No Walk in the Park: Newfound, Rubber-Armed Pitcher Deal Stevens an Upset
Stevens coach Paul Silva gathers his players at the mound as they try to hold steady while tied with Newfound in the eighth inning of their playoff game in Claremont yesterday. Newfound won, 3-2. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Stevens' Trey Dansereau waits for the throw to arrive as Newfound's Jacob Dearborn dives bakc to first base yesterday in Claremont. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
When the dust settled yesterday, Tyler Pederson and the Stevens Cardinals baseball team fell to Newfound, 3-2, in the first round of the state Division III high school baseball postseason tournament. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — Baseball coaches yearn to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard, but not the type Stevens High produced in a 3-2 extra-innings loss to Newfound in an NHIAA Division III second-round tournament game at Barnes Park yesterday.
Given plenty of opportunities by Dahlton Fairbank, the Bears’ effectively off-target junior pitcher, the sixth-seeded Cardinals (11-6) stranded 16 baserunners and scored their only runs on a pair of bases-loaded walks. Fairbank issued 11 free passes in the eight-inning affair, but he showed grit when needed in striking out nine and twice eluding bases-loaded catastrophes with timely tosses.
“We’ve been able to get the guys in for the most part, but you have to take your hat off to Fairbank,” Stevens coach Paul Silva lamented. “He’s a good pitcher. He’s one of the better ones in the division. And when he had to get outs, he got outs.”
It wasn’t a typical performance, not by Newfound coach Shaun Bean’s reckoning.
The left-hander usually averages two or three strikeouts a game, but Fairbank succeeded in keeping the Stevens lineup off-balance through an eye-popping 180 pitches. The Cards left at least one runner on base in each inning.
“I felt he was getting stronger every inning,” Bean said. “He had more pop in that mitt in the seventh and eighth innings than he had in the first two innings, I thought. He didn’t even have his best stuff today.
“He usually doesn’t walk that much, is in the (strike) zone a lot more than that. … It wasn’t that it was uncommon. It just wasn’t his best stuff.”
A quiet Fairbank confessed to not feeling tired at game’s end, but “that’s a lot more work than I usually throw,” he said. “But I’m feeling fine.”
Stevens needed a big effort from junior starter Ryan Tanguay and got it. The righty fanned 11, walked two, gave up six hits and, like Fairbank, surrendered just one earned run. But the Cards’ offense was never able to back it up, rapping just four hits.
“We need to hit the ball better; we need to score more runs,” Silva said. “We were 20-something out of 27 teams (in D-III) in terms of runs scored, and we’ve gotta improve on that.”
Two misplays in the Stevens outfield helped the 11th-ranked Bears (10-6) get their first run with two down in the first frame. Zach Desrochers reached second base when his single bounced past Stevens left fielder Austin Tenney, and Spencer MacDonald followed with an RBI double over center fielder Logan Batchelder, who appeared to lose sight of the high fly ball. Tanguay seemingly took the score as a personal affront, whiffing the next seven Bears he faced.
The Cards’ infield kept things from deteriorating in the fourth. With one down and two on, Stevens second baseman Josh Carroll lunged to smother Anthony Talamini’s slow roller, preventing a run from scoring. Bean called for a suicide squeeze bunt from Noah Merrill on Tanguay’s next pitch, but Merrill popped the attempt up into a 3-5 double play to end the threat.
“With our best bunter up in that situation, we were going to try to take advantage and squeeze that in,” Bean said.
The Cards used patience to work Fairbank into a 37-pitch inning in their half of the fourth, scoring twice. A Mike Puksta flare single, a walk to Carroll and an infield error on Chase Hussey’s grounder loaded the bases for leadoff hitter Donald Pellerin, who drew a six-pitch walk on a borderline pitch at the shoulders to tie the game. Fairbank fanned Batchelder and induced a Tenney fly ball to shallow right only to walk Trey Dansereau to force in another run.
Tanguay ended the rally with a grounder to second. The lead didn’t last long: Fairbank gained a one-out double a half-inning later when Batchelder and Pellerin miscommunicated in right-center, and Jake Dearborn tied the game with an RBI roller that died in the infield grass before Carroll could make a play.
“We have played really well defensively,” Silva said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us all year. … That happens in a baseball game.”
Bean never considered pulling Fairbank, and the junior gave his coach little reason. The southpaw was more efficient over the last four innings than the first (73 pitches vs. 107), worked himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth and allowed just one Cardinal to reach second base the rest of the way.
Newfound won the game with an unearned run in the eighth. Dearborn reached first base on an infield error, stole second, moved to third on an infield groundout and scored when Tanguay’s first delivery to Desrochers hit the front of the plate and bounded over catcher Bryar Roulliard to the backstop.
Fairbank shook off a two-out Tanguay single in the eighth, inducing a game-ending grounder to second from Roulliard to complete his eventful effort.
The Cards’ season ends in the shade of improvement. The 11 victories were the program’s most in at least two decades, according to Silva, and Stevens made strides in pitching and defense, yesterday notwithstanding.
“That’s why we’ve taken a step up: pitching and defense,” Silva added. “We’ve done better hitting. I just think we need, where we stood in terms of runs in a 27-team division, it’s obvious we need to score more runs.”
Fungoes: Dansereau and Roulliard had the Cards’ other two hits, both singles. … Tanguay, who threw 140 pitches (including 90 strikes) in defeat, has been selected to play in the New Hampshire High School Baseball Coaches Association’s Junior Showcase game at St. Anselm College on June 15, Silva said. … Although Tanguay returns to anchor the Cards’ rotation next spring, Stevens loses nine to graduation: Batchelder, Carroll, Puksta, Dansereau, Shawn Fitzpatrick, Curtis Fiedler, Tyler Pedersen, Justin Corbett and Tyler Gaspar.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.