Oh Canada! South alum Finkelstein finds a title at McGill

Courtesy photo Former Nashua South pitcher Zach Finkelstein, left, is all smiles after helping McGill Univierity win its fifth straight Canada University World Series championship this fall. Canadian colleges play their regular season in the fall rather than the spring.

Baseball players are usually creatures of habit, and that was certainly the case with former Nashua High School South pitcher Zach Finkelstein, who decided a year ago to take an offer to attend and pitch for McGill University in Montreal.

Just one catch – Canada’s collegiate season is in the fall, where in the U.S. Fall ball for colleges is basically a brief exhibition season. But in Canada, it’s the main deal. And Finkelstein is glad it is, because McGill won its fifth straight Canadian University World Series Championship last month in Ottawa, beating the University of New Brunswick.

“It was awesome, an unbelievable experience,” Finkelstein said. “It’s so much different than anything I’ve done before. … Everyone just has one goal in mind, it’s all we were thinking about, and such a great experience when it happened.”

McGill survived two weekends of qualifying play, and then advanced to the six-team round robin national tournament. It survived that to be one of the top four seeds, won a semi and then advanced to the finals. The Redmen went 34-9-3 in the regular season and 9-2 in the post season.

Finkelstein made four starts during the regular season, with three relief appearances, finishing with a record of 2-0 and a miniscule 0.39 earned run average in 23 innings with one save. He allowed 10 runs on 17 hits but only one was earned, and he struck out 24 while walking 12.

Finkelstein adjusted to coming out of the pen, while he was usually a starter here in New Hampshire. “It’s different, you come out of the pen and you get fired up to throw to three or four guys. Definitely something I enjoyed, but I felt I was able to adjust pretty well and help the team where they needed me.”

Usually hard thrower, he was able to go with two pitches (fastball-curve) in relief appearances, mainly as a setup. He actually started the first game of the national tournament round robin vs. Acadia, going four innings, which was the plan. He was pulled early in a lopsided, mercy rule win so he would be able to continue further in the tourney in relief.

How did he arrive at McGill?

Finkelstein met with the school’s coaches at a camp on Long Island, N.Y. he was attending in the summer of 2017 and committed last December.

“It wasn’t one of the schools I was thinking about at the time,” he said. “I’d been to Montreal before, loved the city, went for a visit and was able to practice with the team and meet all the guys. I felt like it would be a really good fit for me.”

And winning a championship made it even a better fit. Finkelstein was able to jump right in to compete even after a full spring and summer season. Ironically, McGill will play exhibition games in the spring and then not start its defense of its fivepeat until mid-August. The former Panther, who is studying economics, is still eligible for American Legion ball this summer and plans to pitch for the Nashua Legion team again. Then McGill’s season will begin the third weekend in August, and he’ll be there long before for training camp when U.S. College pitchers are resting their arms after the long school season and summer ball.

“It’s definitely a different adjustment with the weather here and how schools schedule it,” Finkelestein said. “I think coming out of a high school and a summer season it’s a big adjustment. In a fall ball season I’d only be playing on the weekends, and I would now be going back into that high school/summer season (mode) where I’d be playing four or five days during the week. So it was definitely a big adjustment, tough on your body, but you have to just keep grinding through it.”

Finkelstein said he was concerned about some wear and tear on his arm, but took care of himself.

And won a title.

“It was definitely worth it in the end,” he said, “as the season turned out. … It was fun. It was definitely a lot of fun.”

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The Rivier University women’s volleyball team cruised through the Great Northeast Atheltic Conference tournement until, as expected, it reached the finals and ran into the machine known as Johnson & Wales.

The Raiders fell this past Saturday by a 3-0 count (25-17, 25-17, 25-18). Litchfield’s Courtney Collins had eight kills while Halyey Macken had five kills and 19 assists to lead the Raiders.

In the semis, the Raiders topped fell New Hampshire school Colby-Sawyer 3-1 behind Collins with 15 kills and a .407 hitting percentage. Jessica Whyte added 13 kills and three blocks. The Raiders finished a highly successful season – perhaps better than anticipated – with a 27-7 mark. The trip to the finals was its 14th since 2002.

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Still on Rivier, the Raider men’s basketball team took the Lundholm Gym floor on Tuesday night against – yes, you guessed it – the University of New Hampshire Wildcats.

For UNH, this was the start of their regular season. For the Raiders, who aren’t technically able to play an official game in Division III until Thursday, and they open up officially Friday vs. Newbury at the Muldoon Center at 7 p.m.

Why play UNH, which would clearly be a lopsided affair, even as an exhibition? Reportedly there was some financial incentive involved.

But besides that, Raiders head coach Lance Bisson had a couple of other reasons.

“I think it benefits us in two ways,” he said prior to last night’s game. “For our New Hampshire kids, it’s a good opportunity for them to play the top team in the state, it helps them in the overall experience.”

The second reason? Exposure, especially for recruiting some of the talent on the seacoast. A few potential recruits were expected to be in attendance last night.

“We’re going to try to do a better job for the players in New Hampshire to keep them around here,” he said.

Riv has seven New Hampshire players on this year’s roster, including Nashua North alum Nate Hale, who transferred from Plymouth State, and freshman Alex Hill from Souhegan/Amherst.

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Here’s a look at some recent accomplishments from late regular season and post season games/events for other local college athletes:

Nashua’s Abby French had quite the season for the St. Michael’s (Colchester, Vt.) College women’s cross country team.

This past weekend she finished 14th out of 144 runners in the Northeast-10 Conference championship meet at the Hopkinton State Fairgrounds, running a personal best 22:36.2.

The performance helped French, a junior and alum of the Academy of Notre Dame, land second team All-Conference. Her previous best in the NE-10 Meet was 38th.

Also, recently the Academy of Notre Dame alum finished fourth out of 124 runners in the Bruce Kirsh Cross Country Cup at the Hopkinton State Fairgrounds, with a time of 18:52.1. It was her 11th career top 10 finish as well as her fifth top 10 showing in as many races this year. The five consecutive top 10 finishes is the longest streak by a Purple Knight since 2013…

The college swimming season is underway and a couple of former area high school standouts are off to a good start with Bentley University. On the women’s side, Nashua North alum Emily Sweet finished second in the 200 back in a recent win over Wheaton College in 2:12.85. Meanwhile, former Bishop Guertin standout and three-time Telegraph Swimmer of the Year Mark Zoda finished tied for first in the 100 free in a similar win over Wheaton. Zoda’s time was 48.30. Zoda was also part of two winning relays…

Courtney Koran is a champion. The former Hollis Brookline tennis standout is a member of the SUNY New Paltz SUNYAC champion tennis team. After seven straight seasons of coming up short, the Hawks recently downed SUNY Oneonta to win the conference crown….

Mont Vernon’s Izzy Anton posted a pair of stops in St. Joseph (Maine) College’s 5-0 recent win over Colby Sawyer….

Amherst’s Rachel Lia is member of the eight-women Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s rowing team, recently named as a unit the school’s Female Student Athlete of the Week. The team finished third in the prestigious Head of the Charles regatta in 18:42.328, behind only defending national champion Bates and Williams…

Merrimack’s Joanne Coffey added 11 assists and a pair of aces in a recent Southern New Hampshire University 3-2 win over Pace University…

Still at SNHU, a former Daniel Webster student from Nashua is seeing time on the Penmen field hockey team. Junior forward Megan Lewis-Taylor has a goal and an assist on 10 shots. Last year she had two goals and an assist in 11 shots for the Penmen.

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