Quartet of baseball Panthers on All-State teams


by Bob Martin
Sports Reporter - Gilford Steamer, WInnisquam Echo, Meredith News

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Connor Porusta was one of the top players in Division 4 this past year and made first team All-State. Bob Martin. (click for larger version)
June 19, 2017
MOULTONBOROUGH — Moultonborough Academy had a rollercoaster baseball season that saw them barely sneaking into the Division 4 state tournament and losing 11-1 to Pittsfield in the first round, but the Panthers had a quality offense and for that reason they had four players named to the All-State team this year.

Connor Porusta (First team)

Teams around Division 4 knew just how good Porusta was at the plate, and often times they would pitch around him. The star shortstop led the team in batting average at .452, on base percentage with .625 and runs with 26. He was second in hits with 19 and second with 17 RBIs. These numbers would have been much higher if the opposing pitchers didn't often opt to walk him rather than let him get the bat on the ball. Amazingly, Porusta only struck out two times all season.

"Needless to say he had a very good offensive year and is a really good shortstop as well," said coach Todd Clifford.

Porusta is a tough player, and he showed this during a game this season where he said he got his tooth knocked out when colliding with a player while going for an infield popup as a pitcher. This was the first inning, and he said he got right back up and pitched five more innings while going 2 for 3 with a double at the plate.

"I was spitting blood for four innings," said Porusta.

Porusta explained that he has been playing baseball his whole life but he started playing more competitively when he was on the Cal Ripken All Star team in elementary school. He also played Babe Ruth League in the summer, as well as Junior Legion.

Last year he was named to the second team for All-State and he said it was a great honor to be named to the first team in his senior year.

"As a senior it feels really good being named first team All-State," Porusta said. "I feel like all my hard work and extra time that I've put in has paid off, but also a huge thanks for all the coaches from my whole baseball career."

Owen Gunderson (Second team)

Gunderson had a sophomore season to write home about, boasting a .429 batting average that was good for second on the team. He also had a .457 on base percentage, but it was his pitching that impressed coach Clifford.

"He started to add in a split/change as the season went on and had some success with it," said Clifford. "If we can get a decent breaking ball by next pre-season I expect him to be one of the better pitchers in our division."

Gunderson had 34 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 23.33 innings pitched. He said he worked on his pitching in the off-season and he keeps in shape by playing sports all throughout the year.

"I thought it was pretty cool to make it," said Gunderson. "When I was told originally I thought, 'I wanted to be on first team.' But it's definitely an honor."

Gunderson has a goal of batting over .500 next year in hopes to not only make the first-team, but to push the Panthers toward the top.

Michael Tolman (Third team)

Tolman batted .393 and had a .422 on base percentage while playing some quality catcher. He led the team in hits with 24 and RBIs with 23 while only striking out three times. This is the second straight year Tolman has been named to third team All-State.

In the past Tolman played a lot of year round baseball and he said his constantly playing has helped bring him to the level he is at today. Baseball is his number one sport, he said.

Tolman started catching when he was in eighth grade and he said it came naturally. By the time the eighth grade season was over he was on the varsity team. This year, he said, was tough because he was mostly a designated hitter due to an arm injury, but he hopes to bounce back in full force next season.

"I used to play third base, the hot corner, and you get a lot of plays," said Tolman. "When I started catching I really liked it because you are in every play and you can be a leader."

Tolman will be a senior next season and he has hopes of being a second or first-team All-Stater while helping his team win.

"Next year I think we should have a pretty good pitching staff," said Tolman. "Owen has really stepped up. He showed this year that by the time he is a senior he will be a dominant pitcher. We've got a young pitching staff that could really break through and give us some good innings. We should be as competitive or more than this year."

Mack Kessler (Third team)

Kessler had an all-around great season at first base for the Panthers. He was third on the team in batting average at .404 and second in on base percentage at .556. He had 19 hits on the season to go along with 15 RBIs.

"Mack Kessler really stepped up his offensive production this season," said Clifford.

Clifford added, "Together these four helped anchor a lineup that hit .313 as a team- the second best team average in the last 15 years for Moultonborough Academy. The team also had an on base percentage of .426, tied for the best on base percentage in the last 15 seasons.

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