Junior Zach Poisson returns for the Gilford baseball team after going an impressive 7-3 on the mound last year. File Photo. (click for larger version)
April 14, 2014GILFORD – It was a huge coming out season for the Gilford High School baseball team in 2013, as the Golden Eagles put together a winning season and a playoff berth, ultimately falling to eventual Division III state champion Conant in the second round, 11-4.
Fast-forward a season, and third-year skipper Matt Finch has a good chunk of that team returning, with four players (three starters) being lost to graduation. Gilford went 9-8 overall last year, earning the 12th seed in D-III.
"The guys know if they want to accomplish their goals this year, you can't come into the gym and just say its gym time...it's baseball time," said Finch, whose team – like most of New Hampshire – spent the bulk of the preseason indoors. "I've been impressed with the focus and the effort. They want to play well and they're dedicated to it. We've got big goals with this group."
The Eagles have 10 players back with varsity experience, including three seniors who were all key contributors last season. Cam Patridge returns to his familiar spot at second base, and he played every game at that position as a junior. Richie Edson started in center field the last two years, and he can also play some shortstop when called upon. Andrew Stokes saw quite a bit of time in right field last year, and the tall left-hander also threw some innings on the mound.
Gilford's large junior class features a mix of varsity vets and newcomers. Zach Poisson was the ace of the pitching staff last year as a sophomore, as he went 7-3 on the bump and started the postseason tilt with Conant.
"Zach definitely established himself as a major component of the program last year," said Finch. "He pitches to contact so he doesn't throw a lot of pitches. We had a game against Farmington last year go nine innings and his pitch count was only 90 after going the distance."
Juniors Kyle Gaudet (1B/DH), Beck Stecher (utility/P) and Max Troiano (utility/P) are all back after extensive action as sophomores. Stecher and Troiano will both see innings on the mound as well as playing a number of different positions to give Finch some flexibility.
Classmates Brad Currier (P/IF) and Mike Murphy (OF) were both swing players last year but make the leap this season, while Cam Haradon (2B/OF) and Mike Laflam (1B/OF/P) will likely see varsity innings as well.
Sophomore Brandon Sasserson is back after contributing as a freshman, and he'll see time at a variety of spots including catcher, outfield, third base and pitcher. Classmate Pat McKenna will open the season as a swing player, and he's a 2B/OF candidate.
Freshman Branden Lemay rounds out the roster, and while he's the lone member of his class on the squad, Finch expects the rookie to excel this spring all over the diamond
"I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do for us," said Finch of Lemay. "He's looked good alongside some of the other varsity guys, and he's worked extremely hard in the offseason to get ready for this."
The baseball program has grown steadily in the last few years, with the win total jumping since Finch came aboard. There's definitely an infusion of talent both young and old, which leaves the head coach confident in what lies ahead – both present and future.
"There isn't as much of a getting to know you period anymore," he explained. "I've been trying to spend some hours in with the Cal Ripken group and the younger groups. Before I was the varsity coach, I was the middle school coach so I had a lot of these kids then. We know we can tighten things up this year. But everybody's a year older and a year wiser. They've come in positive and they're ready to work."
The numbers are solid for the Eagles, as the program has 13 freshmen on the JV team, including six from Gilmanton.
"That's a huge freshman class, not only in number but also in talent," Finch said. "I only hope to keep building and growing the program. There's a lot of talent in Gilford and Gilmanton that is hungry for success."