Spring sports preview: LHS baseball in strong position to start the season

Local sports teams are beginning to stretch their legs outdoors and prepare for the upcoming season, with regular season action starting either this week or next.

Laconia's baseball team went 15-1 last season, losing in the semi-finals of the NHIAA Division III tournament. The Sachems lost to eventual state champion Conant 2-0. "We have a good core of returning players from last year," said coach Jon Myers, "Including four players who hit over .300 last year." Shortstop James Salta will lead the charge this season, hoping to continue his dominance at the plate. Salta led last year's team with a .447 batting average. Outfielder Pat Guyer and third baseman Nate Batchelder were also above the .300 mark. Batchelder, Andrew Salta, and Jordan Bladecki will take the mound this season for the Sachems. "We also return two pitchers who have pitched at the varsity level," Myers continued. "We have a tough road ahead of us, but we should be able to compete with anyone."

Gilford also ran into Conant, who ended their playoff run in the second round. The Golden Eagles turned out their first winning season in more than five years under the watchful eye of third year head coach Matt Finch. "I have been telling the kids it took the eventual champs to knock us out last year" The Golden Eagles went 9-7 last season, an improvement from Finch's 3-13 first season. Cam Partridge will lead the way at the plate, coming off of a .448 season last year. Sophomore Zach Toisson is the ace of the pitching staff after posting an earned run average of 2.77 a year ago. "I am very confident this season" added Finch. "Last year I never felt as though we were over matched. I think this year we won't have to worry about the growing pains"

Gilford's boys' tennis team is coming of another state championship, the team's third title in the last four years. Lead by junior Andrew Caulfield, Gilford will try to defend the title with some new faces after losing co-captain seniors Matt Saulnier and Alex Simoneau, who played the second and third singles matches. Gilford will look to some underclassmen to fill those positions.

The Golden Eagles opened the season Wednesday and cruised to a 9-0 win over Inter-Lakes. The Lakers went 6-8 last season missing the postseason.

Laconia will not field a boys' tennis team this year due to lack of interest, according to Athletic Director Craig Kozens. The Sachems will not be adding a sport in its place.

The Sachems girls' tennis team begins the season tonight in Bethlehem to take on Profile regional. Laconia ended last season 4-9 and did not qualify for the tournament.

Gilford hosted Inter-Lakes Wednesday afternoon, the season opener for both programs. The Golden Eagles came away with a 5-3 win. Gilford was 12-4 last year, losing to Bow in the quarter-finals last season. The Lakers struggled to a 1-13 finish last year.

Laconia softball is looking to continue the progress it made last season, winning six games as compared to only two the year prior. The 6-11 Sachems were knocked out of the tournament by Prospect Mountain in the first round last season. The girls will open the season in Bristol on Monday.

Gilford will try to overcome losing six seniors this season, including the battery of Sydney Strout and Paige Lalilberte behind the plate. The Golden Eagles have been eliminated from the tournament in the semi-finals each of the last three seasons. To accomplish the feat, Gilford will look to fourth year players Lisa Osborne, Kelsey Buckley and Mollie Dignan. Last year's eventual state champs, Campbell defeated the Golden Eagles 2-0. "Our goal is to improve steadily throughout the season just like we have in our preseason scrimmages," said head coach of 30 years Joan Forge "I believe we will look completely different at the end of our season."

Laconia boys' lacrosse went 6-9 last season, losing to Plymouth in the first round of the postseason. The team will open the season hosting Plymouth in a rematch of last year's postseason game.

Gilford also fell in the first round last year to Derryfield 14-3. The Golden Eagles have three seniors returning with playoff experience. They will be looking for help from freshmen Seth and Sander Valpey and Logan Essaf to fill the hole on the defense left by a pair of graduated seniors from last season.

Laconia girls' lacrosse was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, losing to Kingswood. The Sachems finished the regular season 6-8. Laconia will be led by senior captains Danielle Cote and Jordan Lovely.