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Tourney tough Nashua set for Senior Legion Reginonals

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Nashua's Noah Therrien slides home duruing last week's State Senior American Legion Tournament. Therrien and Post 124 teammates begin Northeast Regional play today in Worcester, Mass.

NASHUA – The plan may have worked.

Nashua American Legion Post 124 Senior team manager Tim Lunn was aggressive in his non-league scheduling this summer, having the locals play in a lot of highly regarded New England tournaments.

Hopefully, that prepared Nashua for their biggest tourney thus far – the Northeast Regionals at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., beginning today at 4:30 p.m. vs. Massachusetts champion Lawrence Post 15.

“I think it definitey has,” Lunn said. “We’ve been able to see what talent there is outside of New Hampshire. We faced some different pitching talent. Not every team in New Hampshire has a pitcher that throws in the mid-80s. By going outside the state we’ve gotten to see a few of those guys. It’s given our guys a different level of competition.

“So I think it does help a little bit.”

But Lunn says the double-elimination tournament field will be oh, so difficult to navigate. If Nashua wins later today, it will play either Rhode Island or Connecticut at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. If it loses today, Nashua will be up bright and early to take on the loser of the tourney opener between Cumberland, R.I.and Stamford, Conn. at 9:30 .m. Thursday.

“It’d be nice to get the first one and then play a little bit later the next couple of days,” Lunn said. “But you just kind of got to roll with the punches.”

The field: Massachusetts has two teams – Lawrence and host Shrewsbury. Vermont has Brattleboro, Cumberland (Upper Deck Post 14), Southington and Stamford from Connecticut, and Hampden, Me. Maine, Vermont, Southington and Shrewsbury are in one scheduling bracket, the rest in the other.

“I think we have a tough draw on our side of the bracket,” said Lunn, who scouted Lawrence in the Mass.state title game. “Lawrence is a lively bunch. And we play the Connecticut champ or Rhode Island champ in our next game whether we win or lose.”

Lawrence – which had its season cancelled two years ago due to lack of funding – won its state title with a pair of lefties, Miguel Matos and Jairo Vasquez, combining on a combined one-hitter in the title game, so perhaps Nashua will see one or the other. Lunn says he will send lefty Brett Anderson to the mound today.

“With our pitching depth, I think we have a shot,” Lunn said. “I think Stamford is the favorite. That’s a baseball town, they’re loaded from top to bottom and have really good pitching depth. I’d have to put the favorites as the two Connecticut teams.

Another important fact: This tourney will be an aluminum bat affair; Nashua played the summer using wood.

“I think that might give us a little bit of an added punch hopefully offensively,” Lunn said, “and hopefully change the way some of the kids swing the bats and swing with a little bit more conviction.

“I think we have a chance to break it open offensively but we’re going to see a lot better pitching. … You never know.”

Nashua had seven hitters over. 300 this summer, led by Anderson’s .390. He played the outfield or first base but only started a couple of games on the mound (as he played other summer ball as well) and he was 1-0, 1.45.

“He’s a kid that just loves playing baseball,” Lunn said. “He just shows up when you need him the most. He’s that kind of kid. … His pitching’s been phenomenal. He’s developing his changeup, and that gives him three legit pitches he can throw. He’s going to be tough to hit no matter who you are.”

Noah Therrien (21), Zach Finkelstein and Will Brooks (20) lead the team in RBIs.

Finkelstein was 2-0, 1.43. Henri Boudreau was 5-0 with a microscopic 0.99 ERA, and the locals also have lefty starter/reliever Varun Lingadal (6-2,1.93).

“We’ll roll with the same sort of pitching lineup we had in the state tournament,” Lunn said. “We’ll go with Brett to start Game 1 and then play it by ear. … I think you’ve seen it’s important to get that first one, and then worry about the rest after.”

Nashua is healthy and will likely be missing one player off its roster – shortstop Albert De La Rosa. Why? He’s with the Nashua 14U Babe Ruth All-Stars in that level’s World Series in Demopulos, Ala. Hunter Routhier, as he did in the final vs. Exeter, will likely start at short.

“It shortens our lineup a little bit,” Lunn said. “He brings a little tenacity to the top of the lineup. He struck out (just) five times in 100 at-bats.”

Either way, it’s time to play at a level Nashua hasn’t seen since 1998.

“We’re looking forward to it,”Lunn said. ” It’s going to be a new experience, obviously. I think the kids are excited to kind of compete in this sort of tournament,” Lunn said. “I think it’s going to be different than the kind of tournament we saw in New Hampshire and what we experienced outside.

“All these teams are battle tested, they obviously have pitching depth in some capacity. It’s going to be fun but it’s going to be challenging at the same time. … You never know. Baseball’s so unpredictable, on any given day anybody can beat anybody.”