Roger Brown's Diamond Notes: Unpredictable endings spice up NHIAA baseball, softball tournaments
IT’S GOOD to be No. 1. Unless, of course, you were a No. 1 seed in one of the NHIAA baseball or softball championship games last weekend.
Seven top-seeded teams played for the title — four in softball, three in baseball — and all seven fell short of winning a championship.
The stunner came in the Division I baseball championship game, where 11th-seeded Exeter played errorless ball and knocked off top-seeded Londonderry, 3-2. The victory gave the Exeter program its first championship since 1981.
“We had five great defensive efforts heading into today and this was the sixth one,” Exeter coach Kevin McQueen said. “It’s character guys and they found a way to get it done, and they believed they could do it.”
Londonderry beat Exeter 16-0 during the regular season in a game shortened to six innings because of the 10-run mercy rule. Saturday’s pitching matchup also seemed to favor the Lancers, who had ace Ryan Moloney on the mound. Moloney, who will pitch for the University of Massachusetts next season, entered the contest with a 7-1 record and a 1.53 ERA.Ethan Joyce, Exeter’s top pitcher, tossed a complete game against Dover in Thursday’s semifinals and was not eligible to pitch Saturday because of the NHIAA pitching rules. Exeter had a 9-0 record when Joyce pitched this season. Junior James Mundy pitched six innings to collect the win.
It was the first title for McQueen, who was the head coach at Timberlane from 1984 to 1996 before he took over at Exeter in 1997. The Blue Hawks were 9-9 during the regular season and then won four tournament games.
“We had three or four train wrecks, but we played well in some of our losses, too,” McQueen said. “As tight as our league was this year we felt we could come in here and compete.”
Goffstown and Littleton were the two other top-seeded baseball teams that were beaten Saturday. Second-seeded Portsmouth beat Goffstown 5-2 in the Division II championship game, and third-seeded Pittsfield won the Division IV title by beating Littleton, 5-1.
In the softball championship games, No. 2 Timberlane of Plaistow beat No. 1 Concord 4-1 in Division I; No. 2 ConVal of Peterborough beat No. 1 Coe-Brown of Northwood 5-3 in Division II; No. 2 Campbell of Litchfield knocked off No. 1 White Mountains of Whitefield 7-5 in Division III; and No. 3 Woodsville defeated No. 1 Wilton-Lyndeborough 19-10 in Division IV.
SPEEDY RECOVERY: ConVal of Peterborough shortstop Lauren Mackey hurt her ankle sliding into second base late in Tuesday night’s Division II semifinal softball win over Hollis/Brookline.
“We carried her off the field,” said coach Jim Coppo. “She couldn’t walk on Wednesday or Thursday.”
On Saturday night, Mackey helped the Cougars win the program’s first state championship.
“I was going to give her a courtesy runner when she got on base in the seventh inning, but she said no,” Coppo said. “She wasn’t going to come out.”
Mackey and junior second baseman Bryanna Lindsay each had three hits for Con-Val.
Mackey, who plans to play field hockey and softball at Division III Clark University in Worcester, Mass., starting in the fall, was one of five Cougar seniors who graduated on Saturday morning.
“Graduation and then a winning a state championship,” Mackey said. “Who could ask for anything more?”
Catcher Marena Brock, first baseman Anastasia Hautanen, right fielder Maxine Dunn and left fielder Kaitlyn Walker were the other Con-Val seniors.
MOUND OF TROUBLE: Left-handed pitcher Kris Perkins was the star of Pittsfield’s 5-1 triumph over Littleton. Perkins tossed a complete game, struck out 14 and didn’t walk a batter. He lost his bid for a no-hitter with one out in the sixth inning.
Perkins entered the contest not having allowed a run — earned or unearned — in his last 40 innings. Littleton’s only run Saturday was unearned.
“I don’t care what level we’re talking about, that’s something for a pitcher to do that,” Pittsfield coach Robert Stockman said. “He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he pitches. He has a great curveball and he pounds the strike zone. That’s what you need at this level, someone who pounds the strike zone.”
Perkins completed the season with a 7-1 record and a 0.79 ERA. He struck out 119 in 62 2/3 innings.
LOOKING AHEAD: Campbell will likely enter the 2014 softball season as the team to beat in Division III since senior first baseman Chelsea Caynon is the only player on this year’s team who isn’t eligible to return.
Caynon, who will continue her softball career at Seton Hall, made the most of her final game in a Campbell uniform by hitting a two-run home run that opened the scoring against White Mountains.
White Mountains, last year’s Division III champion, was the only baseball or softball team that entered the weekend unbeaten. The Spartans completed their season with a 19-1 record.
NOTEWORTHY: Portsmouth won its fifth title in the last six years, but its first during that span as the lower-seeded team. The Clippers had 10 first-year varsity players on their roster. … Pittsfield second baseman Tyler Stockman (coach’s son) led off Saturday’s game with an inside-the-park home run. … Timberlane also won the Division I softball title in 2008, but entered this season with a 17-60 record in the four years since that championship. Timberlane’s Madison Bishop, a sophomore first baseman, hit a home run in the victory over Concord. The Owls received eight strikeouts from freshman Kate Hoadley. … Woodsville also beat Wilton-Lyndeborough for the Division IV softball championship in 2010.
“Diamond Notes” appears weekly in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter Roger Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @603SportsMedia.