For local baseball teams, 15 is an unlucky number
High school baseball coaches, if you see a slightly overweight, balding, poorly dressed but always smiling sports reporter show up at your game in the next couple of weeks, be afraid. Be very afraid.
He’s bad luck.
We mean really, really, really bad luck.
That’s got to be it, right? How else does one explain a bizarre three-day period at Holman Stadium last week? One in which two visiting teams – Pinkerton twice and Dover once – scored 15 runs each in three games against Nashua teams?
The first two scores were as follows: Wednesday, Pinkerton 15, Nashua North 0. Thursday, Pinkerton 15, Nashua South 0.
The pre-game remark yours truly made to Bishop Guertin coach Scott Painter on Friday before his game vs. Dover were, “Whatever happens, please don’t lose 15-0.”
The Cards didn’t. They lost 15-6.
Three days, 45 runs scored against the city’s teams. In their house.
Shouldn’t happen. All kidding aside, this can’t be blamed on just luck or bad karma. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the state of high school baseball these days, especially in Division I.
North committed seven errors on Wednesday. The Panthers made three, but really it’s a matter of scoring one way or another; you could have doubled that. Guertin made arguably a half-dozen. As Painter said, “You can’t beat the worst team in Division I that way.”
“It is high school baseball,” Dover coach John Carver said. “They’re still kids. You get disappointed, you get frustrated, it gets in your head, then the ball gets hit to you. Instead of it being a pumpkin, like it is when things are going well, it becomes a pea and that’s it.”
That’s usually the case in high school baseball, but like this? The Titans on Wednesday failed to get in front and knock down ground balls and ole’d them instead for some of their seven errors. As North coach Zach Harris said, “We took a million ground balls the last two days and it didn’t even look like we practiced.”
In South’s loss, the usual middle infield combo wasn’t the same with second baseman Alex Amigo out with an injury and starting shortstop Hunter Routhier on the mound. The result was a disaster, perhaps even a testament to the lack of depth that both North and South have compared to when there was one school.
The Guertin debacle on Friday was inexplicable. Pop ups dropped. Slow grounders bobbled. Ten unearned runs allowed in one inning, 14 for the game. The only reason the Cardinals had a 6-5 lead heading into the sixth was because this is a much better hitting, more athletic team than Guertin teams of the past. You had to love it – and some of the fans in the stands did laugh – when shortstop Steve McClendon finally gobbled up the third out of the inning, opting to run to second to get the force rather than risk an ordinary flip to second baseman Aiden Coyne. He wasn’t taking any chances.
Look, we’re never in the habit of criticizing high school athletes, or, for that matter, coaches. But the game has got to be played better. Consider that now the NHIAA rules of getting teams together in the off-season have been relaxed somewhat, and a lot of the serious or even semi serious ballplayers work out together indoors in the winter once a week under coach supervision, and with all the indoor facilities around, even more often on their own.
It’s a game of precision and skill, and unfortunately, mistakes made are more obvious than in any other sport. An offensive lineman may miss a block in football and we won’t see it. Maybe if an interception is thrown, at times you can say it’s a great play by the defender rather than a poor QB throw. A basketball defender gets beat on a layup and we chalk it up to the offensive player’s athleticism. Same with a hockey turnover, it’s the other player’s tenacity.
But in baseball, a ground ball is bobbled, a pop fly dropped, or a throw sails into the dugout, there’s no place for the guilty player to hide.
It’s true that Division I baseball seems down this year. The local highlight was the other night at Holman, hours after the first Pinkerton debacle, when Guertin’s Brett Anderson struck out 15 while tossing a one-hitter vs. Manchester Central.
It’s not just limited to the city limits. One team that always used to be immune for the most part to sloppy baseball was Campbell in Litchfield, a perrenial champion. But a couple of weeks ago yours truly shows up, and an un-Cougar-like fiasco ensued. The home plate umpire is a half hour late, and early walks and errors led to Somersworth taking a 9-0 lead. Final score: 15-2. Yup, 15 runs by the visiting team.
Now, it should be noted at that all these local teams mentioned are having winning seasons thus far. The area team having the best season, meanwhile, is Wilton-Lyndeborough in Division IV, 10-1 after Saturday’s reportedly ragged 22-11 win over Nute.
As of now, no truth to the rumor that Warriors coach Dave Finch has sent an email requesting that a certain local scribe be barred from his games.
But maybe he should.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK.firstname.lastname@example.org