Merrimack’s Senior Legion tourney run ends in finals loss

Staff photo by TOM KING Merrimack Post 98 catcher Spenser Clark tags out Rochester's Keagan Calero at the plate in the first inning of Tuesday's state Senior Legion Finals at Gill Stadium. However, the 98'ers went down to defeat, 6-0.

MANCHESTER – The state Senior American Legion tournament can be a complicated maze to wave your way through, with the double elimination format and pitch count rules, etc.

But Tuesday’s 6-0 Rochester Post #7 championship win over Merrimack Post 98 at Gill Stadium came down to the simple things: Pitching and defense.

Rochester starter and complete game winner Shaun Cormier didn’t walk a batter, his defense played relatively well behind him, while Merrimack committed four costly errors.

Simple math.

“Hats off to Cormier and Rochester,” Merrimack infielder Justin Grassini said. “He pitched really well today, hats off to him. We were just hitting them right at them. I have no answers.”

Merrimack survived five errors in a previous tourney win on Monday but not this time.

“You can’t overcome them with a team like Rochester,” Merrimack manager Mike Henzley said. “And hats off to a kid who pitched a great game. Hopefully it’s a learning experience.”

“That’s how you win games,” Rochester shortstop Keagan Calero said. “You have to be precise to win games. As soon as you start walking people, that’s when you get into trouble. He did an unbelievable job throwing strikes and getting runners out.”

Rochester has now won its fourth straight Senior title, and fifth in the last six years. It will be headed to next week’s New England Regionals in Worcester, Mass.

Meanwhile, Post 98 made an improbable run, needing to win five in a row for a title after losing to Lebanon early Sunday. They got three.

Rochester got a run in the first off Merrimack starter Jacob Grassett on an Andrew Contrada RBI single, then made it 4-0 in the second thanks to two sac flys and an RBI double by Brendan Eaton. An errant throw by 98 shorstop Pat Harrington brought home a run in the fourth and two more errant thows scored another in the fifth. It just wasn’t Merrimack’s day.

Meanwhile, Cormier, who will be a sophomore at New England College, wasn’t overpowering as he only fanned two, but allowed just six hits. Merrimack had as many as two runners on in just two innings. “The kid,” Rochester manager Steve Lambert said, “has icewater in his veins.”

“We couldn’t run,” Henzley said. “We’re a running team, hit and run, and they shut that down on us early.”

But the season nor the tournament ended early for Merrimack, and that’s a good thing.

“Our team played really well,” Grassini said. “We had never been here before. We came together as a team, and that’s the biggest reason for our accomplishment. … I believed in our team the whole way.”

It was a fun way, right up until things got too simple to solve.