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We had champions, but the underdogs were the story

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Jun 10, 2024

Here’s a few tids and bits as we are now in double digits in June ugh. Please, let’s go slow with these warm weather months….

First, three state champions were crowned on Saturday: the Bishop Guertin and Campbell boys lacrosse teams, as well as the Hollis Brookline boys volleyball team. But the darlings of the tournament season were the Nashua High School North baseball team and the Bishop Guertin softball team.

And they both hope to parlay those showings into future success.

First, the Titans gave the city something to talk about, the first time a city team (North,South, Bishop Guertin) had been in the semifinals since 2016. That’s when BG won and went on to lose to Bedford in the Division I title game.

Norht wasn’t able to get there, but you had to love how they gave the Pinkerton Astros all they could hands in a 5-4 nine inning loss.

Why is this a big deal? Because the semis are always at Holman Stadium, and it’s such a great opportunity for a city team to have a chance to play in this round on their home turf. The games draw a crowd regardless, but it’s nice for the local fans to be able to see a city team there.

How did North do it? Easy – pitching, and let’s face it, Titans mentor Zach Harris is one of the best around because he simply knows kids, period. Freshman pitcher Nolan Sullivan became a household name among local fans. And Harris wants this to lay the groundwork for the future.

We’ve got opposing teams rooting for us, opposing fans, coaches from around the state, everyone’s pulling for North,” he said. “If you’re a kid at our school, or a youth kid in Nashua, and you’re reading about this or were here tonight, how do you not want to come play for us.?

“And for our kids who are in this program already, they know what it takes to win now. Let’s go build on it.”

The same for Bishop Guertin softball. Head coach Dakota Bilodeau was a member of BG’s 2017 title team, and the Cards were an 11th seed but still won 10 games in her first year. But no one on the outside was thinking finals, right?

“I’m so proud of them. Coming in as an 11th seed we knew we were going to have to play some hard people and they met the challenge with excitement every single time,” Bilodeau said Saturday night. “They played their butts off for two weeks in this p[layoff run. We wanted to play our best softball at the very end and we did. That’s what counts.

“BG softball is coming back to get our swag back, like I keep telling them. I’m really excited to coach this group and getting the culture back on track.”

— The American Senior Legion baseball season gets underway this coming week, with Nashua, the defending state champion coming off that fabulous Northeast Regionals run to the finals, opening up Wednesday, June 12 vs. Dover at BG’s Elliott Field.

That’s the good news. The bad? They’re the only local team. Hudson Post 48 didn’t have a Senior team last year, and this year Merrimack Post 98 is out on all levels. It’s the first time Merrimack hasnt had a team since 2010, when it returned after a three-year absence.

Why? Two years ago Bedford returned after an absence with a Senior team, and that had become a main recruiting spot for Merrimack.

“That killed our Senior team,” Merrimack manager Mike Henzley said. “And then the younger kids (for Juniors) said ‘No Senior Team? Then we’re not going to play.'”

Henzley had had all teams in all three programs (Senior, Junior, Prep) registered in January, and then had to fold the whole deal.“It kind of just trickled down,” said Henzley, whose Senior team had reached the finals vs. Rochester some seven years ago.

It’s been well documented that AAU and other travel programs have cut into Legion, but many players try to do both, but can’t play Legion on weekends.

Merrimack had also drawn from Amherst, Milford, Wilton, etc. But back in the fall of 2022, Bedford got NH Legion Committee approval to return, and Henzley’s reaction was automatic. “You’re going to kill my program. … The Committee didn’t see it that way, and here we are.”

Here are with one local team – and we can remember a decade ago there were as many as four: Nashua,Hudson, Merriack and Milford. Sad.

—- The best drama so far in these tournaments, besides extra inning baseball, are close lacrosse games. The Souhegan-Portsmouth girls semifinal last Saturday at Exeter was pretty darn dramatic, with the Sabers fighting back from a 7-2 deficit to lead 10-9 in the fourth quarter. Bishop Guertin was fighting like crazy to hold off Bedford in the other semi. And if you were at the Bedford-BG boys lacrosse game back in late April, or the Pinkerton-BG girls lax game just a couple of weeks ago, you know what we mean. It’s pandemonium. On the boys side, When Bedford tied BG at 10 early in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Division I final also at Exeter, we were thinking we might see a repeat of that fantastic double OT classic at Stellos in April. Nope. Paulo Vazquez took care of that in the faceoff dot. What a performance in the Cards’ 15-12 win.

—- Well, the NBA Finals are pretty much going according to plan, aren’t they with the Celtics up 2-0? But how about the Stanley Cup Finals that begin this current weekend? OK, sure, it’s a snoozer for most of the country, with Florida squaring off against the Edmonton Oilers, (ahh, remember those Gretzky days). This is the Panthers’ chance and in Game 1, they took advantage of it. They smother you. It’s incredible. They smothered the Rangers’ top three scorers in the Eastern Conference Finals, won those tough puck battles against the Bruins, and we’ll see in tonight’s Game 2 if they can make life miserable for Oilers star Connor McDavid and head to Canada with a 2-0 lead. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s not about the flash and dash, it’s about the smash and crash.

— Ready for Tom Brady Patriots Hall of Fame Night? It should be quite the event, in Gillette Stadium, no less. Over 100 of Brady’s former teammates are expected, and there will certainly be a ton of who’s whos there. Let’s hope it’s not nearly as controversial as the Brady Roast.

Tom King can be reached at tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or on twitter @Telegraph _TomK.

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