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Dover Drops Lebanon in Jr. Legion Opener

  • Lebanon Post 22's Parker Thurston (16) gives Steve Cerrone a consoling fist bump after the latter grounded out Friday during a 3-0 loss to Dover in the junior American Legion state tournament.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes

    Lebanon Post 22's Parker Thurston (16) gives Steve Cerrone a consoling fist bump after the latter grounded out Friday during a 3-0 loss to Dover in the junior American Legion state tournament.
    Valley News — Tris Wykes

  • Steve Cerrone, pitching Friday for Lebanon Post 22's junior American Legion team, reaches back before delivering against Dover at Manchester's Gill Stadium. Lebanon lost it opening game of the state tournament, 3-0, dropping it into a loser's bracket game at 10 a.m. today in the same location.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes

    Steve Cerrone, pitching Friday for Lebanon Post 22's junior American Legion team, reaches back before delivering against Dover at Manchester's Gill Stadium. Lebanon lost it opening game of the state tournament, 3-0, dropping it into a loser's bracket game at 10 a.m. today in the same location.
    Valley News — Tris Wykes

  • Lebanon Post 22 batter Will Smith heads for the dugout Friday after becoming one of Dover pitcher Evan Zuchowski's 17 strikeout victims. Lebanon lost the junior American Legion state tournament game at Manchester's Gill Stadium, 3-0.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes

    Lebanon Post 22 batter Will Smith heads for the dugout Friday after becoming one of Dover pitcher Evan Zuchowski's 17 strikeout victims. Lebanon lost the junior American Legion state tournament game at Manchester's Gill Stadium, 3-0.
    Valley News — Tris Wykes

  • Lebanon Post 22's Parker Thurston (16) gives Steve Cerrone a consoling fist bump after the latter grounded out Friday during a 3-0 loss to Dover in the junior American Legion state tournament.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes
  • Steve Cerrone, pitching Friday for Lebanon Post 22's junior American Legion team, reaches back before delivering against Dover at Manchester's Gill Stadium. Lebanon lost it opening game of the state tournament, 3-0, dropping it into a loser's bracket game at 10 a.m. today in the same location.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes
  • Lebanon Post 22 batter Will Smith heads for the dugout Friday after becoming one of Dover pitcher Evan Zuchowski's 17 strikeout victims. Lebanon lost the junior American Legion state tournament game at Manchester's Gill Stadium, 3-0.<br/>Valley News — Tris Wykes

Manchester — Steve Cerrone is a talented wrestler, but it was he and his Lebanon Post 22 Junior American Legion baseball teammates who were dropped Friday. Facing Dover Post 8 in the opening game of the state tournament at Gill Stadium, Post 22 was mowed down by lefthanded pitcher Evan Zuchowski, who struck out 17 batters in a command-performance 3-0 victory.

“That kid’s a great pitcher,’’ said Post 22 coach John Grainger, whose club managed only one hit but left five runners on base. “He kept the ball down, he threw three pitches for strikes and he mixed up speeds. We just struggled to make contact. Hopefully, we won’t see another kid like that tomorrow.”

The result dropped Lebanon (9-6) into the losers’ bracket, where it will face Windham Post 109 or Manchester Sweeney Post 2 at 10 a.m. today. A loss would eliminate Post 22, which finished atop its division during the regular season and which reached the state title game last summer.

“I thought we were going to roll in this game,” said Cerrone, who allowed three hits and one earned run while striking out two batters and walking one. “We have to get all our players together in a meeting and get our focus back.”

Cerrone recently completed his junior year at Hartford High but will repeat that grade and begin attending Phillips Exeter Academy in southern New Hampshire during the fall. He said his grappling prowess was especially helpful in gaining the 234-year old school’s interest and that “without wrestling, I doubt I would have made it in.” He added that a generous financial-aid package was another factor in sending him to an institution previously attended by an uncle and a cousin.

The righthander kept Dover (11-5) pinned down for much of the game. Post 8 scored once during the first inning, but it was the fifth and sixth frames that pushed the game truly out of reach.

The bad juju began after Lebanon’s Nate Perkins beat out an infield single. However, the center fielder was soon caught leaning toward second base and tagged out in a rundown to end the inning. Grainger was by then so frustrated that, upon returning to the dugout from the third-base coach’s box, he punted his batting helmet up a tunnel leading under the grandstand.

Dover came to bat in the top of the sixth and parlayed three Lebanon errors into its second and third runs. Third baseman Bryar Rouillard committed two fielding gaffes, sandwiching them around a miscue by Perkins, who jogged under a fly ball and was fully settled only to drop it to the artificial turf.

“Errors and hits are contagious,” Grainger said. “You take that inning out of the mix and it’s a 1-0 game and our pitcher’s doing great.”

The coach said he felt his hitters weren’t able to adjust quickly and well enough to Zuchowski, who plays for Dover High during the spring. With late movement on his pitches, the hurler had Lebanon batters off-balance all morning.

“I don’t think enough of our guys tried to change their approach early enough,” said Grainger, a Colby-Sawyer College assistant coach who’s in his first season at Post 22’s helm. “Early on, he was throwing away, away, away. So then we crowded the plate and he came inside on us, and we still looked at fastballs for strikes. We just weren’t ready.”

One person not particularly impressed by Zuchowski was Cerrone.

“I don’t think he was all that much better than us; we just didn’t come with the bats,” he said. “I think it was more us than him. He didn’t overpower us or have a filthy curveball, but we just couldn’t hit him.”

Cerrone said he last pitched July 8 and is overcoming a back injury suffered while swinging a few days after that game.

“I could have maybe thrown a little harder today if I’d used my whole body,” he said. “I was mostly using my arm and trying not to put stress on my back.”

Notes: Other teams in the tournament are Alton, Rochester, Bedford and Salem. … New Hampshire is hosting American Legion’s Northeast Regional tournament at Gill Stadium Aug. 9-11, the first time it has done so since 2010. The Granite State champion and runner-up will both earn berths in the event. … Gill Stadium, 101 years old, is the fourth-oldest concrete-and-steel stadium in the U.S., trailing only Boston’s Fenway Park and Harvard Stadium and Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala. Gill’s dedication game saw the Boston Red Sox defeat a group of Manchester all-stars, 3-1.

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