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Senior class made its mark on I-L baseball program

The Inter-Lakes baseball team will have a different look next year after graduating seven seniors. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
June 27, 2011
MEREDITH Life on the diamond will look much different next season for the Inter-Lakes High School baseball team, as the Lakers must replace an impressive senior class that featured seven players.

"At our team awards barbeque, the thing I focused on with these guys is that we've had some individual seniors graduate from the program but we've never had such a large group that made the impact that they did," said I-L coach Vint Choiniere. "I give a lot of credit to this group. We kind of came into this together when I took over the program."

A lot has changed for the Lakers since Choiniere's first season, as the squad was fresh off back-to-back winless seasons. This year saw the team finish 9-8 overall.

"We knew it would be a major challenge and there were some ups and downs in the early years but these kids were a source of hope for me personally," the coach said. "They stuck with it. There were days they were overmatched but they never stopped trying and that gave me hope as well. We just kept saying that if you stick this out, when you're juniors and seniors we'll have a chance. It was a major change to the culture of the program.

"I enjoy going to practice every day and that's because of them," Choiniere continued. "They came in with a positive attitude and that helped turn it around. It definitely paved the way for what I believe to be an extremely positive atmosphere around the team now."

Nick Sapack was one of the speediest players on the I-L roster, and he showed some versatility by playing second base in addition to the outfield. Dave Gagnon played a rock solid second base and moved to shortstop after an injury called him into action.

Alex Candage played center field for the Lakers and came through with a clutch go-ahead home run in a win over Moultonboro Academy.

"Alex is one of the smoothest players I've ever coached," said Choiniere. "He looks like he just glides yet he's covering a ton of ground."

Eliot Johnson received the team's Coaches' Award this spring, as his play on the field was matched by his contributions off it.

"Eliot probably did as much or more than anyone to turn the atmosphere of the team into a positive one," said Choiniere. "He developed his play to where he was able to get onto the field much more than as a junior. He was such a great influence on the team and we'll miss that."

Sam Baker was a four-year varsity player, and he received the team's Gold Glove as defensive player of the year at first base.

"He dramatically improved his offense this year," said Choiniere. "He ended up with an on base percentage over .400."

Alex Butcher-Nesbitt was also a four-year varsity member, as he batted over .300 during his senior campaign while playing right field, third base and catcher.

"Alex was one of the most versatile players I've coached," admitted Choiniere. "He could truly play anywhere on the field. He wasn't in school the day of our play-in game because he was so ill. He came to the game anyways in uniform and was able to stick it out for two innings before having to leave so that says a lot about him."

Rounding out the senior class was former First-Team All-State selection Josh Guilmette. An early-season injury forced Guilmette to miss the rest of the season, but the flashy shortstop finished his career with a .343 batting average and 58 hits in 54 career games.

"Josh is one of the most competitive and hard-nosed players I've ever had," said Choiniere. "We're really going to miss him and everything he brought to the team all four years."

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