It will be a daily grind for local high school baseball teams
By TOM KING
Time to dig out that tired Bill Belichick slogan for this year’s high school baseball season:
No days off.
It really does apply, especially in Division I, which now has 22 teams.
With Portsmouth, Goffstown and Windham, three traditionally prominent Division II programs, now in Division I, it will be a race just to make the playoffs, with 15 of the 22 getting in but the competition that much tougher. In the old 16-team tourney days, you were playing to maybe eliminate three teams.
Same story in Division II, now reduced to 21 teams, with 14 making it.
“You’re going to have to bring your A game every day in (Division) I if you want to qualify for the tourney,” Alvirne coach Mike Lee said.
Two-time champion Exeter is considered the favorite, along with Pinkerton while Bedford is said to be grooming a great group of sophomores.
But watch out locally for Bishop Guertin. The Cards were knocked off by rival Nashua North in the first round last spring, but have a lot of talented starters back looking to make amends, led by good hitters Alex George and Sam Boudreau, plus returning arms Brett Anderson and Noah Therrien.
“If we are able to compete at a high level both physically and mentally, we will have the ability to challenge the teams at the top,” Cards coach Scott Painter said, and he should be right.
Other tourney teams Nashua North and South will be battling to get back there. The Titans were three outs away from the semis but only have four starters bck, but two of them were All-State players, middle infielders James Bolton and Trevor Kelly. South is hoping junior Andres Hulfachor can anchor a pitching staff as one of six returning starters overall.
As for those who didn’t make it in Division I, Merrimack will hope to get improved hitting to help a returning infield and strong pitching to try to get back to the tourney for the first time since 2016. The Broncos had their moments last year but still slumped to 5-13. However, Lee, whose team didn’t get a complete game from a starting pitcher, is hoping this year they progress. “Our young infielders are going to have to make plays behind them and we need to find a way to get them a few runs.”
Those Division I moves leave a very different Division II that could have such favorites as Kennett, Plymouth, St. Thomas and maybe even a local like Souhegan in the hunt.
“That will open the door to many teams to challenge for the title,” said first year Sabers coach Tom Walker, one of four new area coaches but who steps into the legendary shoes of the retired Bill Dod. “I think it will be a very interesting year in our division.”
Walker has returning pitcher Jacob Grassett and Telegraph Co-Player of the Year Daniel Trezpacz back to provide a solid base for a contender. Milford has a team loaded with upperclassmen, many of whom were freshman when Todd Robichaud first took the coaching reins, so that will help. Hollis Brookline has the area’s third new coach, former longtime varsity assistant and JV coach James Sartell. The Cavs haven’t been in the postseason since they lost to Plymouth in the 2014 semis. Sartell has an upperclass group, led by senior catcher Kyle Hsu, that has been together for a while.
The fourth newbie? Campbell’s Drew Gora, their third coach in three seasons who has a handful of returnees led by junior Keegan Mills. The title years may take some work to bring that level back. Defending champ White Mountains lost just three seniors, so they may be in position to repeat, but there’s always plenty of contenders in Division III.
In Division IV, look no further than the local entry, Wilton-Lyndeborough. The Warriors made the semis last year and have lost just two starters from that team, and coach Dave Finch feels his pitching is the best its ever been. Heck, two eighth graders last year who are now freshman, twins Sean and Troy Brennan went a combined 10-0 on the mound. “We are all on the same page,” Finch said, “about what we need to do.”
Here’s a look at all the locals:
COACH: Mike Lee (37th year).
LAST SEASON: 5-13, did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Levi Griffin, sr. 2b; Ryan Santos, sr. of; Corey Cormier, sr. p-inf; Grady Hudson, jr. p-of; Alex Boulay, jr. p-of-inf; Jake Hobart, so. P-of-inf; Evan Beals, so.c.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Tyler Lizotte, sr. p-1b.
PROMOSING NEWCOMERS: Adam Scharn, jr. p-inf-of; Isaiah Power, jr. c; Nick Jacques, so.1b; Kyle Boulanger, so.ss; Jagger Forsyth, so.3b-p, Jake Dufour, fr. of.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have some guys who gained valuable experience last year,” Lee said. “We also could start five sophomores at times. They can play, but there will be growing pains.”
COACH: Scott Painter (ninth year).
LAST SEASON: 13-7, lost to Nashua North in preliminary round.
RETURNING STARTERS: Nolan Therrien, sr. of-p; Alex George, sr. c; Stephen McClendon, sr. inf-p; Aiden Coyne, sr. inf; Ryan Bue, sr. of; Taylor Proulx, sr. 1b-of; Brett Anderson, jr. 1b-of-p; Sam Boudreau, sr. c-1b; Aaron Zabawski, sr. p.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Gavin Boyce, sr. 3b-p; Brendan Boyce, sr. of-p; Andre LaPlante, sr. inf.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Mark McGaughey, sr. inf-p; Raymond Touchette, sr. p; Billy Gonya, sr. of.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We return a talented core group of players from the 13-7 team,” Painter said. “We need to continue to improve in all areas of the game and will need key contributions from a number of different players to reach our goals.”
COACH: Kevin Moyer (first year).
LAST YEAR: 3-17, did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS: Bobby Bunis, sr. 2b-p; Alex Caron, sr.of; Cole Keefe, sr. 1b; Cody Pfeifer, sr. 3b-p; Eric Stack, sr. c; Keaton Miller, jr. ss.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Nick Demattia, jr. 1b-p; Jack Goodwin, jr. of-p; Mike Grover, jr. inf-p; Ryan Ivester, jr. 3b-p; Ben Flanders, so.c; Mike Lyna, so.of.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Matt Dutton, jr.of; Ryan Williams, jr. inf-p; Steven Wilson, jr. of; Ayden Curren, fr.inf-p.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We return our starting infield and look for them to help anchor behind a deep pitching staff,” Moyer said. “We’ll work to improve at the plate.”
COACH: Zach Harris (second year).
LAST SEASON: 10-12, lost to Concord in quarterfinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: James Bolton, sr. inf; Trevor Kelly, sr. inf; Varun Lingadal, sr. inf-p; Joe Berman, sr. p.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Zach Iannone, sr. p-of; Jafet Rodriguez, sr. c-of; Brian Ascani, jr.of.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Tony Gallinaro, sr. of; Corey O’Day, so. c-inf; Alex Mesig, so..
COACH’S COMMENTS: “Last season was a great start to rebuilding the Nashua North program,” Harris said. “We will be relying on a lot of new faces to step up an fill roles that were held by last year’s senior class.”
COACH: James Gaj (sixth year).
LAST SEASON: 10-11, lost to Dover in preliminary round.
RETURNING STARTERS: Jake Smith, jr. of; Roe Hendrick, sr. of; Dante Young, jr. inf; Mason Matylewski, sr. 1b-c; Ryan Lopez, sr. 3b-c; Andres Hulfachor, jr. p.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Tanner :Plourde, sr. 2b; Nathan Cormier, jr.p; Chase Hart, jr. p.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Braden McDonnell, jr. 1b-c; Albert De La Rosa, fr. ss,
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We’re looking to continue positive growth that was exhibited last year,” Gaj said. “Our core is young, so we will be relying on strong senior leadership to pave the way.”
COACH: James Sartell (first year).
LAST SEASON: 6-10, did not qualify for tournament.
RETURNING STARTERS; Kyle Hsu, sr. c; Max Mello, sr. 2b-p; Joseph Messina, sr. ss-p; Grant Snyder, jr. p-of.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Henri Boudreau, jr. 1b-p; Nik Direnzo, jr. inf-p.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Ryan Coutu, jr. inf-of-p; Brandon Hsu, so.inf-p; Nathanie Sartell, jr. inf-of-p.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “This is a gritty group of players who have played with each other for years,” Sartell said, “and are committed to working together to win games. … We’re looking forward to putting the best team we can on the fiel and play to our potential.”
COACH: Todd Robichaud (fourth year).
LAST SEASON: 7-10, lost to Kennett in the preliminary round.
RETURNING STARTERS: Colin Pynn, sr. ss-p; Trevory Coyne, jr. cf; Max Fortin, sr. p-3b; Kolbe Heiple, sr. 1b-p; Sam Santaniello, sr. c.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Kyle Nostrand, sr. of; Cameron Meyer, sr. of-inf.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Ethan Golden, jr. inf-p; Nate Gagnon, jr. if-p; Brandon Shaw, so. Inf-p; Joe Shepard, jr. 1b-p.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “This team is very junior-senior heavy,” Robichaud said. “If we pitch well, play solid defense and get some timely hits, this could be a very successful season.”
COACH: Tom Walker (first year).
LAST SEASON: 7-9, lost to Hanover in preliminary round.
RETURNING STARTERS: Jacob Grassett, sr. p-inf; Daniel Trezpacz, jr. 1b-p; Sam Corbett, jr. inf-of; Aidan Casey, jr. inf-of; Aiden Casey, jr. inf.-of; Bobby Henline, jr. inf-of-p; Nick Wilson, so.inf-p.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Adam Levesque, sr. p-inf; Jeff Kiesewetter, sr. of.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Reece Colby, so.inf; David Reith, so.inf; Dylan Dufour, fr.p-inf; Kyan Baqshaw, fr.of-p.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “I believe we have the talent to challenge in Division II,” Walker said, “but we will not be able to take a day off to achieve our team goals.”
COACH: Drew Gora (first season).
LAST SEASON: 11-6, lost to Newport in preliminary round.
RETURNING STARTERS: Jake Donovan, sr. inf; Keegan Mills, jr. p-of; David Latsha, jr. of; Brett McIinerney, jr. c.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Logan Santos, sr. inf.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Matt Dion, jr. of; Matt Fortier.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “Our goal is to play strong, fundamental baseball, stay healthy, and get better every day,” Gora said.
COACH: Dave Finch (20th year).
LAST SEASON: 16-3, lost to Littleton in semifinals.
RETURNING STARTERS: Neal Brennan, sr. p-of; Owen Hughes, sr. c; Shane Partridge, sr.1b; Jacob Boette, jr. inf-of; Lucas Johnson, jr. inf-of; J.J. LeBlanc, so.of; Nick Hughes, so. C-of; Owen O’Halloran, so.of; Sean Brennan, fr.p; Troy Brennan, fr.p.
OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: None.
PROMISING NEWCOMERS: None.
COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have depth at every position and the best staff on the hill ever,” Finch said. “We expect to be a strong contender.”