Nashua North upends Concord in Division I baseball tournament

CONCORD – Nashua High School North baseball coach Kyle Harvell wanted nothing more than for his team to enjoy the moment.

The No. 13 Titans entered Thursday’s Division I preliminary round game at Concord with a roster of seven seniors who, as underdogs, were expected to play their final high school game after stumbling into the playoffs at 8-12. So, before his team took the field, Harvell simply told his players to be special.

“The only way they get to wear that jersey again is to win,” he said. “If you don’t want to go home and be done and be sulking on the bench the whole time, you might as well enjoy it.”’

North not only enjoyed the game, it’ll have a chance to relish at least one more after the Titans knocked off the No. 4 Crimson Tide, 5-3, at Memorial Field on Thursday afternoon.

Third baseman Spencer Madden (3 for 3, three runs, one RBI) and catcher Chas DeWitt (2 for 2, three RBIs) led North offensively as a duo with a combined five hits, four RBIs and three runs scored. Starting pitcher Zach Smith tossed five shutout innings for the win. The senior surrendered five hits with no walks and two strikeouts before being replaced by Sam McCarthy in the sixth.

“We played well enough in times when we needed to,” Harvell said. “If we played with that much energy and that much excitement and passion most days, we’d be a heck of a lot better than 8-12. But it worked out for us (Thursday).”

Harvell said Smith could’ve gone the distance Thursday, but wanted to save his arm so he could use him in Saturday’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal game against the winner of Friday’s first-round matchup between No. 5 Londonderry and No. 12 Manchester Memorial. Left-hander Ricky Constant Saturday with McCarthy and Smith expected to pitch in relief.

Constant closed out Thursday’s game for the save in the seventh, but not without a fight from the Crimson Tide. Trailing 5-1, Concord’s No. 9 hitter Gracion Smith reached second based on a fielding error by second baseman Brendan Martin to lead off the inning. Ben Bengston followed with an inside-the-park home run to cut the Titans’ lead to 5-3.

After a trip to the mound from Harvell, Constant retired the next three batters to end the game.

“That’s what we do,” Harvell said. “You don’t want anything to be too easy for ourselves and we gotta make everything interesting. When we relaxed and went out and played we were pretty good.”

North jumped on Tide starter Josh Partridge right away, scoring twice in the first inning to take an early 2-0 lead. Martin led off the inning with a single to center, and Madden followed with an infield single. After Brennan Kastens moved the runners over with a sacrifice to second, DeWitt drove a 1-2 pitch to center to score the runners.

“You gotta be aggressive. We were very aggressive and that was our mentality,” DeWitt said. “We had to strike first, and we did.’’

Madden reached base again in the third with a one-out double to deep center field. DeWitt drove him home with a two-out double to the fence in right-center field to make it 3-0.

Concord’s best chance to score on Smith came in the fourth inning when it put runners on the corners with one out. But Smith got Mark Houston to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat. North also made key force outs at third in both the second and sixth to end potential Crimson Tide threats.

“That goes back to just enjoying playing the game,” Harvell said. “They weren’t difficult plays. We were presented with an out and we didn’t panic.’’

The Titans chased Partridge out of the game without recording an out in the fifth. Martin reached base on an error at second to lead off the inning, and Madden plated the second baseman with an RBI triple.

With Concord’s Jon Lewis on in relief, Kastens hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Madden and break open a 5-0 advantage.

The Tide scored their first run in the bottom of the sixth when a passed ball plated Andrew Grondin from third.

Grondin pinch ran for Connor Loughery, who led off the inning with a single. After a sacrifice by Seimou Smith, Connor Ferns moved Grondin to third when he reached on a throwing error by Tim Paige to set up the run.