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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Hampshire American Legion baseball tourney in Nashua

It took until the final game of the regular season, but the eight-team field for the American Legion Senior baseball state tournament has been determined and will get under way Thursday at Holman Stadium.

When Concord Post 21 wrapped up an 18-11, 15-inning win over Lebanon Post 22 Sunday evening – Post 21’s third road win in under 24 hours – it set up a four-way tie for third place in District A. Concord, along with Bedford Post 54, Milford Post 23 and Laconia Post 1, all finished the regular season at 11-7 in the district, but only two spots in the tournament remained. ...

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It took until the final game of the regular season, but the eight-team field for the American Legion Senior baseball state tournament has been determined and will get under way Thursday at Holman Stadium.

When Concord Post 21 wrapped up an 18-11, 15-inning win over Lebanon Post 22 Sunday evening – Post 21’s third road win in under 24 hours – it set up a four-way tie for third place in District A. Concord, along with Bedford Post 54, Milford Post 23 and Laconia Post 1, all finished the regular season at 11-7 in the district, but only two spots in the tournament remained.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head competition, and all three teams went 3-3 against each other; the second tiebreaker is record against tournament teams. Concord had a 5-5 record in such games, giving it the third seed over Bedford, Milford and Laconia, which were all 4-6.

To break the three-way tie between those three, the third tiebreaker – runs allowed in head-to-head games – came into play, and Bedford (22 runs) finished ahead of Laconia (24) and Milford (28).

Lebanon (14-4) and Sweeney (14-4) are the No. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, out of District A, while Rochester Post 7 – the defending state champ – is the No. 1 out of District B. Post 7 finished 16-2 and won its final 13 straight games in the regular season.

Dover Post 6 (14-4) is the No. 2 seed, while Hudson Post 48 (11-7) is the No. 3 seed and Derry Post 9 (10-8) is the No. 4.

Hudson had been on a roll, winning eight of nine, but lost two of its final three games, including a 23-2 thumping at the hands of Merrimack Post 98 on Sunday, after Post 48 had already clinched a playoff spot.

After averaging more than eight runs a game during that nine-game stretch, Hudson scored 11 runs in those final three games.

“We have to start hitting again. We’ve been a little light on the bats the past couple of games, so that’s key,” Hudson coach Scott Szuksta said after Sunday’s game. “I don’t think a lot of people expected us to do as well as we did. On paper, teams like Londonderry and Nashua probably have a lot more talent than we do, but I think we did a nice job of putting it together.”

Hudson will open the tournament at 12 p.m. Thursday against Sweeney. Derry and Lebanon open the tournament at 9 a.m., while Concord and Dover play at 4 p.m. and Bedford takes on Rochester at 7 p.m.

The tournament is scheduled to run through Monday, with rain dates set for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nashua Post 124

A year after making it to the championship game, Nashua (9-9) was too inconsistent to return to the postseason with largely the same lineup from a year ago. Post 124 never won more than two games in a row, and while it beat three of the four tournament teams from District B, it also lost five games to teams below it in the standings, including a 5-3 loss to Salem (4-14) on Saturday that, if Nashua had won, would have set up a winner-take-all game against Derry on Sunday.

“We were really inconsistent,” Nashua coach Kevin Palanski said after Sunday’s game. “We didn’t hit in key situations, I think that was the telltale sign. There are times where we could gather a lot of hits. But in games where we were getting six or seven hits, we weren’t getting them in key situations. That’s where we were lacking, a lot of timely hitting situations.”

Milford Post 23

In the last four years, Milford’s record in district play was 14-46, and Post 23 hadn’t had a winning season since 2009. Although it missed the playoffs, finishing 11-7 this season was a big step.

“The last couple of years we had a really young team,” Milford catcher Cam Douglas said after his team’s last game Saturday. “Now you can see them starting to develop. We have a lot of young kids who grew up together and are starting to mold together well. The difference this year I think everyone is really committed to the team. We have a lot more pitching, we have a lot more chemistry and it’s just working together really well.”

Merrimack Post 98

Eight games into the season, Merrimack sat at 4-4 in District B and looked like it would be in contention for a playoff spot. But Post 98 struggled to put it all together, sometimes getting great pitching, but no offense, and other times, it was the other way around.

Merrimack lost eight of its final 10 games, but ended the year with that thumping of Hudson.

“It just shows you that whether it’s the last game or the first game, these guy are going to put up a fight,” Merrimack coach Cliff Hicks said after that game. “It’s bittersweet that it happened at the end of the season, but it’s nice that they put it all together.”