Old Habits Doom 22
Lebanon Legion’s State-Title Bid Ends in Back-to-Back Losses
Post 22’s Ben Bates, left, and Dalton Campbell, former teammates at Newport High, bumps fists after throwing out a baserunner in Monday’s 11-6 loss to Nashua. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Coach Rob Woodward and his Lebanon Post 22 baseball team ran out of magic on Monday at the New Hampshire American Legion state tournament at Concord’s Memorial Field. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Concord — The Lebanon American Legion Post 22 senior baseball team began Monday undefeated in the state tournament at Memorial Field. Six hours later, the squad was out of the proceedings altogether, the result of back-to-back losses to Nashua and Rochester.
The first clash finished 11-6 and the second 4-3. A victory against Nashua would have guaranteed Lebanon a game today and the chance to play for for the tournament title.
A worn-down pitching staff and poor defense doomed Lebanon during the first game, when coach Rob Woodward elected to start Hanover High graduate Liam Gantrish instead of former Stevens High hurler Cam Blewitt. Normally a reliever, Gantrish closed Lebanon’s 5-3 upset of top-seeded Concord on Sunday, but couldn’t last against Nashua, which scored the game’s last eight runs during the fifth inning. Blewitt went the distance against Rochester, allowing nine hits and keeping his team close, but surrendering the winning run in the seventh inning.
Woodward said his team showed signs of burnout following the excitement of knocking off Concord.
“Such high emotions yesterday, it kind of tires you although you don’t know it,” Woodward said. “You come out in the morning and think you’re OK, but we made six errors in the first game and you can’t survive that. That’s why we were 0-6 at the beginning of the season. We had a little relapse today.”
Said Gantrish: “We stopped making some plays and the umps weren’t giving me any calls, but I can’t really blame it on that. We rode a whole wave of emotions last night, and then to crash down today was a real roller coaster.”
Woodward said he thought Gantrish pitched solidly but that the errors took a hidden toll.
“It’s not just unearned runs,” the coach said. “What people don’t see is that with every error comes extra pitches. So if you make six or seven errors, you’re looking at maybe 35 pitches on top of your (regular) pitch count. At this point of a tournament, that hurts.”
It stung Lebanon even more because Post 22 played without No. 3 starter Ben Bates, a Kimball Union Academy student who was poked in the eye by a teammate while playing a warmup game just prior to Friday’s defeat of second-seeded Derry. Woodward reached far down his roster to use KUA’s Josh Weiss and Stevens’ Chase Hussey during the first game.
Lebanon (10-8) opened that contest’s scoring during the first inning when Dalton Campbell doubled home Joe Cravero. Nashua forged a tie during the bottom of the frame before taking a 3-1 lead in the second by combining three singles and a wild pitch. Gantrish induced a fly out to end a bases-loaded threat, and Post 22 exploded for five runs in the fourth.
That inning began with singles by Campbell and Gantrish, who both advanced on a wild pitch. Campbell was soon thrown out at home on a ground ball to shortstop, but Jordy Levin drew a walk to load the bases with one out. Hussey brought one run home by grounding out, and Nick Bailey walked to again load the bases.
This time, Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris cleared them with a double to the fence in left-center field, and Lebanon led, 5-3. Post 22 scored again when Blewitt, the next batter, smacked a ground ball through the left side of the infield.
The wheels fell off for Lebanon in the fifth, when Nashua’s at-bat seemed to stretch for hours. Nashua produced only four hits but built an 11-6 lead. Post 48 was aided by an error, two wild pitches and five walks, one of them intentional. Gantrish was relieved by Weiss with two outs in the inning, and the KUA student allowed a two-run single before recording the final out.
Post 22 fell behind 1-0 during the first inning of its second game before tying it in the third. Blewitt singled and took second on a throwing error during the same play, then scored on a Cravero double. A string of Lebanon mental errors began here, however, as Cravero was doubled off second on a fly ball to right field to end the inning.
Rochester took a 3-1 lead during the fourth, the second of those runs scoring when a jogging Hussey allowed a fly ball to drop just inside the right field line. Lebanon forged a 3-3 tie during the seventh, thanks to a two-run triple by Blewitt, but another defensive gaffe cost Post 22 dearly during the bottom half of the inning.
Rochester started its rally when its No. 8 hitter drew a leadoff walk and the next batter got too much wood on an attempted sacrifice bunt. The ball shot out to Blewitt, who thought about throwing to second base before turning towards first. Second baseman Isaac Fleming-Steinberg was late covering the bag, however, forcing Blewitt to hold the horsehide.
“Now instead of two outs and no one on, you’ve got (runners on) first and second and no outs,” Woodward said. “That’s a world of hurt against these teams. But even with those blunders, we were never taken out of the game.”
Following the bunt, Rochester drew another walk to load the bases, then received a one-out single from Alex Gray that drove in the winning run. Lebanon managed no hits and one baserunner during its last two at-bats.
“That’s one thing about baseball — whether you have a bad game or you’re on top of the world, it can change in a day,” Woodward said. “These kids did a great job. We were 0-6, and we could have folded it up after that and never seen this tournament. But we got here and did some damage. Our guys have nothing to be ashamed about.”
Notes: Post 22 missed 10 practice days because of rain this summer. … Rothwell-Ferraris’ father, Steve, attended the game and said his son is leaning toward attending Massachusetts’ Berkshire School for a post-graduate year, starting in the fall. Steve Ferraris is a former Dartmouth quarterback who played with current Big Green coach Buddy Teevens, and his son is hoping to play football or baseball in the Ivy Lague or Patriot League. … Yesterday’s second game was delayed for about 20 minutes when lightning was spotted by the umpires. Thunder, however, didn’t appear to have the same affect, for claps were heard both before the game was halted and after it resumed. … The Memorial Field public-address announcer read a tongue-in-cheek advertisement for grave plots in center field. “Never miss a game and guarantee yourself the best seats in the house,” he solemnly intoned. … Nashua’s roster is drawn from Nashua North, Nashua South and Bishop Guertin, while Rochester is comprised of players from Coe-Brown and Spaulding. … Gantrish will attend Kalamazoo College in Michigan and hopes to play basketball there.
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.