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O'Neil's homer sends MA past Newmarket, 6-4

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Senior pitcher Marcus Swedberg went the distance on the mound for MA in its 6-4 win over Newmarket on April 18. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
April 24, 2012
MOULTONBORO – Ben O'Neil grew tired of sending balls into the trees in foul territory during practice at Moultonboro Academy. The senior catcher managed to straighten things out just in time on April 18.

Trailing 4-3 in the fifth inning against Newmarket, O'Neil hit a three-run home run that easily cleared the high left field wall, giving the host Panthers an eventual 6-4 win in Division IV baseball action.

"He's got great hands and he's constantly peppering the trees out there in left field," said MA coach Todd Clifford of O'Neil. "We're just trying to get him to keep his hands inside because he's a big strong kid. I know he's got that pop and he showed it there."

With Marcus Swedberg (walk) and Mike Donahue (error) on base with one out, O'Neil stepped to the plate against Newmarket reliever Nick Chapman in the fifth. He wasted little time putting the Panthers on top, as he hit an absolute bomb on the first pitch he saw to drive in three runs and give MA its first lead of the game at 6-4.

"I was just hoping for a ball in my wheel house," admitted O'Neil, who also singled in the fourth inning and scored. "When I hit it, I knew I hit it well but not that well. But it feels great. I wasn't thinking home run, just solid contact, but it worked out for us."

MA (3-1) spent most of the afternoon playing catch up, as Newmarket (2-3) jumped on the board with two runs in the top of the first against Panthers starting pitcher Marcus Swedberg. MA responded in the bottom of the frame however, as Scott Harrington singled with one out and came around to score on a Hunter Jensen two-run homer to straightaway center field that tied the game at 2-2. It was the second home run of the young season for Jensen, and he's made just two outs through the team's first four games of the spring.

Newmarket came back with two more runs in the third inning, as Jeff Carmichael singled in a pair with two outs to put the Mules up 4-2.

O'Neil led off the fourth with a single for the Panthers and came around to get the hosts within 4-3 on a Duncan Richards RBI double. MA had a chance for more, but a second and third situation with two outs went by the boards and the squad settled for a one-run deficit.

While O'Neil would hit the eventual game-winner in the fifth, Swedberg got in a groove over the final frames, allowing his team a chance to come back and pull things out. The big lefty retired his final seven batters of the game, as he earned the victory with a complete game effort. Swedberg struck out four and didn't walk a batter on the day to improve to 2-0 on the mound.

"He was phenomenal. They couldn't hit him late," said O'Neil. "He usually warms up as the innings progress and that was the case today."

After giving up seven Newmarket hits through the first three innings, Swedberg allowed just three over his final four innings to take care of business.

"He pitched well," said Clifford. "He's got good movement on his fastball and he seemed to be throwing a little bit harder as the game went along."

The win was especially satisfying for the Panthers after a difficult 14-2 loss at the hands of D-IV power Sunapee two days earlier in Moultonboro. The squad entered April vacation at 3-1, with the next game not scheduled until April 30 when MA meets rival Inter-Lakes.

"My thought was that they'd have 10 days to enjoy being 3-1 with a win," said Clifford. "And I'd much rather that than thinking about losing this one."

O'Neil said the Panthers feel good about where they stand at this point in the season.

"We were looking forward to going into vacation with a 3-1 record," he said. "We got crushed the other day against Sunapee but that was only one game. This was a good team win for us today."

Newmarket starter Sean Fleming went the first four innings, allowing three runs on five hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Chapman took the loss in relief, as he managed just one inning of work and the three runs on the O'Neil homer.

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