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Hanover Hopes New Softball Field Will Give Program a Boost

  • Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl catches a fly ball Saturday while colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1. <br/>Valley News - Tris Wykes<br/>

    Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl catches a fly ball Saturday while colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1.
    Valley News - Tris Wykes
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl, front, catches a fly ball Saturday while colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1.

    Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl, front, catches a fly ball Saturday while colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl, front, holds a fly ball she caught Saturday after colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1.<br/>Valley News - Tris Wykes

    Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl, front, holds a fly ball she caught Saturday after colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1.
    Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford High runner Kaitlynn Woodward winces in pain Saturday after sliding into second base against Hanover and skinning her knee on the gravel infield at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders, who lost 14-1, are scheduled to begin play on a new field off Route 5 in 2016. Valley News - Tris Wykes

    Hartford High runner Kaitlynn Woodward winces in pain Saturday after sliding into second base against Hanover and skinning her knee on the gravel infield at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders, who lost 14-1, are scheduled to begin play on a new field off Route 5 in 2016. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl catches a fly ball Saturday while colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1. <br/>Valley News - Tris Wykes<br/>
  • Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl, front, catches a fly ball Saturday while colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1.
  • Hanover High left fielder Sarah Kohl, front, holds a fly ball she caught Saturday after colliding with center fielder Erika Tischbein at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders lost to Hartford, 14-1.<br/>Valley News - Tris Wykes
  • Hartford High runner Kaitlynn Woodward winces in pain Saturday after sliding into second base against Hanover and skinning her knee on the gravel infield at Norwich's Huntley Meadows. The host Marauders, who lost 14-1, are scheduled to begin play on a new field off Route 5 in 2016. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Norwich — The soccer ball bounced into the Hanover High softball team’s bench area Saturday afternoon, causing a couple of players to jump in surprise. Booted out of an adjacent youth game on Huntley Meadows, the ball settled behind the Marauders’ bench before being retrieved by a boy in brightly-colored futbol garb.

Glancing over at the scene, Hanover coach Mike Landau shook his head.

“This situation is ridiculous,” said the fourth-year bench boss, gesturing broadly with one arm.

Happily for Hanover’s players and coaches, they won’t have to endure it much longer. After years of playing on a recreational diamond with a gravel infield, an outfield fence constructed of sagging mesh and wooden stakes and a battered, chain-link backstop, the Marauders are scheduled to move into a new facility off Route 5 to begin the 2016 season.

Landau said he’s been told the new field will be built this summer, but that its grass must be seeded and allowed to sit for roughly a year before the root system fully takes hold. Still, knowing that his team has fewer than two seasons’ worth of games to endure at its current digs is an emotional boost.

“Baseball has had a really great facility for a few years and now we’ll have one in the same spot and we won’t have to duck soccer balls anymore,” said Landau, whose team lost, 14-1, to visiting Hartford on Saturday.

Although Landau said he’s grateful for the Norwich Recreational Department’s help in maintaining the current diamond, that doesn’t prevent the infield from being chewed up by casual users and the outfield from hiding dog-deposited land mines. Hartford coach Gary Gervais, whose team will move into a new facility of its own next spring, was blunt in assessing the conditions under which the Marauders host games.

“This is the worst field we play on,” said Gervais, who saw the Hurricanes’ Kaitlynn Woodward skin a large portion of her left knee on a slide into second. “It’s like playing on concrete and a varsity team shouldn’t have to deal with it.

“It will be nice for (softball) to finally feel like it’s at the same facilities level as the other Hanover teams, because they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal here.”

Hanover senior Camille Celone won’t get to play on the new field, but she’s thrilled for her younger teammates who will.

“Softball’s pretty underfunded at Hanover, so this will give us a sense of fair play,” Celone said. “Playing here is rough and painful.”

Ben Nichols, whose daughter, Amara, is a Hanover junior in her third varsity season, said Marauders softball parents have long been frustrated to see their children playing on a substandard field. He hopes the new one will provide the program with a participatory boost. Softball is often a fourth sports choice behind crew, track and lacrosse in the spring for Hanover High girls, and fielding a team at the middle school level has sometimes been difficult.

“I think it’s going to bring new players who might be on the fence about maybe going to crew or lacrosse,” Nichols said.

“It’s been a long wait for a nicer and safer facility and they’ll be able to maintain the new one the way they want and not have to go through red tape.”

Saturday’s result was Hartford’s third consecutive victory of the week and boosted its record to 5-3. Hanover fell to 1-7 and the Marauders were 3-15 last year, but Landau said he’s seeing improvement. For instance, his team turned a nifty double play against the Hurricanes, something the program sometimes hasn’t achieved during entire past seasons.

“We lost to Hollis-Brookline 11-4 yesterday,” Landau said. “Two years ago, we lost to them, 35-1. We’re averaging three errors a game this season. It was eight or nine in years past.”

Landau said the main problem has been when the errors occur, for they tend to pop up in bunches and during contests’ latter stages. Hartford led, 6-1, after six innings Saturday before blowing the game open with eight runs during its last at-bat. A recent tilt with Pembroke saw the Marauders trail, 5-0, after five innings before losing, 11-0.

“Bad things happen when you give teams five and six outs in an inning,” Landau said. “Our scores look horrible, but we’re not that bad. We’re a robust 1-7.”

Woodward was Hartford’s star, belting four hits, two of them doubles, and piling up four RBIs. Pitching, the right-hander allowed four hits while striking out 10 batters and walking two. Sixty-two of her 89 pitches were called strikes. The Hurricanes also received three hits and two RBIs from Paige Larmie and two hits and two RBIs from Jenna Yee, Courtney Murray and Taylor Wilson.

“We’ve had a really good week hitting the ball,” said Gervais, whose team pounded out more than 45 hits during three games. “I’ve been waiting for this season for several years and I think we’ve turned the corner.”

Two of Hanover’s four hits came from Delia Nahabedian and the other two from Amara Nichols and Mackenize Cutting. Nichols put in yeoman’s work pitching, facing 42 batters and throwing 130 pitches. She allowed 16 hits while striking out two, walking three and hitting a batter.

Notes: Hanover played without starting second baseman Katie Fenton. She was replaced in the lineup by Celone, who plans to study at Chicago’s DePaul University in the fall. … Three Hanover starters — senior outfielder Erika Tischbein, junior outfielder Kelsey Aaron and sophomore shortstop Nora Anderson — are in their first varsity season. Hartford started two such players, junior second baseman Frechette and sophomore outfielder Kelsey Mason. Gervais said the former has yet to make an error this spring. … Hartford stole six bases.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.