Milford wins, but comes up short

If there’s anything that can be learned from Milford Post 23, it’s the value of patience.

Milford spent the last two years as American Legion bottom-dwellers. It had one of the youngest teams in the state and was regularly hammered by more experienced teams, resulting in consecutive 15-loss seasons.

But 2014 has been different. Post 23 has matured, jelled and regained a pair of dominant pitchers in Pat Martin and Ryan Britton on its way to a winning season.

On Saturday, Milford capped its impressive single-season turnaround with an 8-0 win over Goffstown Post 16 in its regular-season finale at Saint Anselm College. Although the win left Post 23 at 11-7 and in a four-way tie for third place in District A, Milford lost out on tiebreakers and missed the tournament.

“The last couple of years we had a really young team,” catcher Cam Douglas said. “Now you can see them starting to develop. We have a lot of young kids who grew up together and are starting to mold together well.

“The difference this year I think everyone is really committed to the team. We have a lot more pitching, we have a lot more chemistry and it’s just working together really well.”

Milford coach Frank Douglas said teams used to take advantage of its youth. Many of the top Legion teams consist of high school upperclassmen and early college-aged players. The last two years, Post 23 was filled with 14- and 15-year-olds who were still adjusting to playing against high school-level talent.

Time and age have changed that drastically.

“If you have a weakness on your team, it’s pretty easy to take advantage of it at this level,” Douglas said. “That’s how we were the last couple of years.”

Martin led Milford to its victory Saturday. The right-hander dominated Goffstown’s lineup through seven shutout innings. He surrendered just two hits, two walks and had six strikeouts. After allowing the first two batters to reach base, he retired 17 straight Post 16 hitters between the first and sixth.

Martin also contributed with two hits and three RBIs in five plate appearances.

“I’d really like to see him control the strike zone a little bit earlier,” Frank Douglas said of Martin. “He struggled to pound the zone like he normally does and that got his pitch count up early in the game.

“Other than that, he’s tough to hit. He throws three different pitches for strikes any time in the count and the batters stay off balance.”

Martin didn’t play for Milford last season, but feels just as big a part of his team’s success this season.

“We’re all one big family,” he said. “I don’t want to be cliche about it, but we trust each other and work hard every day, we all know each other and get along really well.

Milford’s top five hitters carried the bulk of the offense, combining for five hits, seven runs and six RBIs.

Britton, Cam Douglas and Steve Upton added two hits each, while Jake McMaster and Tommy Bennett scored a pair of runs.

Goffstown, on the other hand, couldn’t avoid its own mistakes.

Aside from being shut down by Martin, Post 16 committed three errors, allowed three passed balls and a wild pitch.

Goffstown’s defense set a negative tone right away when it allowed leadoff hitter McMaster to reach on a fielding error. Britton doubled him home two batters later to give Milford the early 1-0 lead.

McMaster scored again on a single by Britton in the third and drove in Ryan Aho with a sacrifice fly in the fourth to make it 3-0 Post 23.

Milford scored three runs on four hits off Goffstown ace Chris Hood, who lasted just four innings in a losing effort. Post 23 tacked on five more off reliever David Nelson in the seventh and eighth innings.

Milford falls to Goffstown

Milford didn’t do much last Thursday to help its playoff chances, as Goffstown plated four runs in the final inning as to beat Post 23, 5-1.

The game was a pitcher’s duel for much of the contest, with Milford’s Ryan Britton and Goffstown’s Tyler Perron fooling batters throughout the early innings. Britton ultimately went six innings for the home team, allowing one run on four hits and three walks. He also struck out nine.

“We’ve had a hard time giving him the kind of support he needs,” Milford coach Frank Douglas said. “He’s pitched in a lot of tough games. I don’t blame it on Ryan.”

Milford reliever Eddie Clark got out of jams in the seventh and eighth inning, but the Goffstown offense finally found its stroke in the ninth. A dropped pop-up loaded the bases, and Perron responded with a two-run single. Milford reliever Mason Gaudette allowed two inherited runners to score before the inning ended.

“It was a pitchers’ duel,” Goffstown coach Lenny Pappas said. “We were able to get (Britton) out of the game, which was huge. Once we got to the bullpen we were able to take care of business.”

Goffstown first got on the board in the second inning, when catcher David Nelson scored on a bases-loaded walk. The team’s next big opportunity came in with one out in the eighth inning and Nelson on second. Milford third baseman Patrick Martin cleanly fielded a ground ball and got the runner at first, all while Nelson attempted to advance to third. The subsequent throw got by Martin, but the third baseman managed to recover and nail the runner at the plate. Nelson had a brief skirmish with Milford catcher Cam Douglas before order was restored.

Milford scored its lone run in the fourth inning, when Steve Upton scored on a double steal. Post 23 had a handful of other opportunities but could never capitalize. The team loaded the bases with no outs in the third, but a key double play (facilitated by Nelson) bailed Goffstown out. The catcher made another key play in the second when he picked off Milford’s Jake McMaster.

“We had our opportunities to move the runners up and we didn’t do it,” Douglas said. “We’re not going to win a game by scoring one run.”

Perron ended up going the distance, allowing one run on seven hits and three walks. Martin, Tommy Bennett and Nick Webster finished with multiple hits for Milford.