Five-run fifth inning sends Littleton to semifinals


by Corey McKean
Sports reporter - The Littleton Courier

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Woodsville's Brandon Brown meets Littleton catcher Brody Fillion at the plate in a close call at home in the top of the fifth inning. Corey McKean. (click for larger version)
June 05, 2017
LITTLETON — There wasn't much separating the second-ranked Littleton Crusaders and the seventh-ranked Woodsville Engineers on Saturday, June 3, as their quarterfinal game came down to a huge fifth inning by the Crusaders, which ended up making all the difference.

Littleton took an early 2-0 lead through two innings but in the top of the third, Woodsville's Seth Hannett smashed a homerun to left field, bringing the score to 2-1. Derek Walker responded for the Crusaders, nailing a homerun of his own to left field in the bottom of the third, giving Littleton a 3-1 lead but Woodsville wouldn't go away. The Engineers came back yet again, this time knotting the score up at 3-3 going into the bottom of the fifth where Littleton finally pulled away.

The Crusaders tallied five runs in the fifth inning led by a huge three-run homerun by Quintin Ross, which lifted Littleton to an 8-3 victory over Woodsville and advanced them to the semifinals of the NHIAA Division IV tournament where they will play sixth ranked Hopkinton.

"Very tough game today," explained Littleton coach AJ Bray. "I knew Woodsville would battle us on every pitch. Brent does a nice job with that team. Derek didn't have his best stuff today but he managed to get through six innings while he helped his cause at the plate with a homerun. I was pleased that we were able to get the big hit when we needed it. Danny Kubkowski's two out single to score two runs in the second was big and Quintin Ross with the three-run homerun in the fifth with two outs was the dagger we were looking for."

Littleton would be the first to break open the game in the bottom of the second inning as Cooper Paradice started the Crusader offense off with a deep double to left field and Scott Ridlon drew a walk. With two outs, Kubkowski came up huge as he nailed a double to left center field, scoring Paradice while Ridlon came flying into home to give Littleton a 2-0 advantage.

Hannett responded for the Engineers in a big way to start the third as he crushed a solo homerun to left field to bring the score to 2-1 but in the bottom of the third, Walker answered for Littleton with a solo shot of his own down the left field line, giving the Crusaders a 3-1 lead heading into the fourth inning.

Down two, Woodsville never went away as the Engineers tallied a run in the top of the fourth with Eric Thornton and Dakota Hernandez drawing walks and Hannett hit an RBI single to left center field, scoring Thornton to bring the score to 3-2. The Engineers defense kept Littleton off the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth to remain within a run going into the fifth inning.

In the top of the fifth, the Engineers scored another run to knot the game up at 3-3 as Seanon May led off with a single and was followed up by another single from Brandon Brown. A walk to Thornton loaded the bases for Zach Moore, who hit a single to right center field, scoring May while Brown came sliding into home on a very close play and was called out. Littleton's Walker closed out the inning with a strikeout, bringing up the Crusader bats where they did a lot of damage.

Bray reached first off a walk to start the bottom of the fifth for the Crusaders and Walker followed that up with a single, moving Bray to third. Back to back walks to Brody Fillion and Cy Kezerian brought Bray in to score and a sacrifice fly out by Paradice brought Walker into score. A fielder's choice ground out by Ridlon put runners on first and second for Littleton, bringing up Ross, who hammered a three-run shot over the left center field fence, to give Littleton a commanding 8-3 lead heading into the sixth inning.

Littleton kept Woodsville scoreless for the final two innings of the game while Bray came in to relieve Walker on the mound in the seventh and closed out the game nicely, recording a one, two, three inning.

"Everyone in the lineup today contributed in one form or another. The adrenaline was pumping today and that's what makes playoff baseball fun. We do need to clean up a few things before Wednesday but I'm sure the boys will be ready," said Bray.

"We gave them all they could handle for five innings," explained Woodsville coach Brent Cox. "We left bases loaded twice and got thrown out at the plate. I was extremely proud of the intensity we brought and the way we attacked Walker early in the count. The score didn't indicate how good this game was. Seth Hannett had a nice game with a homerun and an RBI single."

"This was a great season overall. We pulled off some key plays and approaches at the end of the year. Anytime you can show improvement throughout the year and get 12 wins you can't be anything but proud," Cox added.

The Crusaders were led by Walker with three hits and an RBI while Ross added a hit and three RBIs. The Engineers were led by Hannett with two hits and two RBIs.

Littleton improved to an overall record of 16-1 on the season and advanced to the semifinal round of the NHIAA Division IV tournament to play sixth-ranked Hopkinton. That game will be played on Wednesday, June 7, at Robbie Mills Park in Laconia at 4 p.m. Woodsville finishes their season with an overall record of 12-6.

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