Run Ends for Post 22 Juniors
Lebanon Suffers Drama-Filled Extra-Inning Loss in Semifinals
Jake Tetley of the Lebanon Post 22 junior American Legion delivers a pitch Wednesday against Bedford in the state semifinals at Manchester's Gill Stadium. Lebanon lost, 8-7, in 10 innings. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Nate Perkins leaves the field at Manchester's Gill Stadium on Wednesday after walking in the deciding run during Lebanon Post 22's 8-7 loss in the junior American Legion state semifinals. The contest lasted 10 innings, Lebanon's second consecutive game of that length in two days. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Manchester — The Lebanon Post 22 junior American Legion baseball team experienced a walk-off ending Wednesday during the state semifinals at Manchester’s Gill Stadium. Unfortunately for the visitors, the result wasn’t what they were hoping for. Bedford scored the winning run for an 8-7 victory when it drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 10th inning.
The loss left Lebanon one game short not only of a berth in the state title game against Dover, but also of a spot in the upcoming weekend’s Northeast Regional tournament, hosted by New Hampshire at the same location. The Granite State’s top two finishers earned spots in that draw.
Post 22 couldn’t be accused of exiting easily after defeating Dover in 10 innings Tuesday night during a game that finished after 11 p.m. Wednesday’s game began at 4:30 p.m., and didn’t end until nearly four hours later, delivering assorted plot twists and dramatic moments along the way.
“Last night was a game I’ll never forget and tonight, we had chances to win and finally, those walks in the last inning killed us,” said Lebanon coach John Grainger. “We just ran out of gas at the end.”
The last at-bat began when Lebanon pitcher Parker Thurston, a Hanover High student who’d been throwing since the sixth inning, sandwiched a pair of walks around a strikeout. The big lefthander then uncorked a wild pitch that moved the runners to second and third base and Grainger tossed Nate Perkins into the fire as his third reliever of the day.
Perkins ran up a 2-0 count on the next batter, prompting Grainger to then order an intentional walk to load the bases and, hopefully, set up an inning-ending double play. However, Bedford’s Bryan Fyfe drew another walk, ending Lebanon’s season.
“I put him in pretty much the same situation last night, too,” Grainger said. “He hasn’t pitched a ton for us and he had to come in without any (bullpen) warmup pitches. But he’s mentally tough and a good player who will be put in more of those situations. When he gets older, he’ll begin to thrive on them.”
Subdued Lebanon fans leaving the stadium had to be mulling over the ninth inning, which was a crucial point of the contest. Lebanon took an 7-6 lead when Chase Hussey drew a leadoff walk, was sacrificed to second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Perkins sacrifice fly.
Thurston drew a one-out walk shortly after Hussey and reached third on the scoring play, but was stranded there when Matt Sullivan flied out.
Bedford began its half of the ninth by drawing a leadoff walk and pushing the runner to third base with a pair of groundouts. The next batter, Ben Jones, had two strikes on him and hit a routine ground ball to shortstop, but reached base when Levy Byrd bobbled the chance. A run scored for an 8-8 tie.
“He just got an in-between hop and that’s going to happen,” Grainger said of Byrd. “It’s tough for the kid, because he’s going to remember that one for a long time. But losing’s a part of the game.”
Said Lebanon catcher Tommy Jenkins: “It’s tough that we had a lead in extra innings and couldn’t pull it off. We needed just one more strike and then we got a routine ground ball and couldn’t get it done.”
Lebanon (12-7) trailed 2-0 after an inning but pulled within 2-1 in the third. Bedford touched Post 22 starting pitcher Jake Tetley for three more runs and a 5-1 lead in its half of that inning, but Lebanon answered with four runs of its own in the fourth and pulled into a 5-5 tie.
Bedford went up 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth, then was tied at 6-6 in the sixth, which featured a fabulous, laser throw from Lebanon right fielder Steve Cerrone to cut down a runner at home.
“He saved the game at that point,” an admiring Grainger said. “Sullivan was playing first base and he should have been the cutoff man, but I’m glad he wasn’t there, because it was a perfect throw.”
As the game wore on, however, Lebanon’s focus and execution started to fray.
“I could tell we were pretty tired, just physically and mentally beat,” Jenkins said. “It exposes you to more chances to make mistakes in the field.”
Thurston allowed no hits and an unearned run in five innings while striking out three batters and walking six. He hadn’t pitched for the Post 22 junior team in weeks, Grainger said, while also playing for the organization’s senior team and seeing more time on the hill with that squad.
“It’s a tough loss, but we have to deal with it and come back stronger next year,” Thurston said. “If we could have gotten one more pitch, one more out at the right time, it would have been perfect.
“It’s never easy to lose this way, but we went down hard and with honor.”
Will Smith had two hits, including a double for Lebanon, which also received a three-run triple from Cerrone during the fourth inning.
Grainger, a first-year coach whose squad fell into the losers’ bracket with an opening day loss last Friday, said he was pleased with the season overall.
“I think we’ve done a good job of teaching the kids the things they’ll need to know to be successful at the next level,” he said. “They know what dedication means and I had (opposing) coaches ask me how we get our kids to play and practice six days a week and come to home games two hours early for drills.
“But that’s what we expect, and I think the kids will be pretty happy about the summer they spent with us, despite the way it ended.”
Later Wednesday, Dover won the championship with a 10-0, five-inning win over Bedford.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.