Nashua, Merrimack set for NH American Legion Senior Baseball tourney

Staff photo by TOM KING Merrimack Post 98 hurler Pat Harrington checked Nashua on just two hits en route to a complete game 9-0 win in the first game of Friday's Legion doubleheader at Holman Stadium.

From opening night in Exeter, Nashua American Legion Post 124 manager Tim Lunn has been pounding out the message of a proper approach at the plate.

Young hitters, with limited wooden-bat experience, have been pleaded with to go with the pitch, work counts into your favor and take good swings at good pitches.

“It’s been a growing process all summer,” said Lunn, who drove his squad hard through a 30-game (including non-district games) schedule. “All the work, in practice, games and in the batting cage, is beginning to pay off.”

Nashua will represent District B in the Senior American Legion State Final 8 Tournament, which kicks off Friday at Gill Stadium in Manchester, the No. 3 seed in District B with an 11-5 record, Post 124 will face Lebanon at 1:30 p.m.

Lunn comes in confident, his group brimming with confidence and postseason experience.

“It’s one of those things, (until 2017) we hadn’t been in the tournament for a few years,” said Lunn. “All the kids playing in this tournament played in either the junior or senior Legion tournament last year.

“I see a different level of commitment this year. They’re excited to play in this. It’s high energy baseball. It’s competitive. It’s a lot of baseball in a short amount of time. I think we are ready for it.”

Lunn likes the looks of things for his team,

especially pitching-wise as the five-day, double-elimination event unfolds.

“All summer we’ve played pretty consistent, and our pitching depth has been our strength,” said Lunn. “If we are going to make things happen, we’re going to need everybody.”

CJ Barrett, Zach Finkelstein, Noah Therrien, Joe Brown and Pat McCarthy have all been successful, chewing up innings for Nashua this summer. Lunn could run up to nine or 10 athletes out there if he has to on the mound.

Offensvely, Therrien, Trevor Kelly and Nik Direnzo have been stalwarts in the lineup.

“If we play good defense, we can play with anybody,” said Lunn. “If we play our game, we have the pitching depth to do it. That’s the key in a tournament like this.”

Merrimack Post 98 is also a part of the Senior Legion Final 8. The fourth seed out of District B, Merrimack will face Concord, Friday night at 7. Concord is the top seed in District A.

“What better way could you have to get going in this tournament than against the top team,” said Merrimack’s Jacob Grassett, a pitcher/shortstop. “We’re send our top pitcher against them (Bedford’s Patrick Harrington) and I like our chances. What a great testament to what our team can do.”

Grassett is a firm believer in this Merrimack team, has been since the season started practicing together in early June.

“There are a lot of close kids on this team, a great group of kids,” he said. “There are a lot of guys looking to play for each other. It’s been a great summer.”

Along with Harrington, Grassett and Milford’s Jamie Pare, Alex Thornton, Jake Mainey and Nick Dutton have all delivered serious innings of work.

Thornton, Justin Grassini and Cody Pfeifer have all loomed large at the plate for Merrimack.

Assessing the eight teams in the event, the consensus is that top seeds Rochester in District B and Concord from District A are the teams to watch.

But there is thought that District B, which produced Merrimack, Derry, Nashua and Rochester, was much stronger this summer top to bottom.

“Concord is definitely the class of that side, but it’s tough to gauge the other teams (Weare, Lebanon and Laconia),” said Lunn. “I feel like our district was a little bit tougher. We had two teams that missed the tournament with .500-plus records. I think that bodes well for all four of us playing from our side.”

JUNIOR LEGION FINAL 8 ON TAP, TOO

Both Merrimack and Nashua will be competing in the Junior Legion State Final 8, beginning Saturday at the State Final 8 in Portsmouth.

Nashua, at 10-6, is the third seed and opens at 10 a.m. Saturday, against Newmarket. Merrimack, which finished 6-10 in regular season district play, opens play Saturday against the top seed from District B, Dover, at 3:30 p.m.

The double-elimination tourney continues on throught Wednesday until a state champ is crowned.

Nashua manager Jeff Lunn will most likely hand the ball to Alex Lambalot on the mound in the opener.

“We’ll send Drevan Richard out there in Game 2,” Lunn said. “And then it’s playoff time. The entire bullpen has to be ready. All you can do is try to win and advance.”

“If we play a complete game, throw strikes and be solid defensively, I certainly think we can compete for this,” said Lunn.

Offensively, Matt Thibault, a third baseman, carries the top average on the team at over .400 into the postseason. First base/outfielder Hayden Shattuck can also be mighty tough at the plate.

Merrimack will wear the underdog tag. Pitching has been solid lately for Merrimack, which earned the final spot in the playoffs by splitting a doubleheader with Alton on the final day of the regular season.

“We’ve done well lately,” said Post 98 manager Zach Amodio. “Our guys have been getting ahead of hitters and throwing strikes.”

Mike Grover will most likely take the ball in the opener for Merrimack.

“He’s been our ace all year, and we expect him to come up big for us,” said Amodio.

Keaton Miller has delivered on the hill as well, lately.

“He’s been a huge surprise,” said Amodio. “He had just been playing shortstop for us, and we needed him on the mound. He really has stepped up for us.”

Miller has held down the leadoff spot in the lineup, too.

“He’s been on fire for us lately,” said Amodio.

Jake Mitchell and Mike Lyna have provided big hits all summer long for Merrimack.

New Hampshire Senior Legion State Tournament

All Games at Gill Stadium, Manchester

Friday, July 27

Game 1: Weare vs. Derry, 11 a.m.

Game 2: Nashua vs. Lebanon, 1:30 p.m.

Game 3: Laconia vs. Rochester, 4:30 p.m.

Game 4: Merrimack vs. Concord, 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 28

Game5: Loser game 1 vs. Loser game 3, 11 a.m.

Game 6: Loser game 2 vs. Loser game 4, 1:30 p.m.

Game 7: Winner game 1 vs. Winner game 3, 4:30 p.m.

Game 8: Winner game 2 vs. Winner game 4, 7 p.m.

Sunday, July 29

Game 9: Winner game 6 vs. Loser game 7, 2 p.m.

Game 10: Winner game 5 vs. Loser game 8, 4:30 p.m.

Game 11: Winner game 7 vs. Winner game 8, 7 p.m.

Monday, July 30

Game 12: Winner game 9 vs. Winner game 10, 4:30 p.m.

Game 13: Loser game 11 vs. Winner game 12, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, July 31

Game 14: Winner game 11 vs. Winner game 13, 4:30 p.m.

New Hampshire Junior Legion State Tournament

All Games at Leary Field, Portsmouth

Saturday, July 28

Game 1: Nashua vs. Newmarket, 10 a.m.

Game 2: Londonderry vs. Jutras, 12:30 p.m.

Game 3: Merrimack vs. Dover, 3:30 p.m.

Game 4: Portsmouth vs. Lebanon, 6 p.m.

Sunday, July 29

Game 5: Loser game 1 vs. Loser game 3. 10 a.m.

Game 6: Loser game 2 vs. Loser game 4, 12:30 p.m.

Game 7: Winner game 1 vs. Winner game 3, 3:30 p.m.

Game 8: Winner game 2 vs. Winner game 4, 6 p.m.

Monday, July 30

Game 9: Winner game 6 vs. Loser game 7, 12:30 p.m.

Game 10: Winner game 5 vs. Loser game 8, 3 p.m.

Game 11: Winner game 7 vs. Winner game 8, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, July 31

Game 12: Winner game 9 vs. Winner game 10, 4 p.m.

Game 13: Loser game 11 vs. Winner game 12, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, August 1

Game 14: Winner game 11 vs. Winner game 13, 4 p.m.