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Monday, June 16, 2014

Cougars’ pride on display before, during and after title game

Tom King

Hail to the Cougars.

Campbell High School has quite an athletic program going, and in the spring you can pretty much count on softball and baseball going deep into their respective tournaments. ...

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Hail to the Cougars.

Campbell High School has quite an athletic program going, and in the spring you can pretty much count on softball and baseball going deep into their respective tournaments.

OK, those roots are there. But what the Cougars baseball team accomplished on Saturday was pretty special, especially with the adversity it has faced.

Their whole mantra was “family” and that they are not a one-man team. But we would argue that there’s no way these Cougars win their third Division III title, beating Somersworth 3-2 on Saturday, without two people. Their leaders: coach Jim Gorham and senior captain Christian Bourgea.

Bourgea came of age this spring. He is that player that coaches fear the day when they no longer can pencil his name into the lineup. That will happen for Gorham next spring as Bourgea will be on a college campus somewhere and not swinging a bat on the fields behind the Campbell school building.

The kid is a calm, cool individual. But he was the whole key to this team because he showed the Cougars the way. In his final at-bat, he beat a pitcher, Hilltopper Mike Paquette, who had manhandled him all season, including his first two at-bats on Saturday.

“It was awesome,” Bourgea said of Saturday’s win. “It was a great way to end my senior year, my high school career, and I wouldn’t choose any other team to do it with.”

Words like that tell you why Gorham knew Bourgea’s button was the one to push prior to Saturday’s game.

“Christian had one hit in three championship games,” Gorham said of Bourgea’s big sixth-inning triple. “I challenged him on the bus today. I said, ‘You have to have the big hit.’ And he crushed that ball. That is out of almost any ballpark anywhere.

“Paquette had a very good game plan for him. He threw balls that kept moving up and away. You could see – my point of view (from the third base coach’s box) was better than anyone’s – he wasn’t missing it by much. But he was missing it.”

Not in his final at-bat, he didn’t.

“I told them before they went up to bat (in the sixth), if you want to be a championship team, this is when a championship team steps up,” Gorham said. “This is our last at-bat. Our real last at-bat. If it’s a heavyweight fight, you have to start throwing all the punches you have left in the 15th round right now. We had 2-3-4 in our lineup coming up. If we didn’t do it then, it was going to be tough.”

“It’s not the depth of the team, that’s a great program over there,” Somersworth coach Dave Kretschmar said. “It’s not about one guy.

“It’s the same thing as us. We’re a good program, and it’s not about one person. Jim knows that and he recognizes it.”

This title meant a lot to Gorham. He is one heck of a coach, but good coaches not only teach their players about the game, they teach them about life. His Cougars had to overcome the adversity of losing one of their best players, Connor Sahlin, for alleged disciplinary reasons. They had to learn how to persevere, overcome roadblocks and make due.

His speech to his players after the game about how life was not about materialistic things lasted about 30 seconds but was a classic. Gorham is old school, and today’s kids aren’t going to like that. But his guys move on, they play in college, and they realize what they learned was valuable. That’s why a lot of them come back to help out the program when they can. You can tell a lot about a coach from that.

That’s why Gorham had a special feeling when Cougars pitcher Ryan Glendye threw the final pitch to end Saturday’s game.

“I thought No. 1 would always be the best,” Gorham said. “But I tell you, I started welling up when he threw the third strike, just watching them, because I knew how hard they worked the last two weeks.

“In ’06 I knew I had the horses right away. There were too many doubts (this year). The only ones who really believed were these kids. … My God, this is unbelievable right now.”

You get the feeling Gorham was amazed at what they did do. He was amazed at the team’s unity, which really was born when they won those two games on the last day of the regular season and junior outfielder Kyle Manning bellowed on the bus ride home, “We didn’t become a team today, we became a family.”

With Bourgea as its leader.

“He’s been a great captain to all of us,” Glendye said.

“Christian’s huge,” junior catcher Zach Byers said. “Christian’s been our biggest player all year. He’s the clutchest player we have. That was just amazing, I can’t believe he did that.”

Gorham will take one big Bourgea memory with him.

“That thing Christian hit,” Gorham said, “that will stay in the back of my mind forever.”

And the day will be in the forefront of his memory vault for a long time.

Hail to the Cougars, indeed.

Tom King can be reached at 594-6468 or
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