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Defending champs win home opener

Winnisquam starter Trevor Chapin delivers a pitch during the Bears 3-2 win over Inter-Lakes on April 15 in Tilton. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
April 18, 2011
TILTON It was a decidedly different look for the Winnisquam Regional High School baseball team on April 15, as the defending Division III champions opened their home slate with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Inter-Lakes High School.

"We didn't have anyone in the same position from last year so from that standpoint, it's definitely a work in progress but we like what we have and the guys are working hard," said Winnisquam coach Fred Caruso.

In a battle between two teams expected to fare well in the Lakes Region, visiting Inter-Lakes got on the board first, as the Lakers scored a pair of runs in the third inning. Willie True was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to third after an Alex Nesbitt-Butcher double. Sophomore slugger and I-L starting pitcher Brandon Krueger followed with a two-run single, advancing to second base on an error in left field to give IL a 2-0 lead.

It would stay that way until Winnisquam answered in the fourth. Senior shortstop Jordan Cote led off with an infield single and Kyle Pratt was hit by a pitch, setting up a sacrifice bunt from Trevor Chapin to put runners at second and third with one out. Jordan Riberdy was jammed but fisted a Krueger pitch to right field, plating Cote and cutting the lead to 2-1. A fielding blunder tied the game up, as Rob Goodell's soft liner was dropped, allowing Pratt to scamper home.

Chapin, getting the start on the Winnisquam mound one day after Cote pitched the opener on the road at Berlin, held Inter-Lakes down the rest of the way after his team tied the game, allowing just two hits in his final four innings of work. The junior went all seven innings, striking out five and not issuing a single walk while keeping his pitch count under 80.

"Trevor came on in relief against Berlin so he worked back-to-back days but he looked real sharp," Caruso said. "He's not a strikeout pitcher but he's smart and pitched very efficient today."

After seeing Bears' ace Cote twice last year, the Lakers were preparing for him again, and didn't find out until the morning that he had pitched the previous day.

"I think we've faced Jordan four times the last two seasons so you become accustomed to gearing up for him," said I-L skipper Vint Choiniere. "You spend all week getting ready for that and then you don't see it. We were a little disappointed not to take advantage."

The Bears pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the sixth, as Pratt was hit by a pitch for the second time and moved up to second after another Chapin sacrifice bunt. Krueger looked like he might get out of the inning unscathed after a strikeout, but Goodell fought off a tough pitch and pushed it into right field for a single with two outs, scoring Pratt for the 3-2 lead that proved to be the difference.

"That was a tough at bat," recalled Caruso. "Rob battled every pitch and we tell our guys that if you put the ball in play, good things are going to happen."

Krueger allowed six hits on the mound while striking out three in the complete game effort. He also had three pickoffs, cutting down Winnisquam runners in key spots.

"Brandon didn't pitch his best game but he definitely pitched well enough for us to win the game," said Choiniere. "It was a very winnable game and while we're disappointed about the outcome, I feel like we have enough maturity that it's not going to get us down."

Krueger reached base twice for Inter-Lakes, while Sam Baker added a double in the loss.

Cote roped a triple in the first inning for the Bears but was stranded. Goodell, Matt Descoteaux, Cote and Pratt all reached base twice.

"We always stress it's the little things that win games," explained Caruso. "We got some bunts down when we needed and some timely hitting when we needed. We earned what we got so it was nice to pull out the win because we didn't want to start the year 0-2 (after losing to Berlin 6-3 in the opener)."

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