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It might have been: Hanover trio back in diamond as college, prep baseball await

  • Hanover's Nolan Gantrish strikes out Jorgen Leuthauser of Lebanon, in Lebanon, N.H., Monday, April 29, 2019. Hanover won 2-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Joey Perras of Lebanon Post 22's senior American Legion baseball team leaves Nashua's Holman Stadium after their 10-3 defeat of Rochester Post 7 in an opening round game of the state tournament on July 26, 2019. Perras' hat became a rallying point during the game and the Hanover High student promised to bring it back for the next game. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jack Loftus of Hanover reaches to tag second as the ball skips out of the reach of Hunter Marsh, left, at Lebanon High School, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Lebanon won 6 - 5. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2020 9:25:28 PM
Modified: 6/20/2020 9:42:18 PM

HANOVER — Hanover High baseball coach John Grainger had seven dates postponed by weather or poor field conditions in the first month of the 2019 NHIAA Division II season. He’d have gladly taken that again in 2020 instead of the big bag of nothing the coronavirus pandemic left him and the Marauders.

The fifth-year Hanover coach had high hopes for this past spring, thanks to a roster with three potential college-level athletes in Joey Perras, Nolan Gantrish and Jack Loftus. From an 8-9 record a year ago, Grainger envisioned a Marauder squad capable of “12 wins, maybe 13, maybe 14,” he said last week. “We were going to be really good.”

He and other baseball-centered folks will at least have the chance of seeing what Hanover might have been with the arrival of the Upper Valley Anglers, a fill-in for the summer’s canceled Lebanon American Legion Post 22 team that begins play in the one-year New Hampshire COVID Baseball League on Monday night at Lebanon’s Eldredge Memorial Park. It will also be the chance for the St. Lawrence University-bound Perras, the Bridgton Academy-destined Gantrish and Loftus and the rest of a Marauder-heavy roster to get in the reps lost with the abandonment of their spring campaign thanks to the virus.

“I don’t know, but it obviously starts at the lower levels,” Grainger said in a phone interview. “We’re trying to keep kids in baseball as they get to that 12-, 13-year-old (age) when they make the jump to the big field. We have a group of parents involved at that lower level trying to keep the kids engaged.”

It’s apparently working with these three.

Grainger, a personal trainer at Lebanon’s River Valley Club, appreciates Perras’ work ethic. The primary goalkeeper in Hanover’s NHIAA Division I boys soccer championship run last fall, the right-handed pitcher was regularly sending Grainger video clips of his workouts until the spring season got shut down.

“His effort level is definitely there, which at Division III is going to set him apart from his peers,” Grainger said. “He’s consistently gotten better every year. High school pitchers need a little bit of help not overthrowing all the time and focusing on pitch delivery instead of velocity, but he’s been blessed with a good curve.”

Even with the long layoff — the NHIAA called off all spring sports before they could even start preseason preparations — Perras feels he’s in a good place for this new opportunity with the Anglers.

“I think I’m pretty ready,” he said at the team’s first practice on June 1. “I’ve been doing a long-toss program the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been on top of that. My arm feels live.”

Gantrish once had hopes of playing college basketball, “but I’m not very tall,” he joked during a Tuesday practice at Eldredge, “and that makes it tough.”

Unlike Perras and Loftus, Gantrish didn’t make the Marauder varsity until his sophomore season, and he didn’t start to realize what was required to attract college baseball interest until his junior campaign. That made the decision to attend Bridgton for a post-graduate year the best choice for him.

The Maine prep school runs a year-round baseball program. The fall season is largely spent at showcases that give the players access to college coaches and scouts. The spring is spent playing games against fellow prep teams and college junior varsities.

“The most important part is the fall baseball, because that’s all in front of colleges,” said Gantrish, who is expected to play middle infield and pitch with the Anglers. “The big thing is the fall baseball.”

Loftus has the potential to impress in both size and ability as a catcher, Grainger said. He hits well — Gantrish said Loftus batted .478 as a junior last year — and his speed on the basepaths may catch opposing teams by surprise.

Grainger reluctantly added Loftus to the Hanover varsity for his freshman season, the youngster’s ability winning out over his age. He sustained a season-ending hand injury in his only game then, but he’s made a good impression on the Marauder coach ever since.

“I don’t know what Bridgton has for a roster, but he’s a very talented catcher, one of the best general athletes I’ve ever coached,” Grainger said. “He’s incredibly fast, a great baserunner, gets great jumps. He’s unassuming out there ... I guarantee he’ll be one of the best hitters at Bridgton, and they’ll find a way to have him play.”

Grainger can now point to at least five former Marauders playing college or PG baseball, or at least pointing in that direction. That includes pitcher Moises Celaya is on the roster at Colby College, where he also kicks for the Mules’ football team, and outfielder Will Smith, who got in six games at Virginia’s Roanoke College this spring before a shoulder injury and the pandemic shut down his year.

That bodes well both for the Marauders’ present as well as their future.

“Coach Grainger, he gets us ready,” Gantrish said. “He’s prepared us for the last four years and made us better. He’s a great coach; he knows what he’s doing. None of us would be able to go to these places without him.”

As much as he laments Hanover’s lost spring, Grainger is happy that Perras, Loftus and Gantrish will at least get some diamond time with the Anglers before they move on. This summer is less about what didn’t happen and more about what could occur down the road for them instead.

“I think at this point, losing their whole spring season, they just need to get their baseball mindset going again,” Grainger said. “Just get out there and compete, because all three will have fall seasons. ...

“The biggest thing is how much effort they put into this year. It’s not expected from high school kids, nor is it the norm. They were really looking forward to the season. I’m glad they’ll get something.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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