Mutts drop tough summer opener

AMHERST – Summer baseball is about individuals putting in the time, honing their craft, working on their game.

Getting better.

Roy Santiago shattered that mold shortly after he and the Nashua Chiefs held off the Souhegan Valley Mutts, 4-3, on opening night in the New England Independent (19-under) Baseball League.

“We want to win a championship,” said the Nashua South senior-to-be, explaining his summer plans, plain and simple.

Santiago, a flashy shortstop, had three hits, scoring once, for Nashua, which rolled through five different pitchers in the opener.

Hector Rodriguez earned the win, with 2.2 innings of strong work out of the pen. It didn’t come easily, though, as with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Souhegan mounted a charge.

Kyan Bagshaw would single as the Mutts would load the bases on a pair of walks. That would chase Rodriguez and bring on Mason Linscott.

The right-hander walked Brandon Dufour on four pitches, cutting a 4-2 lead in half, but Linscott buckled down and induced a one-hopper to Rodriguez, who stepped on the bag to end it and lock up a good team win and a solid first step for the Chiefs.

“We’re a family, everyone here likes each other, and it’s a great team to be on,” said Santiago. “We’re excited. Very excited.”

For Nashua, Ryan Lopez had two hits, and both Linscott and Caleb Plourde rapped RBI

singles.

Both teams get back to work on Thursday (6 p.m.) as Souhegan Valley hosts Concord, while Nashua travels to Hollis Brookline. The Dodgers opened their 2019 summer at home on Tuesday night, knocking off ConVal, 4-1.

Big Summer ahead

The New England Independent Baseball League has been around several years, since it replaced New Hampshire Senior Babe Ruth’s Southern League.

But each summer brings at least slight changes to the list of teams that compete in the wood bat league.

And the 2019 campaign will feature some six contingents, including three Nashua-area squads.

The local crews – which feature high school-aged hardball players – include the returning Nashua Chiefs and Hollis Brookline Dodgers as well as the renewed involvement of the Souhegan Valley Mutts after several years out of the New England wood bat loop.

The other three NEIBL teams this summer are the Concord Capitals, Con Val, and the Weare Nationals.

Chiefs coach Mike Coy – who will be assisted by Dave Meyer and Jim Harvey – has an all-Gate City school roster which includes Leo Kopicho (Pitcher/Infield), Trevor McLuin (Outfield), Landon Moore (IF/OF/P), Yency Morel (P/1B/OF), Charlie Collins (OF/3B), Nolan Foss (OF), Mason Linscott (IF/P/OF), Hector Rodriguez (IF/P), Roy Santiago (SS), Max Carver (IF), Braden McConnell (IF/C), Caleb Plourde (IF/P), Tommy McLuin (OF), Ryan Lopez (1B/C), Jafet Rodriguez (C), Tyler Retkevicz (P/OF), Efrain Beltran (IF/OF), and Adam Gagnon (1B/OF/P).

The returning Souhegan Valley squad will be coached by Tom Walker, who just completed his first season as the head hardball guy at Souhegan High School.

“This is a league for players who don’t want to play AAU and who can’t commit to a full Legion schedule to come out and play some summer ball,” said Walker.

When he peruses his 2019 roster, Walker sees a bunch of athletes from his Souhegan High program as well as players from Milford, Pelham, Mont Vernon, Merrimack, and even a few from Massachusetts.

And the squad has several players who are already in or are about to begin college.

Current or former Souhegan student-athletes include Kyan Bagshaw (P/IF/OF), Riley Carr (C/IF/OF), Reese Colby (OF), Brandon Dufour (C/OF/1B), Dylan Dufour (P/IF), Beth Greenwood (C/IF), Bobby Henline (versatile), Ryan Humphrey (P/IF), David Reith (P/IF), and Matt Zifchak (IF/OF).

Over from Pelham are versatile Justin Corbett, Colby Walsh, and Zach Jones, Milford’s Brady Mason (IB/OF) will also wear Souhegan Valley garb this summer, Mont Vernon’s Colin O’Brien (IF) is in the fold, recent Merrimack High graduate Jared Wells (P/OF) is with the Mutts, and Groton-Dunstable (Mass.) High School grads and brothers Jacob and Jesse Dutile will look to aid the Mutts’ cause as well.

The Dutiles, Greenwood, O’Brien, Wells, and Zifchak are or will soon be college students.

Walker, who will be assisted in coaching by Matt Zifchak’s dad Chris, is excited to see what his Mutts’ mob can do during the 2019 summer season.

“I like what we have. I think this is going to be an interesting team to watch,” said the head coach.

Hollis Brookline’s Dodgers, who went 5-8 during the 2018 NEIBL season, are led by coach Justin Roberts and include athletes from three area towns.

“We’re really looking forward to the season. Much like previous seasons, we have a wide variety of players, both of different ages and from different towns,” said coach Roberts.

“We have players from middle school, high school, and college. We have JV and varsity players. We have players from Hollis Brookline, Milford, and Bedford. That’s the great part about the Dodgers. No matter the age or the town, the players embrace each other and become a family. I don’t see this team being any different. All of these players want to help each other, want to get better, and most importantly, want to have fun and play

baseball.”

Among the Dodger players are Milford’s Brandon Shaw (versatile) and Bedford residents Ben Jackson and Ben Hawkins (both IF/OF).

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