders came in 2009. A program that entered 2013 having won at least seven games in a season five of the last six years has fallen on hard times, but first-year Lebanon bench boss Jessica Bavos said she was at least happy to see her squad produce seven hits yesterday.
“We’ve been trying to get it out of them, to let them know they can bat,” said Bavos, whose team has been shut out fives times and outscored by a combined 97-6 in its last eight games. “We’ve been doing lots of extra hitting against the pitching machine and live pitching.”
Rogers had two hits and Liz Shipley had a double for the hosts. Starting pitcher Shauna McGrath went 3 1∕ 3 innings, allowing seven hits and six runs, three of them earned. She struck out two Marauders and walked six. Rogers allowed six hits and three runs, two of them earned, while striking out two and walking four.
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.