Captains (l to r) John Thomas, Collin Sullivan and Gavin Brickley pose with the Division II runner-up trophy after Saturday's championship game in Manchester. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
June 16, 2014MANCHESTER — A tough Goffstown lineup proved to be a little too much for Plymouth to handle in the Division II baseball finals on Saturday, June 14.
The normally surehanded Bobcat defense struggled and the Grizzlies took advantage, scoring an 8-1 win over the Bobcats on the grass of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
"Steven (Southard) didn't pitch a bad ballgame," Bobcat coach Tom Underwood stated. "They are just so tough, they keep coming at you.
"We had a shot early and we let it slip away," the veteran coach continued.
Plymouth did get on the board first, as the Bobcats plated a run in the top of the first inning, using the small ball approach that has been affective all season and aggressive base running, which has also been a hallmark of the Bobcat season.
Collin Sullivan led off the game reaching on an error and Silas Murray promptly bunted him up to second. After John Thomas worked a walk, a strikeout put the Grizzlies one out away from getting out of the jam.
However, Sullivan broke for third and the catcher's throw got away from the third baseman and Sullivan raced home with the game's first run. Aaron Evans worked a walk to put two runners on base, but Thomas was gunned down trying to steal third to end the inning.
Southard, who got the start in the team's opening round playoff game and closed out the semifinal game with an inning and two-thirds of perfect baseball, got the nod on the hill in the finals and he promptly set down Goffstown in order in the bottom of the first inning.
Chris Comeau led off the bottom of the second with a base hit, but Southard's attempt to bunt him over resulted in Comeau being forced at second. Justin Robinson bunted Southard over, but he was stranded and Goffstown was able to take the lead in the bottom of the second.
With one out, an infield hit, a base hit and an error loaded the bases for the Grizzlies and Southard issued his first walk of the game to force home the tying run. After coming back to get a strikeout, the next batter lofted a shot to deep center. Sullivan raced back and almost made a spectacular catch, but couldn't quite make the grab and all three runners came around to score, giving the Grizzlies a 4-1 lead.
"If we make that catch, we're out of the inning 1-1," Underwood said, while admitting it would've been a great catch. "It's a different ballgame."
Instead, the Bobcats were forced to play catch-up against a strong Goffstown team. Sullivan led off the third with an infield hit and stole second and Murray's attempt to bunt him over resulted in both runners reaching their bases safely. However, a strike-out, throw-out double play put a damper on the inning and Sullivan was stranded at third.
Southard surrendered a lead off hit in the bottom of the third inning, but one out later, Murray and Dylan Donahue turned a 6-4 double play, with Murray snaring a line drive and firing to his middle infield partner to double the runner off second.
Southard reached on an error with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, but he was stranded when the Grizzly catcher made a nice catch of a foul pop to end the inning.
The Grizzlies added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth. A leadoff base hit and stolen base put one runner on and an error put another one on. An error on a pickoff play than allowed another run to score and another error plated a sixth run for a 6-1 Goffstown lead before Southard got out of the inning.
Sullivan had a base hit with one out in the top of the fifth, but he was stranded. The Grizzlies added a run in the bottom of the inning. With two outs, a bloop hit and a base hit put two runners on base. Southard picked off the runner at first, but he got caught in a rundown long enough to allow the runner on third to come home, making it 7-1.
Aaron Evans had a base hit with one out in the sixth and John Demeritt took over on the bases, but he was stranded there. A base hit and three walks forced home another run in the bottom of the sixth, spelling the end of the day for Southard, who walked off the field to a huge hand from the appreciative Plymouth fans. Harrison Macomber took over on the hill and promptly got a line drive to left to end the inning.
Sullivan had a two-out base hit in what would be his final at-bat in a high school game, but a long fly ball to center ended the game, giving Goffstown the 8-1 win and the Division II title.
After praising Sullivan for his great day at the plate, Underwood noted that all of his seniors should be commended.
"I can't say enough about all six seniors," Underwood said, referencing Murray, Sullivan, Thomas, Gavin Brickley, Jake Buford and John Salivonchik. "They're all great kids, they're all great leaders."
While five of the six started the game and played the entire contest, Underwood was able to insert Salivonchik into the game to get him on the field in his final high school game.
"He's really the heart and soul of this team as far as cheering on his teammates," the veteran coach said.
Underwood was quick to point out that throughout the first three rounds, things went Plymouth's way, but Saturday was just a bit different.
"It's just one of those days," he said. "The baseball gods were with them today and the baseball gods weren't with us today.
"Things went our way (early in the tournament), the balls bounced our way," Underwood continued. "Today, it bounced their way."
He also pointed out that the loss took nothing from what the team accomplished, with a 12-4 regular season and three playoff wins.
"That's a great season, especially in Division II," the Bobcat mentor pointed out. "There's no let-up on any given day, you have to bring your best every single day."
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org