Rob Goodell holds up on a check swing during his at bat in the second inning of the visiting Bears’ 6-2 win on May 2. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
May 07, 2012MEREDITH – It was unfamiliar sight for the Winnisquam Regional High School baseball team on May 2.
Playing on the road at Inter-Lakes High School for the second of two annual meetings, the Bears looked up and didn't see junior Brandon Krueger on the I-L mound for the first time since the star left-hander began his high school career in Meredith. Winnisquam scored three runs in the fourth inning to retake the lead from the Lakers, and the visiting Bears held on for a solid 6-2 win in Division III action at Prescott Park.
"We saw him twice as a freshman, twice as a sophomore and once already this year," said Winnisquam coach Fred Caruso of Krueger. "I was actually joking with (I-L coach) Vint (Choiniere) before the game, 'Where you hiding him? Where is he?' It was kind of different not seeing Brandon on the mound against us. To be honest, I didn't even tell our guys about it. I just said, we're going to have good at bats no matter who was on the mound."
It was a similar game to the one the teams played back on April 13 in Tilton, as the Lakers won a tight, low-scoring 3-2 affair behind the pitching of Krueger. This time around, I-L couldn't get its offense off and running against Winnisquam starting pitcher Rory Stephens. The senior right-hander struck out just two hitters on the day, but he didn't issue a walk and induced an incredible seven ground balls back to the pitcher's mound in a complete game effort.
"That's how we have to play to be successful," said Caruso. "We have to pitch it well and we have to field it well. It's basic stuff but if we don't do that, we don't have a team that is going to bash the ball. We don't have six all-state players at the top of the lineup anymore so we have to create things, or try and create offense. When we do that, we can be successful."
It was a frustrating day for the I-L offense, as the Lakers managed to put the ball in play but only totaled five hits. Travis Manville had the lone extra base hit, a double to lead off the second inning, and the Lakers failed to get more than one base runner on at a time all afternoon.
"We played very sloppy in the field," admitted Choiniere. "We made a couple bad decisions as far as what base to throw to, those were mistakes. Needless to say, we couldn't generate any offense. I tip my cap to their pitcher of course, he was around the plate all day long and he had just enough of a second pitch when he was ahead in the count to cause us some problems. We just couldn't square the ball up."
Winnisquam took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Parker Normand doubled with one out and moved to third on a passed ball. Normand would use his wheels to score the game's first run, as a wild pitch from I-L starter Brian Borders allowed the speedy center fielder to scamper home.
The Lakers got that run back in the second however, as Manville's double saw him move to third on a sacrifice bunt by Borders. With one out, first baseman Dylan Sheehan laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Manville and tie the game at 1-1.
I-L managed to grab its first lead of the game in the third, as Ryan Hambrook singled to lead off the frame and moved all the way to third on back-to-back passed balls. With one out, junior Willie True drove a sacrifice fly to right field, plating Hambrook and giving the hosts a 2-1 advantage.
Despite finding themselves behind in the middle innings, the Bears rallied with three runs in the top of fourth to take the lead back for good. With two outs and nobody on, Curtis Archibald got the rally going with a walk. Archibald stole second base, and third baseman Caleb Hutchins tied the game with an RBI double to left field. Pinch runner Torrey Martinez scored the go-ahead run one batter later when Austin Hunt singled to put the Bears on top 3-2. Hunt would eventually come all the way around to score on a wild pitch with the bases loaded, as the visitors led 4-2.
"(Getting those runs) was huge," said Stephens. "We've been practicing hitting a lot more lately and it paid off today. People were getting the bat on the ball, not striking out like we have been before. Since we got people on base, we were actually able to get them around to score and not just leave them on base which has been a big struggle for us."
With his team now ahead, Stephens settled in over the final four innings. The senior allowed just two base runners (singles to Hambrook and Krueger) the rest of the way, and Winnisquam tacked on a run in the sixth and seventh inning (RBI sac flies from Chris VanBuskirk and Archibald) to pull away for the 6-2 win.
"I was a little disappointed with our energy level," said Choiniere. "I felt it went down immediately after we lost our 2-1 lead. I felt we got deflated there and we never got the energy back that we needed to be able to come back. And we shouldn't have lost energy there, it was only the fourth inning and there was plenty of time to make a solid comeback. (Winnisquam) outplayed us today, give them credit. It's a very disappointing loss for us today though in the big picture. This was a big game for us."
Hutchins led the Bears offensively with a perfect 3-for-3 day, as he clubbed two doubles and a single to go along with an RBI and a run scored.
"When we saw them first, we kind of see how they play and then try and get a jump on them," said Stephens of playing Inter-Lakes earlier in the year. "We played really well the first time we saw them. We've switched people around on defense so that's definitely an advantage compared to when we played them the first time."
Hambrook singled in both at bats to pace the Lakers out of the number nine hole.