Post 23 falls to Sweeney
NASHUA – Monday’s American Legion third-round state tournament game between Milford Post 23 and Sweeney Post 2 at Holman Stadium was scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.
But the game was already decided minutes before.
With both teams prepared to play, the umpires started the first game to the tripleheader roughly 10 minutes early. By 1 p.m. Sweeney’s onslaught had already begun.
Post 2 exploded for five runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back, cruising to a 14-1 mercy-rule win against a depleted Post 23 pitching staff in seven innings. Sweeney combined for 16 hits off four Milford pitchers, with all nine starters collecting at least one base hit.
The pitching struggles weren’t a surprise for Post 23, which started Tom Bennett, its starting shortstop, for the first time in his career with the team. Milford used three of its regular pitchers over the first two games – Joe Grassett tossed seven innings of relief in Sunday’s 13-inning win over Bedford – and Alec Burns, another capable pitcher, was unavailable due to a family obligation.
"We knew we didn’t have any pitching going into the game," Post 23 coach Frank Douglas said. "So we just threw everybody out there hoping we could hit."
Milford, however, was no better offensively, totaling just three hits off Post 2 starter Drew Merrick, who walked one and struck out three in a complete-game effort.
Sweeney wasted no time exposing Post 23’s pitching deficiencies, scoring five runs in the top of the first on four hits, two errors, a walk and a hit batter. Post 2 sent 10 hitters to the plate in the inning, with the first seven reaching base safely.
The rally got off to an ugly start too. Third baseman Sean McLure made a low throw on a Dan O’Connor grounder that first baseman Ben Osterholtz couldn’t handle. The ball slipped by first and O’Connor made it to third. McLure then bobbled a grounder by Brendan Sullivan to put runners on the corners, and Connor Walsh doubled to deep left to score both runners and give Post 2 a 2-0 advantage.
Aaron Mersereau followed with the first of three straight singles, and Bennett hit Grant Corbett with the bases loaded to score another run. Brian Shea grounded into a fielder’s choice and just like that it was 5-0 Sweeney.
Bennett lasted just three innings, giving up eight runs (six earned) on eight hits and two walks.
"He’s played for me for four years, he’s never pitched," Douglas said. "He’s a shortstop so he’s got a decent arm."
The trouble didn’t stop there for Milford, which gave up three runs in the third and two in the fourth, fifth and sixth.
The loss ended what was an exciting season for Post 23, which finished with an overall record of 13-8, making the postseason for the first time in well over a decade.
Douglas said he believes he got the most out of his team that he could have.
"We had a good season," he said. "We made it a lot farther than people thought we were going to. It’s a pleasure coaching these guys."
Sweeney did all of its damage in the third with two outs. After Bennett gave up a two-out walk and a single, O’Connor blooped a single out of the reach of second baseman Jake Grassett to score a run. A wild pitch scored Joey Silva and Sullivan plated O’Connor with an infield single to make it 8-0.
Cody Bassett and Shea both had RBI singles in the fourth to extend the lead to 10-0.
C.J. Bilodeau drove in Milford’s lone run of the game, scoring Osterholtz in the fourth with a double to left.
McLure surrendered six runs in two-plus innings of relief. Ryan Aho and Jake Grassett each pitched an inning out of the bullpen.