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Junior achievement: Lebanon Post 22 gaining confidence as state tourney approaches

  • Weare Post 65 junior catcher Derek Daniels loses the handle on the ball as Lebanon Post 22's Calvin Bates slides safely in Lebanon's five-run second inning in Lebanon, N.H., on July 16, 2019. Lebanon won, 17-7. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Braeden Falzarano, left, congratulates Lebanon Post 22 junior teammate Ben Williams after he crosses the plate to score in the second inning of their game with Weare Post 65 in Lebanon, N.H., on July 16, 2019. Williams hit a triple and a single and Falzarano two singles in the team's 17-7 win. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Instead of sliding while stealing third base, Weare Post 65 junior's Peyton Marshall tries to dance around the tag by Lebanon Post 22's Ian Hedgepeth in the third inning of their game in Lebanon, N.H., on July 16, 2019. Marshall was tagged out and Lebanon won, 17-7. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon Post 22 junior pitcher Jorgen Leuthauser throws to the plate in the first inning of their game with Weare Post 65 in Lebanon, N.H., on July 16, 2019. Lebanon won, 17-7. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Maddock

  • Graham

  • Bates



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, July 19, 2019

LEBANON — A scary moment occurred on Tuesday with Sean Maddock batting for the Lebanon Post 22 junior American Legion baseball team at Lebanon High. Late in what would become a lopsided victory for the hosts, the Rivendell student took a pitch to the nose, crumpling in obvious distress.

On his feet after a couple of minutes, the outfielder jokingly noted a half-hour later that the ball’s stitches had left a distant impression upon his schnoz.

“Keep that ice bag on there!” barked assistant coach Dan Griswold. “How many times have I gotta tell you?”

Maddock is one of a handful of returning starters for Post 22, but hopes are nonetheless high that its young roster can equal or improve upon last summer’s third-place finish at the eight-team state tournament. This year’s event is scheduled for Aug. 2-6 at Salem’s Michele Park, and Lebanon (8-7) appears to have locked up a berth.

“Last year’s run included a lot of veteran pitching, and this summer we’ve used nine or 10 guys on the mound and they’re still working to get comfortable,” said fourth-year head coach Travis Pelletier, formerly a high school head man at Kearsarge and Rivendell. “But you have to have that kind of depth to make a tournament run, and we’re getting hot at the right time.”

The 2018 squad included the likes of infielders Nolan Gantrish and Kobe Benoit, outfielder Trey Chickering, pitcher Kyle Pelletier and utility man Kyle Young. All have moved up to the senior team, which also finished third in the state last season.

In their place are players such as the much-heralded Ben Williams, a rising Hanover High freshman and center fielder. Travis Pelletier said opposing coaches and players are shocked to learn Williams is so young. Lithe and deceptively speedy, the youngster bats leadoff for Post 22, for which he was expected to play last summer before a scheduling conflict arose.

“He’s just a natural,” Pelletier said. “He understands the game, and his approach is good. He’s a leader in center field. To think that he hasn’t spent a day in high school yet is amazing.”

Shortstop and pitcher Sam Sacerdote, another peach-fuzzed Hanover product, also comes in for praise from Pelletier, who bats Sacerdote and Williams at the top of the order.

“How much everyone’s improved is what’s impressed me the most,” the coach said. “The little things get better and better, and it’s just repetition and situational stuff that has to be fine-tuned. It wasn’t a lack of effort that hurt us during the start of the season, just some fundamentals that had to get better.”

One of those is communication. Who’s charging and who’s staying back on a bunt. When to throw ahead of a baserunner and when to throw behind him. Who covers which base in which situation. Teenagers unused to competing alongside each other can sometimes stay silent, but Post 22 conducts live batting practice and Pelletier demands meaningful chatter.

“It’s easy to hit and play defense if all you do is throw the ball in there,” he said. “It’s a lot different if it’s a scrimmage situation, with people running the bases.”

Maddock is the lone player on the 18-man roster not either already on or headed to play for Hanover High or Lebanon High. The Marauders also contribute infielders Mason Gantrish, Casey Graham, Ian Hedgepeth and John Hill, while the Raiders account for second-year starting catcher Calvin Bates, along with outfielders Jorgen Leuthauser and Braeden Falzarano.

Pelletier said his team’s pitching, which comes from nine or 10 sources, has taken time to develop because while many players were good enough to make high school varsities in the spring, only a few were advanced enough to get the ball regularly.

“Throw strikes and don’t fool around,” Pelletier said of his approach. “If you get ahead, you can throw your pitch, but walks lead to the defense becoming bored and that’s when errors come. If you pound the strike zone and work fast, people stay awake and pay attention.

“I’d much rather lose because of runs created by hits, not ones created by walks.”

Post 22’s pitching is aided by the lanky presence of Bates, who caught all season for Lebanon High and whose two younger brothers, rising freshmen twins Dawson and Sam, are also on the summer squad.

“Calvin brings a lot of leadership back there at a position that, at this level, is just as important as a pitcher,” Pelletier said. “He keeps our pitchers’ composure, and everybody looks up to him. Balls aren’t getting by him.”

Pelletier took over for John Grainger, who transitioned to become Hanover High’s top man. The two played together at Keene State and have a similar teaching mindset. The junior program has slowly strengthened over their combined tenure.

“Kids know what to expect from us from day one,” Pelletier said. “And I know better how to coach with more turnover from year to year than I would have in high school. I like this age group a lot because there aren’t as many distractions.

“They don’t miss a lot of time because of work or girls or the approach of going off to (college). They just want to play baseball, and that’s it.”

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