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Castleberry Fairs

Babe Ruth season a success for Gilford squad


by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter
August 13, 2012
GILFORD While the Gilford Cal Ripken baseball teams were busy having plenty of success this summer, the Babe Ruth team of 13-15 year olds was making some noise as well, as the squad went 6-3 in the Armand J. Laramie League out of Laconia.

"The last couple of years we've submitted a Gilford team to the league, mostly kids that came up through the Cal Ripken program," explained coach Patrick McKenna. "Last year it looked like there were a couple changes in the league and it didn't look like Gilford was going to be able to submit a team. But it struck me that I knew there were a bunch of kids in town that wanted to play ball. I contacted the league, threw in 12 names to make sure we had a spot and luckily, all 12 wanted to play. So we went back in this year and the group we had has kind of been together for a long time."

The league in Laconia featured two teams from the host city, as well as squads from Meredith, Loudon, Barnstead and Pittsfield. A lot of the games were played at Robbie Mills Field, home to the Laconia Muskrats.

"We had a pretty good team," McKenna said. "We have guys that play on a lot of other teams so availability is a little tough for some of them but the philosophy is a lot of these guys come in from JV/middle school baseball and we try and make it fun for them. They just roll in, we have a couple practices and then they kind of just come in and play games. They all know the game well; this just creates a place for them to play. We lay off the instruction a bit and I think they really enjoy it because it's kind of a laid back league."

When the regular season came to a conclusion, the league put together all-star teams in the 13U, 14U and 15U divisions to take part in district tournaments. McKenna coached the 14U squad, with three Gilford players making the cut: Zach Poisson, Kyle Gaudet and Patrick McKenna Jr.

"Zach is a really good ballplayer and he's a workhorse on the mound as a pitcher for us," said McKenna. "Kyle is one of the best athletes in the area, I think. In the state tournament against Plymouth, he hit about a 350-foot home run. And Patrick had a couple multi-hit games in the district tournament so we had some good representatives from Gilford on the team."

The team competed in the district tournament hosted by Goffstown, and as a measure of good fortune, Goffstown was also hosting the state tournament. That meant that if the host team won districts, the runner-up would also get to move on to states as the host team receives an automatic bid. As it would turn out, that's exactly what happened for McKenna's club. The squad beat Lamprey River soundly in the semifinals before falling to Goffstown, 3-1, in the finals.

"That was a very good Goffstown team, they finished third in the state, so it was pretty impressive to stay right with them," said McKenna. "You look at those teams from the southern part of the state and they can rack up 10 runs in a hurry. Zach Poisson pitched that game and we played well, didn't make any errors. We were ahead 1-0 into the sixth inning but weren't able to hold the lead."

At the state tournament, McKenna's team opened with a powerhouse Nashua club that would eventual win the state title and fell, 9-0, before closing out the tourney with a tough 9-8 loss to Plymouth in a game that took two days to complete due to poor weather.

"It was a really nice group of kids, one of the nicer teams that I've been associated with," said McKenna of his squad that also featured players from Laconia and Loudon.

McKenna hopes the continued success of Gilford athletes, from the youth ranks on up, will pay dividends for the high school program as players with state tournament experience begin making their way onto the varsity squad.

"When you get a town and players that start to expect to get to the state level, they start to demand it of themselves," the coach explained. "I really do think there is embedded in this town the talent to be successful and I think we have a program that can connect from the lowest level up through the high school."

McKenna pointed out that this past year's freshman class at Gilford High School featured the first group that won a tournament as Gilford Cal Ripken players, when the team won the Plymouth Invitational back as 10U players.

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