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Granite State Games: Good times still rolling for softball champions

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 18. 2018 11:29PM
From the Coastal team, Epping High School's pitcher Belle Snyder practices after their game in the Granite State Games Monday afternoon at the Derryfield School in Manchester. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — When the NHIAA Division IV softball championship game ended, Epping High School catcher Laura Duguie immediately ran to the circle and hugged pitcher Belle Snyder.

Duguie and Snyder have played together since they were about 8 years old, Duguie said. The two capped their sophomore campaigns with the Blue Devils hoisting the D-IV championship, the program’s first since 1998.

Snyder allowed three singles and struck out 12 batters to lead Epping to a 6-0 victory over Derryfield School of Manchester in the title game at Plymouth State University on June 9.

“It felt pretty cool. Like, you’re in the record books now for Epping,” Duguie said. “It was awesome.”

Even after a championship campaign, Duguie, Snyder and Epping All-Division Second Team shortstop Erika MacLeod are not ready to hang up their cleats. The three Blue Devils are members of the Coastal softball team in this year’s fourth annual Granite State Games.

The Granite State Games are sponsored in part by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Before Coastal’s 7-1 loss to Southern at Derryfield School on Monday, Snyder recalled being a little nervous going into the state title game. Duguie and MacLeod, meanwhile, had complete confidence in the hurler.

“She’s a great pitcher, a great player,” MacLeod said of Snyder.

“When I’m calling my pitches, (Snyder) usually hits the spot every single time,” Duguie said. “If she doesn’t….if she has a couple of balls in a row, I’ll just go talk to her and the next pitch is a strike. She’s on top of it.”

Snyder had no trouble throwing strikes against the Cougars in the championship game. The All-Division First Team selection said her drop curveball was her go-to strikeout pitch in the contest. Snyder also throws a fastball, changeup, drop curve-changeup and a screwball.

“I think my goal going into the game, I just wanted to make it easier on my defense, I guess — give them balls that were easier to field,” Snyder said.

Snyder and Duguie, who also made the All-Division First Team, both said they did not feel comfortable with Epping’s advantage until they took a six-run lead into the final inning.

“The last inning when we had two outs and I had two strikes on the girl, then I like relaxed at that point,” Snyder said. “But before that, I was still like, ‘They could still come back. They could do it. They have a lot of energy.’”

Coastal coach Mike Vining was not surprised to see the Blue Devils take the D-IV title this spring.

Vining, who coaches the Great Bay Community College softball team, previously coached fellow Division IV program Portsmouth Christian Academy of Dover. Two seasons ago, Vining’s Portsmouth Christian team defeated Epping, 2-1, in its first game of the campaign. After that bout, Vining told Epping coach Gabe Mosca the Blue Devils were going to win it all in 2018.

“You could see (it) and they’re going to be good for a while,” Vining said of the Blue Devils. “They’ve got another year or two that they’re going to be tough to beat.”

One reason Vining feels that way about Epping is Snyder and the rest of the pitching staff. Snyder was the Blue Devils’ starter in that 2-1 loss to Portsmouth Christian two years ago.

“Our place is a tough place to play at PCA,” Vining said. “(Snyder) basically made her high school debut at our field ... She was not fazed at all by us. She kept her composure.”

Snyder, Duguie and MacLeod will spend the rest of the week playing for Vining in the Granite State Games’ softball tournament. This year marks Duguie’s second Granite State Games while MacLeod and Snyder are participating in the event for the first time. The reason they wanted to play in the Games was a simple one.

“I just wanted to play more softball,” MacLeod said.

“Me too,” Snyder said. “I was on that high of just winning. I was like, ‘Let’s go again.’”