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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Merrimack, Campbell out to take final step

High School Baseball

There is never any shortage of local high school baseball teams still playing in June, right?

The only question every April is who they will be. ...

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There is never any shortage of local high school baseball teams still playing in June, right?

The only question every April is who they will be.

Last year, Merrimack and Campbell were the area teams playing on the final day. The year before, the Cougars were also busy on Championship Saturday, winning a championship.

See a pattern here?

Campbell coach Jim Gorham has established a program that expects to be competing for a title year in, year out.

This year is no exception. The Cougars return six starters from last year’s team that lost in the finals to Hopkinton, including starting third baseman and potential ace pitcher Connor Sahlin, as well as starting shortstop Christian Bourgea. Both were All-Staters a year ago and both are only juniors.

But both have already played in two state championship games.

“Except for ’06, this is by far and away the most experienced team I’ve had,” Gorham said. “You have over a handful of kids who have been in two championship games already.”

And that’s a key. There will be plenty of competition for the Cougars come tourney time, with Conant featuring a one-two pitching punch of Devin Springfield and Josh Leblanc, and Somersworth looking strong. There’s a few schools who also dropped down from Division II that could spell trouble.

In Division I, the Tomahawks start out fresh with a new coach, Nick Jaskolka, but return an All-State battery of senior hurler Matt Wojciak and catcher Mickey Gasper, a junior, and a heralded shortstop in junior Taylor Black.

“The returnees are hungry after a tough loss in the championship last year,” Jaskolka said.

Alvirne, with Mike Lee at the helm and bringing 30 years of head coaching experience, could surprise some teams led by junior All-State catcher Pat Emmanuelson. Bishop Guertin could be very strong with the one-two pitching combo of Jeff Lunn and Matt Morais and several senior returnees. “They could be the best area (Division I) team,” Lee said.

Nashua North has a new coach in former Titan player Kyle Harvell, and an ace in hurler Kyle McCarthy, but will need to hit. South has some more seasoning after going 6-12 last year and a returning All-State outfielder in senior Nick Reed. Around the state, some feel that Timberlane, with seven starters back from a 13-5 team, is the Division I team to beat.

In Division II, Souhegan has several returning players from a tournament team while Hollis Brookline has in coach Ryan Coulter’s mind a stronger pitching staff (at least seven who can throw) after a disappointing tourney showing last year. Milford, which didn’t make it a year ago, starts fresh with new coach Steve Claire. If that name is familiar, he’s a former Wilton-Lyndeborough standout who was once the Telegraph Player of the Year.

Speaking of Wilton, the Warriors won a tourney round last year but are rebuilding with a young team, as head coach Paul Trombley has eight freshman on the varsity roster.

Meanwhile, the tournament season will end a week earlier this year as gone is that long nine-day layoff in between the semis finals as Manchester’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium is available for the Saturday, June 8 following mid-week semis. If the Cougars make the title game again, they’ll be in the feature game for the first time as right now the Division III game is set for a 7 p.m. first pitch.

But while the spring season goes by quick, it’s still a long way away.

DIVISION I

ALVIRNE

COACH: Mike Lee (30th year).

2012: 7-13, lost to Merrimack in prelims.

RETURNING STARTERS: Dakota Williams, sr. dh-p-1b; Tyler Brown, jr. p-inf; Pat Emanuelson, sr. c; Mike Sirvydas, sr. ss-p; Anthony Cestrone, jr. cf; Luis Matrille, sr. rf; Derek Hudson, so. p-1b; Robbie Flohr, jr. p-lf.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Aaron Kellett, sr. inf-p; Greg Emanuelson, so. c; Dan Teague, sr. of.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Dan Brown, fr. 3b; Kyle McKinley, jr. p-of; Ethan Beals, jr. p-3b.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We’ve got experience with 11 returnees,” Lee said. “Our mental approach has to improve and the key is staying healthy.”

BISHOP GUERTIN

COACH: Scott Painter (third year).

2012: 10-9, lost to Nashua North in quarterfinals.

RETURNING STARTERS: Jeff Lunn, sr. p-inf; Matt Morais, sr. p-inf; Jon McQuarrie, sr., ss-p; Eric Damphousse, jr. of; Clint Fontanella, sr. of.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Andrew Mierzwa, jr. inf-p; James Commisso, sr. inf; Matt Blais, sr. 1b-dh.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Tim Donovan, jr. inf; Shane Nowak, jr. inf-of-c; Griffin Scanlon, jr. c-of; Andrew Williams, jr. p-of; Jason Ferlan, jr. p-1b-of; Quinn DiPasquale, jr. p-3b; Phil Meli, jr. c.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “I think we need to hit coming in,” Painter said. “The last couple of years we didn’t hit as well as we would’ve liked. And our pitchers need to throw strikes.”

MERRIMACK

COACH: Nick Jaskolka (first year)

2012: 16-6, lost to Concord in Division I finals.

RETURNING STARTERS; Matt Wojciak, sr. p; Taylor Black, sr.ss; Mike Gasper, jr. c.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Nate Cushman, sr. 1b; Brett Glendye, sr. 2b; Brenden Holt, sr. 3b-c; Cameron Knowles, sr. of.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Devin Gillis, jr inf; Connor Powell, jr. of; Mark Feeney, jr. of.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We must outwork and outthink teams,” Jaskolka said. “Our defense should keep us in games and we’ll take advantage of what the other teams give us offensively.”

NASHUA NORTH

COACH: Kyle Harvell (first year).

2012: 16-6, lost to Merrimack in semifinals.

RETURNING STARTERS: Matt Fortin, sr. c; Kyle McCarthy, sr. p-1b.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Mike Roberts, sr. p-1b; Brendan Martin, jr. ss; Spencer Madden,jr. 3b; Liam Curran, sr. 2b.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Zach Smith, jr. p; Diemitri Jackson, so. of; Steve Waible, jr. p-of; John Vidal, jr. p-of.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We’ve got to replace a lot of bats,” Harvell said. “We’ll pitch, and offensively it’ll be a lot of small-ball.”

NASHUA SOUTH

COACH: John Roper (second year).

2012: 6-13, lost to Concord in first round.

RETURNING STARTERS: Brad Deluca, sr. 2b; Nick Reed, sr. cf; Nick Penkala, sr. p; Joe Gouveia, sr. rf.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Juan Cruz, sr. 1b; Matt Detrich, sr. rf; Matt Byers, sr. 3b; Alex Dunn, sr. c.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Mike Habibi, so. ss; Josh Surrette, jr. inf-p; Kyle Burns, jr. inf; Sean Warneke, sr 1b; Josh Goulet, so. of, Chris Cruz, so. c.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “The big overall key is we have to do the small things,” Roper said. “Get bunts down, drive in runs from third with less than two out. And, make the routine plays. That absolutely killed us last year with errors.”

DIVISION II

HOLLIS BROOKLINE

COACH: Ryan Coulter (15th year).

2012: 11-6, lost to Kingswood in first round.

RETURNING STARTERS: Tim Rencken, sr. 1b-p; Jeremy Heard, sr. p; Cam LaFleur, jr. of-p; Mitch Frick, sr. of-p; Jared Cardoza, sr. p-inf; Austin Pigott, jr. inf-p.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Sam VanNoy, sr. c.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Shea Wallen, jr. 3b-p.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “I think our pitching staff is the strongest it’s been in awhile,” Coulter said. “We’ve got seven guys who can throw. We’ll have to manufacture runs and play defense.”

MILFORD

COACH: Steve Claire (first year).

2012: 6-10, missed tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Cam Douglas, sr. c; Logan Danforth, sr. p-1b; Connor Borne,sr. of; Nick Webster, sr. of-p; Bret Stagone, sr. inf-p; Ryan Britton, jr. p-of; Drew Jepson, so. 2b.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: None.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jesse Rood, jr. ss; Mitch Roske, jr. of; Trey Hoffhein, jr. 1b-p; Kyle Ouellette, jr. of; Dan Finan, jr. inf; Joe Small, so. p-3b.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We have a hard working group of ball players,” Claire said. “If we limit our mental mistakes as the season progresses, we should play some good baseball.”

SOUHEGAN

COACH: Bill Dod (21st year).

2012: 8-9, lost to Goffstown in first round.

RETURNING STARTERS: Peter Bennett, sr. cf; Cameron Crook, sr. c; Tyler Ford, sr. ss; Andrew MacDonald, sr. lf-c; Tyrell Torres, sr. p-ss.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Seth Learned, so. 3b.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Connor Cinque, sr. 1b-p; Austin Cote, sr. 2b; Michel Ehrenstein, sr. 1b-p; Alex Hansis, sr. c; John Hopfenspinger, sr. of; Bryce Knight, jr. p; Chandler Mackenzie, jr. p-of; Sean Mitchell, sr. inf; Steve Upton, so. cf; Kyle Vigneault, jr. p.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “The team is working hard to develop team depth and roles for each individual,” Dod said. “The strength of the team is the positive enthusiasm of each member of the program and the outstanding leadership of the seniors.”

DIVISION III

CAMPBELL

COACH: Jim Gorham (11th season).

2012: 16-5, lost to Hopkinton in finals

RETURNING STARTERS: Christian Bourgea, jr. ss; Cody Caron, sr. c; Cade LaCroix, sr. 2b; Jackson Musco, sr. of; Connor Sahlin, jr. 3b-p; Nick Freson, sr. 1b.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Kyle Manning, so. c; S. Zachary Byers, so. inf-of; Vincent Bucci, jr. inf-p; Robert Baril, so. of; Christian McKenna, jr. of; Chris Lowry, sr. of; Tyler Butler, so. p-inf.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Kyle Shaw, fr. of; Jason Rodonis, sr. of.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “This is one of the most experienced teams I’ve ever had,” Gorham said. “That will be our strength.”

DIVISION IV

WILTON-LYNDEBOROUGH

COACH: Paul Trombley (sixth year).

2012: 12-4, lost in second round.

RETURNING STARTERS: Patrick Martin, jr. p-inf; Brendon Hussey, jr. c; Kyle Pratt, jr. ss-of.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Connor Melrose, so. 1b-ss; Drew Reid, so. 2b.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Christian Seely, fr. p-inf; Nolan Steevens fr. ss-p; Jared Bean, fr. of-c.

KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEASON: “We have a very young team,” Trombley said. “But the boys are working hard on all aspects of the game – pitching, hitting, fielding, baserunning.”