Merrimack Legion stuns Concord in Final 8 opener

MANCHESTER – Good pitching beats good hitting, but good pitching can’t beat bad weather.

Only patience can.

Merrimack Post 98 closed out a long Day 1 as the State Final 8, defeating Concord 3-0, after a significant rain and thunder delay in the fourth.

Merrimack’s Patrick Harrington struck out seven Concord batters, including five straight between the second and fourth innings. Harrington took a no-hitter into the fourth, spoiled by inches when Kurtis Stadnicki narrowly legged out an infield

squibber.

Concord hurler Brian Nylen wasn’t as dominant, but still stymied Merrimack, which left three men on base before the delay.

Both teams sought to finish the game and after the weather improved, Merrimack came close to breaking the stalemate. A throwing error allowed Eric Stack to reach second with two men out, moving to third thanks to an infield single from Nick Dutton on the next at-bat. However, Stack saw a bobbled ball at first just after Dutton reached safely and he got greedy. Stack would be out by a country mile at the plate to keep the game scoreless.

Still, Concord couldn’t make the most of an opportunity of their own half an inning later, leaving a runner on second after three more consecutive Harrington strikeouts.

Merrimack finally broke the deadlock in the sixth, with Cody Pfiefer setting the stage with a double to left and Jacob Grassett bringing home on another double later in the inning.

Concord’s last gasp came in the sixth, as they put runners on first and second with no outs. However, a disputed tag at third following a bunt from (Concord) effectively stopped the rally, with Harrington recovering to retire the next two batters.

Merrimack began the seventh with three straight hits, ending their half of the inning with two insurance runs, and Harrington returned to retire the side in order to seal Merrimack’s win, ending the game with one last strikeout that coincided with another bolt of lightning visible in the distance. Harrington would end the contest with 11 strikeouts during the complete game victory, with Dutton and Alexander Thornton providing two hits apiece.

Merrimack takes on Lebanon Saturday at 7 p.m.

Proulx leads Derry

In one other game with a local interest, Bishop Guertin’s Taylor Proulx had two hits and drove in a pair of runs for Derry, which knocked off Weare, 8-7, in a thriller to start the day. Proulx also made a couple dandy defensive plays in right field.