Just like old times for Cougars as they reach semifinals
LITCHFIELD – Campbell High School baseball is back. Pass the word.
The Cougars have reached the Division III semifinals for the first time since their title year of 2017. Their four-run first inning in Saturday’s quarterfinals vs. No. 5 Prospect Mountain did the trick in a 4-2 win that sends them up to Robbie Mills Park in Laconia Wednesday vs. No. 1 Monadnock at 7 p.m.
“Campbell’s back,” Cougars coach James Marron said. “It was up there for a long time, fell apart a little bit, COVID hit … The community produces baseball players.”
Including Cougars starting pitcher Jack Kidwell, who tossed 6.1 innings of four-hit ball. Kidwell ran into trouble in the top of the seventh, but Logan Daigle came in to get the final out with the tying runs on base.
The Cougars got all they would need in the first inning against Timberwolves starter Nathan Leavitt. They were down 1-0 after the ‘Wolves scored a run without a hit (walk, hit batsman, wild pitch) in the opening half, but the first four Cougars reached in the bottom half as nine ended up going to the plate for four runs.
A leadoff walk to Michael Grace, double by Hunter Henderson, two-run single by Kidwell, and RBI double by Braydon White made it 3-1 in a flash. Bryce Kepple later added an RBI single as the eighth man to bat in the frame and it was 4-1.
“Our kids came out with the attitude that (Leavitt) throws strikes,” Marron said. “The last time we saw him he threw strikes and we were looking at them and judging them. The attitude this time was, ‘Nah, you’re not going to do that.'”
But that was it for the Cougars. Lucky for them, Kidwell kept the visitors’ bats in check except for giving up back-to-back doubles by Leavitt and Sam Caldwell in the third. But he caught Therrien looking to end the threat.
The way the game started for PM, it didn’t look like Leavitt would last another inning but he ended up going six.
“Our pitcher couldn’t get the spin on his curveball and they hit some balls hard in that first inning, and that’s what carried them throughout,” Prospect Mountain coach Eric Bordeau said. “We got baserunners throughout the game but just couldn’t come up with that key one or two hits to push couple more runs across. That’s baseball for you.”
And part of that was Kidwell.
“I definitely developed a competitive edge,” Kidwell said. “I’ve only pitched three games this year but every single time I just want to go out and dominate. We lost to these guys last time so I had a little chip on my shoulder. I just told (his teammates) ‘Guys, compete and take it personal.'”
Daigle, who will likely start the semis, came in to close after Bruce Rawnsley blooped a single leading off, went all the way to third on an errant pickoff throw, and with one out and got the next two outs to send extend the Cougars’ season.
“It’s a collection of talent,” Marron said, “that’s come at the right time.”
And a coach. The late Jim Gorham built a power but retired after that 2017 crown, and the Cougars had a succession of one year coaches until Marron took over. They’ve gone from 10-6 to 16-2 and two wins away from perhaps a return to the top. Just like old times.