Milford earns first American Legion senior baseball tourney berth
One week ago the prospect of playing in the American Legion State Senior Tournament didn’t look so promising for Milford Post 23. Coaches and players had three regular season games remaining to rebound from a 14-1 loss to Goffstown Post 16 on July 14. They rebounded.
Wins over Plymouth Post 66, Laconia Post 1 and Manchester’s Jutras Post 43 not only locked up a tournament berth, but it’s Post 23’s first ever.
It’s a fact not lost on Milford coach Frank Douglas, who now has the task of getting his players to put the excitement of being Post 23’s first tournament team behind them in time for noon Friday when they face Rochester Post 7 in the tourney opener at Holman Stadium.
"I’m stressing that they have years of training and that’s what they need to fall back on," Douglas said. "It’s not about trying to do something different all of a sudden. Just let their training and years of practice do it for them."
It’s what got his players through the home stretch.
With Goffstown applying pressure for District A’s last tournament spot, Douglas’ squad could have folded. Instead, the team took the drive to Plymouth and found a way to win, beating Post 66 3-2 in 10 innings just one day after the 13-run loss to Goffstown.
"I told them before we even made the tourney, after being pounded by Goffstown, that Plymouth was the first game of the tournament," Douglas said. "They responded positively."
Over the next three days, Milford recorded a 7-1 win over Laconia and an 8-5 win over Jutras in the regular-season finale at Gill Stadium.
"You know, we may not have the deepest pool of talent here in Milford," Douglas said, "but these kids really play hard for each other. That’s what this team is made up of. Outside of our core guys, this is a team full of grinders. They’re given a job and they do it."
That core starts on the mound with the one-two, southpaw punch of Ryan Britton and Ian Towle and the strong relief efforts of righty Joe Grassett. They get plenty of support up the middle with shortstop Tom Bennett and leadership behind the plate in C.J. Bilodeau.
Now its up to those leaders and a bunch of grinders to take Milford deep into the American Legion playoffs.
The State Tournament at Holman Stadium runs through July 29. Friday’s schedule opens Rochester (16-2), followed at 3 p.m. by Dover Post 8 (11-7) vs. Manchester’s Sweeney Post 2 (13-5). Saturday’s slate starts at 11 a.m. with Lebanon Post 22 (13-5) vs. Exeter Post 32 (14-4), followed at 2 p.m. by Londonderry Post 27 (12-6) vs. Bedford Post 54 (13-5).
New Hampshire’s champion then advances to the Northeast Regional from Aug. 5-9 at Muzzy Field in Bristol, Conn. The American Legion World Series scheduled for Aug. 13-18 at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
"We really just need to approach the tournament like they’re everyday games," Douglas said. "Don’t get too high or too low. Just play our game, the way we’ve played it for years and let their skills and talent get the job done."