Published DateLACONIA — The old saw about baseball being a game of inches proved to be true Saturday as the top-ranked Laconia High School Sachems continued their quest for the Division III title with a 4-2 win over the Winnisquam Bears. The contest was a nip and tuck battle in which two key plays, one a foul ball and the other a diving catch attempt which almost happened, proved the be the difference.
The Sachems (17-1) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Drew Morin reached on an error when his hard-hit grounder went off Winnisquam third baseman Tony Martinez's glove directly to the shortstop, whose throw to first was too late to get Morin.
Morin stole second and after Pat Guyer fouled out to first, proceeded to steal third. Graham Nyhan followed with a hard shot to right field that hit the top of the five foot high right field fence but bounced back into the playing field. The hit scored Morin but was hit so hard that all Nyhan could manage out of it was a single. After pitcher Steve Levasseur flied to center, Nyhan was gunned down trying to steal second by Winnisquam catcher Dom DeBlaise.
The Sachems added another run in the second when Riley Stone was hit by a pitch and moved to second when James Salta laid down a sacrifice bunt which was juggled momentarily by Winnisquam pitcher Caleb Hutchins, allowing Salta to reach on a fielder's choice.
Andrew Salta popped to second but Andrew Kerns to followed with a single to left, scoring Stone. Hutchins prevented further damage by getting Cam Lyons to foul out to the catcher and Morin on a groundball to short.
Winnisquam's bats came to life in the third against Levassuer, who had retired five straight at that point. Greg Hunt led off with a single to center, Martinez singled to right and Tucker Normand also singled to right, loading the bases. Levasseur got Parker Normand on a swinging strike but DeBaise flied deep to center field for a sacrifice fly which scored Hunt, making it 2-1.
Hutchins then hit a hopper to second base which went under Kern's glove for an error, allowing Martinez to score and tie the game at 2-2. Levasseur fanned John Montalto to bring the inning to an end.
Laconia scored what would prove to be the winning run in the fourth inning. James Salta opened the inning with a single to left and moved up when Andrew Salta laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. Andrew Kerns flied to left for the second out and Cam Lyons followed with a looping fly ball to short center which Winnisquam center fielder Parker Normand dove for and was able to glove. But as he hit the ground, the ball popped out of his grasp, allowing Salta, who had been off at the crack of the bat, to score, making it 3-2.
Lyons was out at second for the final out of the inning when the throw home was cut off and he was caught trying to stretch the hit into a double.
In the Winnisquam fifth inning Tony Martinez fouled out to start the frame but Tucker Normand popped a single to into left and then was caught as he tried to steal second on a perfect throw by Nyhan to Kearns. Parker Normand then drew the only walk given up by Levasseur in the game and moved up to second when DeBlaise singled to left.
Hutchins then drove a ground ball down the third base line which momentarily appeared to have tied the game but was ruled foul by the home plate umpire. Winnisquam coach Fred Caruso, believing the ball was fair, waved the baserunners around and told the home plate umpire that from where he was standing in the third base coaching box the ball had appeared to have gone right over the third base bag.
Hutchins never got a chance to take another swing. Both runners were off on the next pitch, which Levasseur threw wild allowing the runners to advance. Seeing home plate uncovered Parker Normand attempted to score but was caught in a run down between home and third base and was tagged out for the final out of the inning.
Laconia added an insurance run in the fifth inning when Morin was hit by a pitch, as he has been many times this season, and reached second on a wild pitch as he was attempting a steal. Guyer lined to right and Graham Nyan was then intentionally walked, putting runners on first and second. A double steal put runners at second and third and Levasseur then hit a soft liner which was caught in foul ground by the Winnisquam first baseman.
Riley Stone then hit an infield grounder between short and third which the Winnisquam third baseman gloved on the grass but bobbled as he tried to pick it up, allowing Morin to score and make it 4-2.
James Salta was hit by a pitch to load the bases but Hutchins was able to induce Andrew Salta to hit a foul pop to third, ending the inning.
Levasseur pitched a one-two-three sixth inning and Laconia threatened again with one out in the sixth when Lyons and Morin hit back-to-back singles with one out. Guyer fouled to first for the second out and Nyhan was at bat when DeBlaise picked Morin off first with a snap from his catcher's position.
Levasseur, who surrendered five hits and struck out five in his outing, had two strikes on Jack Decormier leading off the seventh inning when he hit with him a pitch.
But he induced Hunt, who had singled earlier, to hit a two-hopper to second base which Kerns fed to Salta for a force out and which Salta then gunned to Stone at first for a double play. Tony Martinez then grounded sharply to Salta for the final out of the game.
Winnisquam ended the season with a 12-6 record.
The Sachems will continue their quest for the Division III title when they meet fifth-ranked Conant Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Southern New Hampshire University.