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Sachems Come Out on Top in Game Decided by Inches (1013)

LACONIA — 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.

Last Updated on Monday, 03 June 2013 09:45

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For 3rd time in 4 years, Gilford boys are state tennis champs

GILFORD — Terry Wilson had a problem. Believing that every student at Gilford High School deserved the chance to learn the life-long sport of tennis, he vowed never to cut a player from his team, even if they seemed unlikely to ever play in a varsity match. As a result, his team grew to such a size – he currently has 19 players – that it seemed impossible to give every player court time and a coach's attention at practice.
Coming home from practice one day, shaking his head in frustration, Wilson received a suggestion from his wife: "Why don't you split the practices?" A simple solution, one that seems obvious in hindsight, became a turning point in his coaching career. Wilson made the change several years ago, holding an early practice for players that needed fundamental training, followed by a later practice for the skilled players. Soon, Gilford started winning the NHIAA Division III state championship.
The Golden Eagles won their latest title on Tuesday, beating Bow 6-3. It was Wilson's third championship, all won over a four-year span. Wilson said the championship match was a dramatic finale to the season. "It was one of the most emotional matches in my 15 years of coaching," he said.
Since splitting the practices, Wilson has been able to accomodate developing players, those who might not be ready this season to play in either the six singles or three doubles slots of every match. With a practice dedicated to them, the players new to the game were more likely to remain interested and keep improving. After a few years of such development, Wilson found himself with teams that featured not just a few strong players at the top of the seeding, but with competitive players in every singles and doubles slot and capable backups in reserve.
Going into the post-season this year, Wilson knew he had depth on his team. Although nearly every player had lost at least once throughout the year – the exception being top seed Andrew Caulfield, who hasn't lost since joining the team two years ago – the team as a whole has pulled together for a perfect 16-0 season. However, said Wilson, most of those wins were fairly decisive. His team hadn't been really tested, not until the title match.
In the singles play of the championship match, Caulfield cruised to victory, as did Nolan Dwyer in the sixth seed. The fourth and fifth singles for Gilford, Keaton Quigley and Erich Berghahn, lost their matches. That left the team's co-captains and second and third seeds, Matt Saulnier and Alex Simoneau, still playing. Things weren't looking good, either, as both players had their backs against the wall and were one game away from defeat. They were behind, but not losing. "They both said to me, I'm not losing this match," Wilson recalled. 
Saulnier and Simoneau rallied, each coming from behind to win 9-7. Wilson said their play affected more than their individual matches – it took the wind out of Bow's sails, knowing that they now had to sweep doubles matches to win, and it inspired the rest of the Gilford team, the coach said. "The kids are looking to them as leaders of this team to hang in there, to gut it out. Matt and Alex took it upon themselves not to lose."
Wilson knew his team had depth. He learned, during the championship, that they also have character. He said, "I'm certainly enjoying it now, especially for the seniors who wanted to go out this way."
He's losing five seniors to graduation this year, and expects the remaining 14 to return. Of those, only one will be a senior next year. Most of the rest, including the undefeated top seed Caulnier, will be juniors with championship experience. 
"I see a bright, bright future next year," said Wilson.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:42

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Gilford starts softball playoffs in 3rd spot

Gilford's finished with a regular season record of 15-1 which seeded them in 3rd place going into the NHIAA Division III tournament. Gilford will host the winner of the Laconia versus Prospect Mountain matchup, scheduled to be played last night, at 4 p.m. on Friday.
Gilford won the last 15 games of the season after losing their game opener to Franklin 3-2 in 10. Gilford later in the season avenged that loss with a 4-1 victory. Gilford has outscored opponents 109-15 including 8 shutouts, 6 of those shutouts in the last 7 games. Gilford has allowed opponents to score only 5 runs in the month of May and only 1 in the last 7 games. A major reason for the stingy defense is 4 year veteran lefty pitcher Sydney Strout. Strout has broken the 619 school career strikeout record and currently has 631 with 198 this season. Strout averages 12.4 strikeouts, 2.9 hits, .9 walks per game and has an ERA of .438. Catcher Paige Laliberte has been Strout's catcher for 10 years and is solid behind the plate, picking off 2 players at 1st base.
Gilford's infield starters are 1st baseman senior Abby Harris, 2nd baseman sophomore Caitlin Houston, 3rd baseman junior Lisa Osborne, shortstop junior Mollie Dignan. The outfield starters are right fielder junior Kelsey Buckley, centerfielder senior Hannah Chase and leftfielder is split between senior Alyssa Wilson and junior Mikaela Mattice. Courtesy runner Kristina Hayden and pinch hitter Sarah Lachapelle also will get tournament play time.
The Gilford offense was led by Lisa Osborne with a .517 batting average and 17 RBIs. The batting averages have improved since the April vacation break. The latter part of the season averages bring 8 players over .300 mark: Osborne .553, Mikaela Mattice .500, Sydney Strout .433, Mollie Dignan .357 (14 runs), Abby Harris .344 (12 RBIs & 6 doubles), Sara Lachapelle .333 and Paige Laliberte (9 stolen bases) and Caitlin Houston.304 (10 RBIs).

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 May 2013 11:33

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Gilford softball defeats Belmont 3-0

The Gilford High School softball team finished its season by winning 15 in a row and recording its eighth shutout, but it wasn't easy, according to coach Joan Forge. "Belmont has improved tremendously since our 9-0 win over them a few weeks ago. We were making contact on offense, but Belmont made some great defensive plays today". Belmont pitcher Megan Prescott had a no-hitter until the top of the 6th when Caitlin Houston singled. Gilford had two chances to score late in the game, but were denied by the tough Belmont defense. The first chance came in the 6th inning when Caitlin Houston led of with a single, advanced to 2nd base on a Alyssa Wilson sacrifice bunt, she got to 3rd on an error, Mollie Dignan was up to bat and laid down a bunt for a suicide squeeze play, but the Belmont defense made the play at the plate to get Houston out. Gilford had another opportunity in the 7th when Lisa Osborne led off with a single, went to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt by Abby Harris, Osborne advanced to 3rd on a Paige Laliberte hit. With Osborne on 3rd, Sarah Lachapelle hit a hard shot to Belmont's 2nd baseman, Megan Bailey, who fired home and got Osborne out at the plate. Belmont came up in the bottom of the 7th and for the 1st time of the game threatened the Gilford defense. Cassie Contigiani led off with a single, Mary Kate Russo laid down a bunt which was misplayed by the Gilford defense, resulting in runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Makayla Donovan hit a short fly ball between short stop, centerfield and leftfield, but Gilford leftfielder Mikaela Mattice made a spectacular catch to save the winning run from scoring. With one out Sydney Strout struck out the next batter, then walked the next batter( only walk of the game) to load the bases, only to strikeout the next batter for the third out. After Belmont applied pressure on the Gilford defense the Gilford offense exploded for three runs on four hits and a sacrifice bunt in the top of the 8th inning. Mikalea Mattice, after making the game saving catch in the outfield, led off with a single to rightfield and advanced to 2nd on a Hannah Chase sacrifice bunt, Mollie Dignan singled to rightfield and drove in Mattice for Gilford's first run. Sydney Strout then delivered a double deep to center field to drive in Dignan. Sydney Strout's courtesy runner, Kristina Hayden, scored on a Lisa Osborne single to centerfield to make the score 3-0. Strout struck out 2 of the final 3 batters and Mikaela Mattice caught a fly ball to leftfield for the last out and the victory.
Sydney Strout had 14 strikeouts, gave up 4 hits and 1 walk.
The Gilford offense was led by Lisa Osborne 2/4 (1 RBI), Sydney Strout 1 double (1 RBI), singles by Mollie Dignan (1 RBI & 1 run scored), Paige Laliberte, Caitlin Houston and Miakela Mattice (1 run scored)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 May 2013 01:17

Hits: 358

 
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