Rick Holt and Tyler Barss, two of the best baseball pitchers around, are due to kick off the NHIAA’s Championship Saturday this morning at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Barss gets the start for No. 1 Goffstown against Holt, the standout for No. 2 Portsmouth, in the Division II title game that kicks off a quadruple-header at 10 a.m.
“It should be a fun one with two good teams who are both playing pretty good baseball,” said Goffstown coach Adam Lawrence. “And it’s two seniors who have made names for themselves. It should be a pretty good matchup.”
Goffstown is 20-1 and playing in the title game for the first time since beating Salem in 2008.
Portsmouth is 18-3 and looking to start another championship streak. The Clippers’ run of four was snapped last year.
The other three championships at the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats have top-seeded Londonderry taking on No. 11 Exeter in the Division I title game at 1 p.m.; No. 1 Littleton, 16-3, and No. 3 Pittsfield, 16-3, playing at 4 for the Division IV title; and No. 5 Conant, 15-4, and No. 7 Somersworth, 14-5, closing things out at 7 for the Division III crown.
Londonderry is 19-4 and won its most recent title with a 5-2 decision over Salem in 2010. The Lancers, who will likely start ace righty Ryan Moloney today, also won in 2004.
Exeter is making its first title game appearance since losing to Manchester Central in 2000 and is looking for its first title since 1981.
Londonderry beat the Blue Hawks 16-0 earlier this season in a game in which Exeter made eight errors.
The Portsmouth and Goffstown pitching duel features athletes about to move on to college sports. Holt is headed to the University of New Hampshire to play football as a lineman and Barss, who has been projected as a possible pick in this weekend’s Major League Baseball draft, is bound for the University of Rhode Island and duties as a baseball pitcher.
The Clippers and Grizzlies did not play this year, but Lawrence saw Holt pitch a game.
“He throws strikes,” Lawrence said. “He mixes his pitches very well and he’s a competitive kid. He’s got a pretty good fastball, but the important thing is he mixes it up. He’s got confidence in his curveball.”
Holt’s approach, the coach said, is similar to that of Barss.
“Tyler throws hard and mixes it up as well,” Lawrence said. “He’ll challenge you and go right at you and if you hit it off him, good for you.”
Barss is 6-0 and his earned run average is under 1.00, Lawrence said. Holt has a 21-2 record over the last three years.
The teams take similar approaches overall, too, said Lawrence, who is in his first year at Goffstown.
“Portsmouth just wins,” he said. “Every year, they’re the Division II team everyone knows they need to beat if they want to win it. And coming here as a first-year coach, you walk in to practice and the guys are ready to go. They know what they need to do and they go out and do it.”
A pair of championship softball games are on tap today at Southern New Hampshire University.
No. 1 Concord, 19-2, squares off with No. 2 Timberlane of Plaistow, 18-3, at 4:30 for the Division I title and No. 1 Coe-Brown faces No. 2 Con-Val in Division II at 7.
The Division III and IV title games at Plymouth State University were postponed from today to Sunday at PSU.
No. 2 seed Campbell of Litchfield, 20-1, meets No. 1 White Mountains Regional of Whitefield, 21-0, at noon in the Division III game in a matchup of the past two champions. White Mountains is the defending champion and Campbell won in 2011.
No. 1 and defending champion Wilton-Lyndeborough, 16-3, plays No. 3 Wooodsville, also 16-3, at 2 for the Division IV title.
Concord lost in the championship game to Alvirne of Hudson in 2011 and won the most recent of its five championships in 2009. Timberlane won the 2008 title.
Senior Katie Kennard, winner of the 2013 Gatorade Softball Player of the Year Award, will start for Concord and go up against Alvirne freshman Kate Hoadley. Hoadley allowed six hits and struck out 10 in Timberlane’s 4-1 semifinal win over Dover.
“She’s around the plate and gives lots of teams fits,” said Concord coach Duke Sawyer. “But I feel good about the way we’ve been swinging the bats and we’ve been playing good defense.”