Lebanon has chances but still can’t solve Hanover baseball mystery

Ryan Lundrigan, of Lebanon, slides safely into third base before Finn Ware, of Hanover, can locate the ball in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. Hanover won 7-5 in eight innings. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Ryan Lundrigan, of Lebanon, slides safely into third base before Finn Ware, of Hanover, can locate the ball in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. Hanover won 7-5 in eight innings. (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 photographs — James M. Patterson

Jackson McBride, of Hanover, right, slides safely into third base before Cole Ripley, of Lebanon, can tag him out in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. Hanover won 7-5 in eight innings. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Jackson McBride, of Hanover, right, slides safely into third base before Cole Ripley, of Lebanon, can tag him out in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. Hanover won 7-5 in eight innings. (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 — James M. Patterson

Lebanon Assistant Coach Chris Bahara, right, talks with pitcher Declan Brandis, left, after he held Hanover through a scoreless sixth inning in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. The score remained tied at 3-3 through the seventh inning, and Hanover scored four runs in the eighth to win 7-5. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Lebanon Assistant Coach Chris Bahara, right, talks with pitcher Declan Brandis, left, after he held Hanover through a scoreless sixth inning in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. The score remained tied at 3-3 through the seventh inning, and Hanover scored four runs in the eighth to win 7-5. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

George Tafe, of Lebanon, stretches, but can not reach the ball as Wyn Casey, of Hanover, reaches second base in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. Hanover won 7-5 in eight innings. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

George Tafe, of Lebanon, stretches, but can not reach the ball as Wyn Casey, of Hanover, reaches second base in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, April 26, 2024. Hanover won 7-5 in eight innings. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-28-2024 6:26 PM

Modified: 04-28-2024 9:25 PM


LEBANON — Lebanon High baseball coach Chauncey Wood stood on the first-base line on Friday afternoon, arms akimbo and staring into center field as if the answer to his team’s 7-5 loss to Hanover was hidden somewhere in the distant grass.

The Raiders, who fell in eight innings, haven’t beaten their archrival since 2018 and are 3-12 against the Bears since 2016.

“We shouldn’t have even been in extra innings,” said Wood, his trademark beard fairly bristling with frustration. “We made a couple of (mistakes) at shortstop and had guys in scoring position three out of the first four innings and didn’t get the timely hit.”

The result was the third consecutive loss for Lebanon (2-3), all by a single run. Most years, it takes 10 or 11 victories to feel confident of an NHIAA Division II home playoff game, so both the Raiders and Bears probably need to win eight of their remaining 11 contests to do so.

Lebanon, 44-60 during its last seven seasons, hasn’t hosted a postseason contest in that time. Wood is in his fourth season at the helm.

Hanover (2-3) entered with a three-game losing streak of its own, surprising for last year’s top-seeded playoff team. Then again, the undefeated Bears were upset by eighth-seeded Plymouth during their first postseason game and haven’t looked quite right since.

“It’s not really what I was expecting this year, but we ran into a really good pitcher against John Stark and then we didn’t hit against Pelham or Pembroke,” said ninth-year Hanover coach John Grainger.

“Today we had much better, patient at-bats. We weren’t jumpy and trying to make things happen when they weren’t there.”

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Hanover used a Wyatt Daigle single, a sacrifice bunt, a 15-foot infield single and a sacrifice fly to take a 1-0 lead in the second inning. The Bears parlayed a Sam Loescher walk, a Jack Lobb single, a Jackson McBride double and a Daigle sacrifice fly to go up 3-0 an inning later.

Lebanon stranded four runners during the first three frames before producing a 3-3 tie during the fifth. A two-out rally against Hanover’s starting pitcher, Jake Toulmin, saw Zach Aldrich deliver a one-run double and Bennett Hewett a two-run single during consecutive at-bats.

Toulmin, who allowed five hits and three runs, all earned, during five innings, was replaced by Allie Muirhead. Toulmin struck out 10 Raiders and walked two.

Lebanon’s No. 8 hitter, George Tafe, stroked a two-out infield single off Muirhed and took second base on a wild pitch. Jack Clary followed with a grounder to McBride at shortstop. The senior bobbled his initial chance but grabbed the ball on his second try and alertly fired to third, nabbing Tafe, who had rounded the bag and was a couple steps towards home.

Tafe “wasn’t very far off the base, but he didn’t know where the ball was and then he had to get control of his momentum,” said Grainger, noting his team practices such plays. Lebanon also had a runner picked off first base during the game.

Hanover put two runners in scoring position during the seventh. Lebanon’s Declan Brandis relieved starter Aldrich with two outs and induced a ground out and a fly out to extinguish the threat. Aldrich allowed seven hits and three runs, all earned, in 5⅓ innings. He struck out four Bears, walked one and hit one.

Lebanon leadoff man Nick Brill singled to begin the Raiders’ half of the seventh. Dominic Calandrella lined softly to second for the first out, prompting Grainger to intentionally walk Aldrich. Hewett lined out to second and Ben Achmoody grounded out to end the inning.

Hanover exploded for fourth runs during the eighth. Hayden Avard, Finn Ware and McBride belted doubles, JoJo Drent had a single and Muirhead reached base on an error.

“I think they were sick of losing,” Grainger said of his players. “I’m OK with struggling at the beginning of the season, as long as it doesn’t become a habit.”

Brill had two singles and a double for Lebanon, which received a single and a double from Aldrich. Hanover’s McBride had a single and two doubles, Muirhead had two doubles and Avard had a single and a double. Lebanon committed no errors and Hanover two.

The teams play again May 20 at Norwich’s Dresden Athletic Fields.

Notes: Grainer used an electronic device on his belt and a microphone at his neck to call pitches and give directions to Avard. The one-way communication system cost roughly $500, the coach said. Lebanon assistant Chris Bahara said the Raiders have a similar setup but haven’t chosen to use it yet this season. … McBride plans to take a postgraduate year at either Massachusetts’ Deerfield Academy or at Connecticut’s Avon Old Farms school. Former Hanover star Ben Williams, now a senior for AOF, committed to play at Boston College late last year, choosing the Eagles over Penn State and Rutgers. … The tattered U.S. flag above Lebanon’s dugout was replaced during an American Legion Post 22 ceremony before the game, complete with trumpet interludes. … Hanover and Lebanon have often been able to play each other in baseball and softball at Dartmouth College’s fields once a season. However, the college recently notified the schools that arrangement won’t occur for at least the next five years. Ongoing construction was given as the reason, said Hanover athletic director Megan Sobel. … Hewett is headed to play NCAA Division III baseball for Clark University in Worcester, Mass., next season. The Cougars are currently 20-16 and 4-9 in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.