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Joyce Endee

Knights split final week to open door to playoffs

BRAD RILEY (17) is mobbed by teammates after blasting a homer on Sunday against Souhegan. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
May 30, 2011
NEW DURHAM — The Kingswood baseball team controlled its own destiny heading into the season's final week.

With four games on the schedule, the Knights had to come away with at least two wins to have a shot at the Division II playoffs and even those two wins didn't guarantee the Knights a place in the tournament.

And when the week was over and with two wins under their belts, the Knights still didn't know if they had a first-round date with defending champion Portsmouth or not, as there was still the matter of a tiebreaker to work out.

The Knights finished up the season with a strong 4-1 win over Souhegan on Sunday in New Durham, as Slayd Dore pitched a gem and the offense plated some early runs to lead the way to the win.

The game came less than 24 hours after Kingswood's graduation ceremony and a number of the seniors had returned from the all-night Project Graduation celebration only hours before game time.

That led to the suggestion that if the Knights do make the playoffs, they need to stay up all night before the first-round game, as it seemed to spark their game.

In the bottom of the first, newly-graduated Phil Erwin led off with a base hit and stole second. He scored on an RBI base hit from Slayd Dore. Newly-graduated Dave Hersey followed Dore's hit with a double to bring home another run and give Kingswood a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the third, Brad Riley drew a walk with two outs and newly-graduated Jake Stout drove him home with a double for a 3-0 lead.

Souhegan, playing their fifth game of the week, came back with a run in the top of the fourth, but Dore picked a runner off second and got a grounder to get out of the jam.

Kingswood couldn't take advantage of a Chad Peterson hit in the bottom of the fourth and again Souhegan threatened in the fifth. With one out, the Sabers got a double and a grounder to third that was picked nicely by Peterson moved the runner to third. However, Dore got a foul pop to Hersey behind the plate to get out of the inning.

Riley then provided some insurance in the bottom of the inning, driving a one-out homer over the fence in right for a 4-1 lead. New graduate Tom Melnik laced a base hit and stole second. Tom Berry walked and another new graduate, Tim Campbell, drew a walk, loading the bases. However, the Knights couldn't plate any more runs and headed to the sixth with a 4-1 lead.

Dore pitched around a double in the sixth and then set the side in order in the seventh, notching a strikeout to end the game.

"They played well, and if you play well, you have a chance," coach Chip Skelley said. "We pitched well, played well and hit well. You get all three, what else do you need?"

He noted that the Knights played a lot of innings this season the same way, but the problem throughout the season was that there were a number of horrible innings mixed in.

Skelley pointed out that it is a weird situation the Knights find themselves in now, as they are out of school, yet still have the possibility of playing another game.

He also acknowledged that if it was the final game, it was a good way to end.

"It's a great way to finish," he said. "And the JVs finished strong too. There was lots of positives and good strong efforts."

The Knights hosted Goffstown on Thursday, May 26, and gave the Grizzlies all they could handle before falling by a 9-7 score.

Goffstown took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first off Knight starter Melnik, taking advantage of a walk and a couple of hits.

However, the Knights answered in the bottom of the inning. Erwin walked and stole second and Peterson moved him to third with a groundout. Dore beat out an infield hit to plate Erwin and Hersey followed with a bomb over the fence in left to tie the game at three.

The game's scariest moment came after Hersey's homer, as Riley was hit in the helmet by a Goffstown pitch. While he got up fine, the sight of blood streaming down the side of his head brought the trainer and coaches out quickly. While Riley was deemed OK, Pat Smith took over on the bases while he was patched up in the dugout.

Kingswood threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the second, as Campbell doubled and Erwin reached on an error, but the Knights couldn't score.

Hersey helped out Melnik by throwing out a runner trying to steal second in the third and the lefty got a big strikeout as well.

Hersey then threw out another runner trying to steal in the fourth, but two batters later, a homer put the Grizzlies up by a 5-3 score.

Goffstown added four runs in the fifth against Melnik and reliever Wes Fisher.

The Knights got an 8-4-3 double play in the top of the seventh to get out of trouble and rallied in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, Erwin reached on an error and stole second. Peterson grounded out to move his teammate over and Dore and Hersey drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Riley laced a base hit to drive home two and Stout beat out an infield hit to load the bases again. Joe Irvine and Berry drew back-to-back walks to bring home two more runs, cutting the lead to 9-7, but the Grizzlies got a grounder to second to finally end the game.

"You can't give up so many walks against the third team in the state," Skelley said. "But, this proves that if we play, we can play with any teams.

"That's our MO," he continued. "We definitely fight and we don't quit."

Skelley wondered that if the Knights had regular practice space and times throughout the season whether the team could've pulled off a win in a big game like that.

The Knights did pull off one comeback, as they rallied from a nine-run deficit against Plymouth on Tuesday, May 24, to pick up an 11-10 win.

Peterson pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh when his grounder to second was booted by the Plymouth defender.

The Knights opened the week with a 6-1 loss against Pembroke.

The Knights finished the regular season at 7-9. Playoff brackets were not available at press time but if the Knights got in, the tournament begins today, June 2, likely at Portsmouth. The playoffs continue on Saturday, June 4, at the home of the higher seed and then move to Memorial Field in Concord on Thursday, June 9, or Friday, June 10.

Check our sports section's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Salmon-Press-Sports-Wolfeboro/ for updates on the playoff brackets as they become available.

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