Dream Ends for Post 22
Nashua Stops Lebanon for Junior Title
Ben Robinson of Lebanon's junior American Legion baseball team gets a jump off second base during his team's 6-1 defeat of Exeter in the state tournament semifinals Tuesday at Concord's Memorial Field. Lebanon lost the title game to Nashua. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon Post 22 junior American Legion shortstop Cam Broughton, standing, exhalts Tuesday after second baseman Caleb Broughton tags out Nashua's Josh Goulet. Lebanon lost the state title game at Concord's Memorial Field. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Concord — During the fourth inning of Tuesday’s junior American Legion state title game, Lebanon Post 22’s Ben Robinson noticed a pair of bats lying crossed in the dirt near the home dugout at Memorial Field. Robinson quickly straightened the lumber, bowing to baseball tradition en route to a spot in the on-deck circle. Unfortunately for his team, however, misfortune had already struck.
Backed by 6-foot-2 lefthander Ricky Constant and a five-run third inning, Nashua Post 48 won the championship clash, 5-2, and advanced to this weekend’s New England tournament in Windsor, Conn. Lebanon beat Exeter, 6-1, during the semifinals earlier on Tuesday and finished with a 15-6 record.
“It was a great season and we made a great run at it,” said Lebanon coach Dustin Broughton. “It’s tough to win two games in one day when the second team you play is well-rested. Our guys stayed up all game, but we just ran into a tough pitcher.”
Lebanon left two runners on base in the title game’s first inning and was undone during the third, which Nashua started off with a pair of bloop singles. The first landed in shallow right field, just in front of diving second baseman Caleb Broughton, and the second couldn’t be corralled by charging center fielder Sam Hastings.
“They haven’t hit the ball hard yet!” bellowed a Post 22 backer in the stands, but that situation soon changed. The next batter belted a ball into the right-center field gap for a 1-0 lead and a long double to the fence and a triple followed, pushing the score to 4-0 against Lebanon pitcher Chase Hussey. A sacrifice fly made it 5-0 before the side was retired.
“It made me really mad to think they could just flick their wrists and drop a ball in the outfield like that,” said Hussey, who allowed eight hits while striking out seven batters and walking three. “I guess they got momentum off that and the inning kept going and going.
“That one inning I was leaving my fastball too much over the plate. After that, I got my curveball working and I was focusing on the corners and throwing the hitters off-balance.”
Lebanon rallied somewhat in its half of the fifth when Caleb Broughton singled home Brady Bates and Levy Byrd, but Post 22 couldn’t scratch anything more off Constant, who allowed only two hits while striking out eight batters and walking three.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to their pitcher because he threw lights-out tonight,” Dustin Broughton said of Constant, a rising junior at Nashua North High. “We had one bad inning and got down early and it’s tough to come back against a pitcher like that.
“He threw pretty hard and he was throwing his curve for strikes. After the third or fourth inning he threw even harder. He was tough.”
Lebanon, designated the semifinal’s visitors by a pregame coin flip, jumped to a 2-0 lead during the second inning. Robinson singled and Bryar Rouillard followed with a successful drag bunt. Byrd then hit a dribbler to the side of the pitcher’s mound and beat the throw to first, loading the bases.
Bates’ single scored Robinson for a 1-0 lead and Caleb Broughton pushed the advantage to 2-0 when he drew a walk.
Exeter rallied with a leadoff single and a walk in the sixth. The next batter smashed a bouncer off the chest of third baseman Hussey and down the left field line, scoring a run and shifting momentum to the boys in blue.
That changed, however, when first baseman Bates fielded a hard grounder and threw home to catcher Tanner Simms, who tagged out hulking runner Henrik Barbin.
“I thought to myself, ‘Now we really have to shut them down,’ ” Bates said. “The next play, where we tagged (Barbin) out at home, it felt like that was a huge momentum boost for us and after that, Exeter just went flat. After that, we had a chance to put a dagger in them.”
Broughton said his heart dropped when Hussey couldn’t handle the hard-hit ball, but that he was impressed with his team’s resilience. Hussey soon caught a foul ball for the inning’s final out.
“It wasn’t a good feeling, but they really buckled down and refocused and got the job done,” the coach said. “That was awesome, because the game was on the line. (Hussey) could have been rattled, but all tournament, if something bad’s happened, we’ve forgotten about it and gone on to the next play.”
Broughton said this season’s success bodes well not only for Post 22 in coming seasons, but for baseball in the Upper Valley overall.
“We’re starting to get the really talented kids out playing for us and it made a difference,” he said. “This is the best level of baseball in the state and we were right there, one bad inning away from winning it. These guys can play.”
Notes: Lebanon played six tournament games and got six complete-game efforts from its pitching staff. … Bates is the nephew of Newport High baseball coach Bob Bates. … Exeter coach Dana Barbin is a former UNH hockey star who’s coached three sports for each of the last 26 years at Phillips Exeter Academy. His son, Henrik, is the junior Legion team’s standout first baseman. … Constant was honored as the 15-game tournament’s Most Valuable Player after earning two victories on the mound and batting .454 … There were 23 junior Legion teams in the state this summer.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.