Milford Post 23 earns 3rd in Legion tourney
NASHUA – Armed with a one-two punch on the mound, Rochester delivered a double knockout to Greater Nashua teams at the American Legion Senior State Tournament on Monday at Holman Stadium.
Behind a pair of complete games from pitchers Josh Gagne and Chris States, defending champion Rochester Post 7 eliminated Merrimack Post 98 by a 4-0 margin before ousting Milford Post 23 with a 9-1 victory in the nightcap of a doubleheader.
The victories set up a rematch of the 2015 finals against Exeter, which had yet to lose a game in the tournament, but Rochester beat Exeter 3-1 and then 12-2 in seven innings Tuesday to become the first repeat champions since Jutras in 1996-97.
Milford – featuring Hollis Brookline’s Nate Corsetti and Richard Cadario – was the District A regular season champions and finished third in the tournament, but Post 23 was hoping to make Rochester’s path a little bit tougher.
Gagne was dominant, though, surrendering just one unearned run off five hits while striking out 10 and walking none in a complete game.
"He was the MVP last year and he’s an excellent pitcher," Milford coach Harold Webster said. "We couldn’t hit him, period. You’re not going to win the game with five hits most of the time."
Milford won its first two games of the tournament, topping Merrimack 8-1 in the opener Friday before a 6-2 win in its first matchup with Rochester in the double-elimination tournament on Saturday. Post 23 suffered its first loss Sunday with a 5-2 setback to Exeter.
On Monday, Rochester pounced on Milford starter Alec Burns early with two runs in the top of the first and Post 7 never relinquished control of the game thanks to a 15-hit attack.
Trailing 3-0, Burns led off with a double to left-center field for Milford and came around to score after an error and sacrifice fly off the bat of Tommy Bennett. It was Post 23’s only run of the game, however, and it was the lone run Rochester allowed in 18 innings on the day.
"One run in two ballgames, that’s pretty good. I can’t ask for anything more," Rochester coach Steve Lambert said. "They’re both quality pitchers and they threw strikes."
Rochester broke it open with a four-run top of the sixth for a 7-1 cushion, added two more in the seventh and cruised to victory.
Drew Healey was 3 for 6 with three RBIs and a run scored, while Rick Creteau, Anthony DiPrizio, Justin Jewell and Christian Dow each had a pair of hits.
"It’s too bad. The kids worked hard all year," Webster said. "We did our best, but we ran out of pitching. When you play a tournament like this, every day for five days in a row, you need pitching. You can’t do it without pitching."
Burns went 2 for 3 on the night, while Jake McMaster, Danny Allen and Ryan Hill each singled for Post 23.
"We had a great season. We were 16-4 for the year. That’s good," Webster said. "We had a lot of close games. We didn’t open up any big leads like some teams did, but our defense was as good as any team out there."
Exeter 5, Milford 2
NASHUA – On Sunday evening, the MVP for Milford was definitely Bryce Walker, as he worked 5 2/3 innings in relief, giving up only one unearned run. He struck out the side in the fifth. When he entered the game in the fourth, Post 32 had the bases loaded and one out. Walker proceeded to force Jack Arend to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Milford jumped out to an
early 1-0 lead in the first, but then Exeter responded with four consecutive runs over the next three innings to claim a 4-1 advantage.
With the score tied, 1-1, in the third, Collin Shapiro crossed home plate to give Exeter the lead for the first time. Post 32 remained in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
Post 32 claimed a three-run lead in the fourth, as Kyle Ball and Cody Morissette each posted an RBI single.
Milford tried to get back in the game in the bottom of the fourth when Tommy Bennett posted a two-out RBI single, scoring Mason Gaudette.
Exeter ended the scoring in the eighth, as Ben Malgeri scored from third base on an RBI bunt by Shapiro.
Milford 8, Merrimack 1
NASHUA – Milford starting pitcher Joe Grassett was perfectly content letting his defense do the work.
Grassett pitched eight stellar innings and Post 23 used a five-run sixth to pull away for an 8-1 victory over Merrimack Post 98 on Friday night in the first round of the American Legion Senior State Tournament at Holman Stadium.
Grassett, a right-handed sidearm hurler out of Souhegan, needed just one strikeout to limit Merrimack to three hits and one unearned run. Although he did plunk a batter, he did not issue a walk.
"I was just mixing it up and letting my defense make a lot of plays. I get a lot of help from them every time," Grassett said. "I think we’ve got the best, certainly if not, then one of the best defenses in the state. I’m going up there knowing no matter what they hit, our guys can go get it and make play. It’s awesome confidence for a pitcher."
Milford, the top seed in District A, took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when shortstop Tommy Bennett laced a two-out RBI double deep to left-center field, scoring Mason Gaudette all the way from first base.
The game remained tight and Merrimack (8-7), the fourth seed in District B, squared it in the top of the sixth after Grant Coy led off with a single and scored on a sacrifice fly to center from Andrew Thibault.
However, Post 98 committed four errors in the top of the sixth, as Milford used three hits to plate five runs.
"If you have an inning where you blow up like that, you can’t beat the teams that are in the tournament," Merrimack coach Chris Shanahan said. "We shot ourselves in the foot."
Bennett reached on an error by the center fielder before Jake McMaster poked a single through the hole on the right side on a perfectly executed hit-and-run. The relay from the outfield went awry, allowing Bennett to score.
Dan Allen ripped an RBI single to score McMaster, before Ryan Hill socked a two-RBI single to left field to bring home Allen and Bryce Walker. Hill scored when Alec Burns reached on an error.
"This team can hit with anybody if they get going," Milford coach Harold Webster said.
Considering Merrimack had just broken through to tie the game, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
"That makes it a lot worse. We were playing great," Shanahan said. "I attribute it to guys being young."
Milford tacked on two more runs in the seventh with a two-RBI double from Walker.
"We got it going after a couple of innings," Webster said. "They were a little tight there at the beginning of the game, but we got straightened out."
Justin Grassini started on the hill for Merrimack and went six innings. He allowed six runs – three earned – with two strikeouts, one walk and a hit batsmen.
"Grassini pitched great and defensively, we just didn’t help him out," Shanahan said.
The defense was the difference. Milford committed two errors to Merrimack’s six.
Nate Corsetti, of Hollis Brookline, pitched the final inning for Post 23, which included one of Milford’s two double plays.
It wasn’t needed, but Grassett gave him plenty of breathing room.
"He’s not overpowering, but he pounds the strike zone, he moves it around and he changes speeds. It’s proof that you don’t have to be a guy that’s throwing mid 80s to get outs," Shanahan said of Grassett. "He kept us off-balance. He had guys that normally tattoo the ball lunging. … He’s effective because he moves the ball around and makes you look stupid."
Correspondent Trevor Wenners contributed to this report.