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Postseason run sees improvement for TNC Little League

TNC Little League starter Evan Judkins delivers a pitch during the second inning of his team’s game against Concord American LL on July 7. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
July 11, 2011
NORTHFIELD – Give the Tilton-Northfield-Canterbury Little League baseball team credit. The squad certainly doesn't go away quietly.

Despite falling into a 7-0 hole on July 7, TNC pushed a pair of runs across in the sixth inning before dropping a 7-2 decision to Concord American Little League in 9-10 year old District II play at Charles Dwinal Field.

"The kids are getting there, starting to get to where they want to be," said TNC manager Denis Lynch. "The strides the league is making are great and slowly but surely, we're making that progress."

While the loss dropped the team to 0-5 in district play, there have been plenty of positives to build on during the postseason march. The Concord defeat came just two days after a 5-4 loss to Laconia, a side that was undefeated entering that win.

"I'm proud of the way they've been playing," explained Lynch. "The last couple of games we really saw some things. Losing that close game showed what they can be capable of."

TNC had plenty of scoring opportunities against Concord, especially in the early innings. Colby Hopkins reached in the top of the first inning before moving up to second on a wild pitch. Trevor Frederick's ground out to second base had Hopkins move up to third but he was left stranded.

In the second inning, third baseman Robert Tonkin singled with one out and stole second. Tonkin moved to third on a passed ball, and appeared destined to score on a Zachary Duclos line drive to the gap. But the Concord right fielder made a sliding grab, colliding with the center fielder in the process to end the threat.

Concord carried that momentum into the bottom of the second, as the team scored three runs on three hits for a 3-0 lead.

It would stay that way into the fifth, when TNC would again see a runner stranded at third base. Harrison Parent singled to lead off the inning and moved to third on back-to-back wild pitches. But a pair of strikeouts and a groundout kept TNC off the board and Concord came right back with four in the bottom of the fifth to go up 7-0.

The tides finally turned in the top of the sixth, as Hopkins led off with a single up the middle. The ball got past the centerfielder however, and Hopkins scampered all the way around to put TNC on the board with its first run. Derek deSousa was hit by a pitch and moved up on passed balls before Tonkin notched his second hit of the day, this time an RBI single to right field that cut the deficit to 7-2. Tonkin hit the ball hard in all three at bats, proving to be an offensive threat each time he stepped into the batter's box.

Evan Judkins got the start on the mound for TNC, and he struck out two in his 1 1/3 innings of work. Frederick came on in relief in the second, and didn't allow a hit while striking out four over the next two innings. Hopkins struck out three after coming on in the fourth and Brycen Wiles added a strikeout of his own to close out the contest. All told, TNC pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts on the night.

"I think the kids are liking the experience of playing at this level and for a lot of them, it's their first time playing together," said Lynch, who has his son, Gary, as part of his coaching staff along with Drew Beaulieu, and his grandson, Nicholas, as the team's catcher. "Next year is the big-time so I think they're learning a lot from playing together this year."

TNC doesn't have a squad in the 11-12 year old tournament, the age group that sends teams to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. But that is expected to change next year, when a good chunk of this year's 9-10 team makes the jump up to the next level. This was the first year Canterbury came into the fold to join Tilton and Northfield for the postseason, and next year's regular season will feature players from all three towns.

The roster for the TNC team is: Jack Beaulieu, Derek deSousa, Zachary Duclos, Trevor Frederick, Trent Gagnon, Eddie Gallien, Dante Gentile, Colby Hopkins, Evan Judkins, Joey Keeler, Nicholas Lynch, Harrison Parent, Kyle Plaza, Robert Tonkin and Brycen Wiles.

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