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June 04. 2013 10:27PM

Roger Brown's Diamond Notes: Save the ace or use him in semis?

PORTSMOUTH HIGH baseball coach Tim Hopley has a decision to make. Does he come back with ace Rick Holt in Thursday’s Division II semifinal against Windham, or save Holt and hope his second-seeded Clippers (15-3) can beat sixth-seeded Windham (13-6) with someone else on the mound?

Most coaches elect to open the tournament with their No. 1 starting pitcher, but Hopley gambled and elected to pitch junior James Haslam when Portsmouth posted a 7-0 victory over 15th-seeded Kennett of Conway in the tournament’s preliminary round. Haslam held Kennett to four hits in six innings.

Holt pitched five innings (65 pitches) in Portsmouth’s 13-3 triumph over 10th-seeded Souhegan in Saturday’s semifinals.

“We’ll talk it over with everybody and come up with a decision,” Hopley said when asked if Holt would start on the mound Thursday. “It may be a case where we prepare a couple of guys. Do you play to get to the championship game or to win the championship game?”

Holt, who will play football (defensive line) for the University of New Hampshire next season, is 6-0 with a 0.48 ERA this season. He’s allowed 36 hits and collected 51 strikeouts in 44 innings. Opponents are batting .207 against him. He pitched a complete game when Portsmouth beat Windham 4-0 during the regular season.

Holt also has more big-game experience than any other pitcher in the state. He’s been in Portsmouth’s starting rotation since he was a sophomore, and was the starter – and winning pitcher – when Portsmouth broke the national record for consecutive victories in 2011 (against Pembroke) and again in 2012 (against Windham).

In 25 career games on the mound (23 starts), Holt has a 20-2 record with 10 complete games and a 1.30 ERA.

The Portsmouth/Windham winner will face the winner of Thursday’s contest between top-seeded Goffstown (19-1) and 10th-seeded Sanborn of Kingston (15-3) in Saturday’s championship game. Both semifinal games will be played at Southern New Hampshire University.

Portsmouth is attempting to win its fifth state championship in the last six years.

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TIDE TURNS: Alvirne of Hudson beat Concord in the 2011 Division I softball championship game, and ended Concord’s season in the Division I quarterfinals last year. Junior Dani Morrill wasn’t about to let her team lose to Alvirne again.

Morrill collected the win in relief and also provided the game-winning hit to help top-seeded Concord defeat eighth-seeded Alvirne in Saturday’s quarterfinals. Morrill’s game-winning hit was a single that scored Katherine Muzzey in the bottom of the eighth.

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DOG DAYS: Unlike softball, where the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals in three of the four divisions (three of the top four teams are still alive in Division III), it’s been the year of the underdog in baseball. Nowhere is this more evident than in Division I, where three double-digit seeds – 10th-seeded Dover, 11th-seeded Exeter and 13th-seeded Pinkerton Academy of Derry – will join top-seeded Londonderry in the semifinals.

Both semifinal games will be played today at Nashua’s Holman Stadium. Dover will face Exeter at 4 p.m., and Londonderry will meet Pinkerton in the second contest.

“A lot of people were predicting something like this might happen,” Exeter coach Kevin McQueen said. “There wasn’t much difference between third place and 13th, and a lot of teams were coming on at the right time. It was just so balanced this year, and everybody’s got a guy who can beat you. It’s going to be interesting.”

Sanborn and Pelham are the other double-digit seeds still alive. Pelham is the 14th seed in Division III.

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NOTEWORTHY: Kris Perkins extended his shutout streak to 36 innings when the third-seeded Pittsfield baseball team beat sixth-seeded Profile 2-0 in Saturday’s Division IV quarterfinals. … Erika Millett allowed four hits, struck out 14 and didn’t walk a batter as the top-seeded White Mountains softball team remained unbeaten (18-0) by defeating Franklin 9-1 in Monday Division III quarterfinals. … All four baseball state championship games are scheduled to be played Saturday at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester. The lineup: Division II (10 a.m.), Division I (1 p.m.), Division III (7 p.m.) and Division IV (4 p.m.). … The Division I and Division II softball championships will be played Saturday at Southern New Hampshire University. The Division I game will begin at 4:30, and the Division II contest is scheduled to start at 7. … The Division III and Division IV softball championship games will both be played at Plymouth State University. Starting times are 2 p.m. (Division III) and 4 p.m. (Division IV).

“Diamond Notes” appears Wednesdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter Roger Brown at rbrown@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter @603SportsMedia.


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