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Baseball Bobcats off to a promising start

April 25, 2011
PLYMOUTH — Like with all high school sports, growing pains are nothing new for the Plymouth Regional High School baseball program, but this year's squad is making strides that could turn a rebuilding season into a big future.

The Bobcats have already gotten big contributions from some of the new players, showing plenty of potential while taking two of their first five games as the 2011 campaign kicks into full gear.

The Bobcats opened the season with a 13-8 loss to Hanover. They'd collect eight hits in the loss, with Matt Bownes (2 for 4) and Jake Buford (2 for 4, two runs) collecting leading the way. TJ Ryan (1-for-2), Scott Lurie (1-for-3) and Corbin Boucher (1-for-2) all drove in runs, while Martin Gocha also collected an RBI getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Things went better with the Bobcats' next outing, earning a come-from-behind victory over Kennett, 10-9. The Eagles held what seemed like a commanding 8-4 lead as Plymouth came up in the bottom of the seventh, but all that changed as the Bobcats began their comeback. Will Horan walked and Bownes reached on a fielder's choice that left both runners safe, then Lurie singled to center to load the bases for John Thomas, who cashed in with a single to center to bring home Horan and Bownes, cutting the lead to two. Buford then walked to reload the bases, setting the stage for Corbin Boucher, who doubled to right-centerfield to plate Lurie and Thomas, tying the game at eight.

Kennett retook the lead in the top of the eighth, but Plymouth bounced back as Horan walked and Bownes singled on a bunt, followed by a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position. The Eagles intentionally walked Lurie to load the bases, but the move only delayed the comeback as Thomas delivered again, tagging a single to left-center for the two runs Plymouth needed to take the game.

Thomas finished 3-for-5 with four RBI, while Lurie was a perfect 3-for-3 and Bownes finished 2-for-5 with four runs scored. Silas Murray picked up the win in relief.

Plymouth opened the next week hosting Kingswood, coming up just short in a 5-2 loss. The game was scoreless until the Knights homered in the third and fourth to go up 3-0, then added two more runs in the fifth to make it a 5-0 game. The Bobcats staged another comeback effort as they rallied in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases before Murray singled to left to drive in one run, then Horan walked to force in another run. The rally would end there though, as Kingswood hung on to claim the win.

The Bobcats battled with rival Laconia next, again coming up short as they fell 8-5. The Sachems racked up an early 3-0 lead from errors in the first inning, though freshman starting pitcher Garrett Corbeil shook it off to keep Laconia quiet as the Bobcats battled back. Horan came in for Plymouth's first run as he scored on a passed ball in the second inning, while Ryan arrived home an inning later as he was hit by a pitch, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on an error by the catcher to make it a 3-2 game.

Laconia began to pull away midway through the game as they took a 6-2 lead in the fourth, but Plymouth again fought back as they loaded the bases in the sixth, where Ryan was again hit by a pitch, this time forcing in a run, while Bownes reached safely on a fielder's choice that scored Colin Sullivan to make it 6-4. Laconia got the runs back in the bottom of the sixth to make it 8-4, but while the Bobcats loaded the bases again in the top of the seventh, they'd only bring home one run on an RBI single from Matt Abear as Laconia closed out the win.

Plymouth closed out the week on a high note though, doubling up on Windham for a 6-3 win on Friday. The Bobcats got things going in the bottom of the first as Ryan singled to right and stole second, then advanced home on back-to-back groundouts to put Plymouth up, 1-0.

Windham bounced back with runs in the third and fourth to take the lead, but the Bobcats wouldn't let it last long. Lurie walked to start off the bottom of the fourth, then singles by Boucher and Horan loaded the bases. With two out, John Thomas came in to pinch-hit and didn't disappoint, singling to left-center to plate Lurie and Boucher as Plymouth reclaimed the lead, 3-2.

As error in the top of the fifth allowed Windham to knot things up, but Plymouth rectified that mistake in the bottom of the inning. Karac Shamberger got things going with a single to center and was already on his way to second on a sacrifice bunt, reaching third on the play before advancing home on a groundout to first by Bownes. Lurie then took first after getting hit by a pitch, stole second and came around to score as Murray singled to right, putting Plymouth up 5-3.

Plymouth added one more insurance run in the sixth as Horan walked, took second on a fielder's choice by Buford and scored on a single to center by Ryan. The Bobcat defense took care of the rest, shutting Windham down in the seventh for the win.

Horan pitched a complete game in the win, walking one and surrendering just five hits while striking out five. Ryan led the Bobcat offense, going two-for-three with a run scored and RBI, while Thomas (1-for-2, two RBI), Murray (1-for-2, RBI), Boucher (1-3, run), Horan (1-for-2, two runs) and Shamberger (1-for-3, run), also collected hits.

It's a promising start for a program that went winless through its first five last season, facing the same challenges as a young program developing on the go. Though the Bobcats have several returning players, including Ryan, Horan, Abear, Lurie, Bownes and starting pitcher Chris Avery, they've also introduced six freshmen straight into regular playing time at the varsity level, with Thomas, Buford, Murray, Shamberger, Cormeil and Sullivan already contributing to Plymouth's early season efforts. The mix of newcomers and veterans has had some early payoffs for the Bobcats, bringing a competitiveness and chemistry that will aid the young squad in its development with plenty more challenges awaiting them from the Division II field.

Plymouth was slated to face Goffstown on Wednesday and will host Laconia in a rematch on Friday at 4:15 p.m. They're back on the road Monday at Bishop Brady before hosting Bedford on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
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