Nashua Junior Legion off to brilliant Final 8 start

Zach Rioux makes the play for Nashua.

PORTSMOUTH – For all the noise Newmarket Post 67 made a year ago at this tournament, its bats were every bit as quiet on Saturday.

Defending state and regional champion Newmarket was held to just two hits, left a half-dozen runners on base in the first four innings and fell to Nashua, 9-0, in the opening round of the Junior Legion state tournament at Leary Field.

A tight game got broken open in the seventh when Nashua sent 11 batters to the plate against two relievers and scored seven runs, leaving the defending champs one game away from elimination.

“Focus,” said Newmarket coach Chad Pomeroy, asked what his team needed to do better. “We just came in a little bit flat. That’s not the team we are; we’ve got fire. There were opportunities. We hit the ball at people again. But I think a little bit more focus and coming out a little bit stronger would have been great.”

Newmarket (12-7) will play the loser of the Dover-Merrimack game in a losers bracket game Sunday (10 a.m.).

Declan Daubney and Nick Berthiaume had the only hits for Newmarket, bases-empty singles in the first and third innings, respectively.

Pitchers Alex Lambalot (four innings) and Isaac Zhang (three innings) combined on the shutout.

“We were waiting for this all year, to put it together at the right time,” said Nashua coach Jeff Lunn. “Pitchers were throwing strikes, defense was solid behind them and the approach at the plate was perfect.”

Newmarket’s state title a year ago was clinched with a 4-3 win over Nashua, whose returning players had big games Saturday.

Third baseman Matt Thibault, the team’s top hitter, had two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored. Shortstop Zachary Rioux (two hits, three RBIs) and catcher Kevin Collins (two hits, two RBIs) also produced.

Revenge factor? They said no.

“I didn’t really talk about that,” said Lunn. “I may have mentioned that we lost to them last year but it wasn’t a big talking point. I just wanted us to come out and play hard.”

With two on and two out in the top of the first, Nashua (11-6) struck when Rioux’s liner got over the head of the centerfielder for a two-run double, the second hard-hit ball of the inning that seemed to get misjudged.

“It was huge,” said Linn. “Two outs, he catches that it completely changes the aspect of the game. After that we didn’t look back.”

Coffey, who will be a sophomore at Newmarket High School, didn’t yield anything after that, retiring nine in a row at one point and allowing just one more hit before leaving with one out in the fifth, the game still 2-0. He did not walk a batter and struck out four.

“Stephen Coffey pitched an excellent game, did a great job of keeping us in it,” said Pomeroy. “Those two balls, we should have had Coffey’s back on those, definitely. But we should have been able to come back with our bats we’ve had all year long and pull this out.”

The closest Newmarket came to plating runs came in the fourth, when it had runners on first and third with one out. But Lambalot got a strikeout and a pop-up to first to escape the jam.

Nashua’s seven-run seventh was highlighted by two-run hits by Thibault, DH Braden McDonnell and Collins. It gets an afternoon date against the Dover-Merrimack winner on Sunday (3:30 p.m.).

On the other side, Pomeroy said Daubney will take the mound on Sunday as Newmarket tries to keep its season alive and spark another deep run.

“We can do it,” said Pomeroy. “We’ve just got to show up to play every single game.”