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Senior Legion tournament: Concord Post 21 eliminated in 3-2 loss to Merrimack

Monitor staff
Published: 7/31/2018 12:29:47 AM

MANCHESTER – All weekend long there was a feeling in the Concord Post 21 dugout that the bats would eventually break through. 

The fact that they did only once – in a 12-0 win over Nashua on Saturday – made Monday’s exit from the New Hampshire American Legion senior tournament that much more disappointing for the team.

“I think pitching and defense was pretty solid throughout the tournament, we were just inconsistent with our approaches at the plate,” Post 21 coach Matt Skoby said after Concord fell to Merrimack Post 98, 3-2, at Gill Stadium in Manchester to end its tournament run.

“We were able to put some runs on the board against Nashua and I thought we would carry that momentum. We had some good swings here and there but couldn’t put anything together.”

Concord opened the tournament with a 3-0 loss to Merrimack before bouncing back with a 12-run effort against Nashua on Saturday. On Sunday, the offense quieted again in a 1-0 win over Derry, but Skoby was optimistic the runs would eventually come and he felt Monday’s opposing pitcher Alex Thornton could help Concord get back on track.

“I thought Saturday did it for us and then Sunday we faced a good pitcher (George Welch) from Derry and he kind of shut us down again,” Skoby said. “I thought today was a good opportunity. Thornton is a big kid, he doesn’t overpower people and I thought it was a good opportunity for us to get our bats and swings going again. It just didn’t happen.”

Instead, Thornton held Concord in check, allowing just two unearned runs over six innings in a start that even surprised his coach a bit.

“We didn’t know what we were going to get out of (Thornton), was it going to be two innings, three innings, and then he goes six and didn’t give up an earned run,” Merrimack coach Michael Henzley said. “I think that’s the best hitting team in the state if you ask me. They’re a really good ballclub, so we feel real fortunate to get not one win, but two wins and knock them out of the tourney.”

Merrimack opened the scoring in the home half of the first inning against Concord starter Jacob Knowles when Thornton roped an RBI single up the middle to plate Justin Grassini. It extended the lead to 2-0 in the fourth on a run-scoring bloop single off the bat of Nicholas Dutton that fell in no-man’s land between the second baseman and right fielder.

Concord looked poised to plate its first run in both the third and fourth innings but were denied in both frames.

In the third, Concord put runners on second and third with two away, but Thornton struck out Griffin Gilbert to end the threat. Knowles sparked the team by blasting a one-out triple to center field in the fourth, but was left stranded after a hard groundout and an infield pop up.

Infielder Zach Miles put Concord on the board for the first time in the fifth with a sacrifice fly to center field and the team found the run column again in the sixth on an RBI for Conner Lorenz. But Merrimack had already added an insurance run in the home half of the fifth and Dutton finished Concord off 1-2-3 in the seventh for the save.

“It was our lack of offense that really hindered us today,” Skoby said. “It’s a tough way to go out. You know you can score runs and you don’t.”

Merrimack advances to title round

Merrimack defeated Lebanon Post 22, 14-5, in the second game Monday. Rochester Post 7 and Merrimack will play for the senior Legion state title on Tuesday. The game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Gill Stadium. If Rochester wins, the tournament is over and Post 7 will be crowned champion. If Merrimack wins, a second game will be played at 7 p.m. to decide the champion.

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)

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