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Young Panthers look like veterans in 4-3 win over Concord

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Apr 20, 2024

Nashua South's Collin Kochanek slides home safely as Concord's Ryan Turant waits for a throw in the second inning of Friday's game at Holman Stadium. (Telegraph photo by TOM KING)

NASHUA – The Nashua High School South baseball team may be young, but they often don’t play that way.

The Panthers saw a 3-0 lead evaporate in Friday’s game vs. Concord at Holman Stadium in the top of the sixth. Their response? They grabbed a run in the bottom of the inning and closed out a 4-3 win.

“You know something, in the past I’ve had young teams with this dynamic, being young, they (the opponent) go ahead and tie the game up, that’s it, game’s over,” South coach James Gaj said. “These guys didn’t care. It’s like ‘OK, we’ve got it. We’re fine.’

It was a day of small ball. South, now 2-1 with its second comeback win, had been enjoying a 3-0 lead, at one point without a hit thanks to an RBI ground out by Anthony Tolentino in the first after Kosay Tanaka walked and stole two bases, and a wild pitch and passed ball in the second. In that inning alone, a hit batsman, three walks and four stolen bases created pressure for the 2-3 Tide and starter Ryan Turant.

But Concord, down 3-0, manufactured a run in the third off otherwise pinpoint Panther starter Leo DePaolo and, just when it looked in the sixth like Depaulo would escape a two-on, two-out jam, Tide cleanup hitter Noah Chrabolowski delivered a two-run double to tie the game.

Enter the bottom half vs. the Tide bullpen. Grant McCubrey singled off third, was sacrificed to second, moved to third on a wild pitch and then a walk put runners at first and third with one out and freshman Max Demers at the plate.

“We had the first-and-third safety squeeze on,” Gaj said. “But the ball was high, so he pulled the bat back, which is what he’s supposed to do. Scottie (Tide coach Owen) went out to do a meeting at the mound, we figured he know what was coming, so let’s try something different.

“This early in the season, I know they have some inexperienced players, try to speed the game up and good things happen.”

The ‘good thing’ was Plan B – the ol’ first-and-third play, as baserunner Ryan Arnesen got himself hung up and forced an eventual throw home that McCubrey barely beat standing up by about a half step with the eventual winning run.

“They ran it,” Owen said. “If my kid catches the ball at second and tags (Arnesen), they don’t score. If my catcher’s at the plate, they don’t score. They’re little mistakes. … They show up in a game like this. We’ve got to be better at the little things. But an excellent high school baseball game.”

It was. Gaj has to be happy about a few things, one being his pitching, as DePaolo’s outing was control personified with zero walks. And reliever Demers was lights out retiring all four he faced with two strikeouts – and a great defensive play by shortstop Tolentino to end the game, diving to his right on a sharp grounder in the hole and getting the throw to first in time.

“That was as good a play as I’ve ever seen in a high school game,” Gaj said. “I tell you all the time, the team who can play the fewest mistakes in high school baseball, that can pitch and play defense, that’s who wins.”

Nashua South’s Leo DePaolo delivers a pitch during the second inning of Friday’s game vs. Concord at Holman Stadium. (Telegraph photo by TOM KING)


Concord comes right back to Holman today, as does South, as today is the annual “Day of Baseball” the coaches organize, starting with Nashua North vs. Salem at 10 a.m., followed by South-Pinkerton at 1 p.m., Concord vs. Souhegan at 4 and it wraps up with Bishop Guertin vs. Dover at 7 p.m.

Nashua North and South will be the away teams in their games.


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