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Bears can't rally, drop doubleheader

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

The Winnisquam seniors were honored following the team’s game against White Mountains on May 19. From left to right: Kyle Farmer, Andrew Cullen, Chris VanBuskirk, Rory Stephens and Brandonn Grassman. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
May 21, 2012
TILTON – Five games in six days was a daunting task for the Winnisquam Regional High School baseball team last week. Losing two of their best players to injury during that stretch made it that much more challenging for the Bears, however.

The busy week came to a close on May 19, as Winnisquam dropped a pair during a doubleheader against Franklin (12-0) and White Mountains (10-3) under sunny skies in Tilton.

It was a different looking Winnisquam lineup during the double-dip, as the Bears were without the services of both Tucker Normand and John Montalto. The pair each suffered a season-ending injury during action against Gilford earlier in the week.

"Five games in a week, without those guys it just makes it that much harder for us," admitted Winnisquam skipper Fred Caruso. "The last thing we needed was to lose two of our better players. If you had come up to me and said, other than Rory (Stephens), which two players could you least afford to lose…number one would've been Tucker, number two would've been John."

After falling to Franklin in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, the Bears tried to regroup in game two against the visiting Spartans of White Mountains behind the pitching of Stephens. The senior right-hander had been lights out entering the game, as he was on the mound for all four of the team's wins this season.

"We were kind of focusing on the second game because Rory's been pitching so well," said Caruso. "But you can't expect him to go out there every single time and do it, especially when we're not hitting. We know our limitations…we're not a good hitting team. And losing Tucker and John, it just makes it worse. It makes not a good situation worse. We struggled to hit all year even with those guys. Take away Tuck, he's batting .406, leads the team in runs scored, stolen bases, hits…for a freshman he did a great job while he was here. It's a tough break but you've got to pick yourself up and move on."

Instead, the Bears fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning and 7-0 after two innings as the Spartans tagged Stephens with nine hits in the first two frames.

Winnisquam finally got on the board in the bottom of the third, as Kyle Farmer singled with two outs and stole second base. Caleb Hutchins grounded a ball to the left side of the infield, and the ball was booted by the shortstop, allowing Farmer to scamper home and cut the deficit to 7-1.

The Bears continued to chip away in the fourth, as freshman Torrey Martinez walked with two outs and stole second as well. Freshman catcher Greg Hunt followed with an RBI single to right, plating Martinez and making it a 7-2 game. Parker Normand followed with a grounder to shortstop, and he managed to reach thanks to an errant throw. Curtis Archibald also singled, loading the bases for Farmer. The senior left fielder reached on an infield single to plate Hunt, cutting the deficit to 7-3. But the Bears would strand three runners in the inning, as White Mountains pitcher Ben Redford managed to get a strikeout to get out of the jam.

"For us, if we don't get a key hit there it makes it all that much tougher," explained Caruso. "We aren't going to score 10 runs a game, we knew that coming in. We took a lot of called third strikes today."

While Stephens managed to settle in after the shaky first two innings, White Mountains managed to tack on three more in the sixth, extending the lead to 10-3. The Bears loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, the third time they packed the bags on the afternoon, but Redford got out of the jam again with a strikeout, clinching the Spartan victory.

"Going into the seventh inning when we need seven runs to tie, well we haven't even scored seven runs in a game all year," said Caruso. "We want to play hard and play the game right but we just let it get away from us today. We didn't have a good first game, we didn't have a good first couple innings the second game and that kind of put us back on our heels."

Farmer went 2-for-3 with a walk for the Bears, while Normand (double), Chris VanBuskirk (single), Andrew Cullen (single) and Austin Hunt (single) all registered hits in the loss.

It was the final home game for the five Winnisquam seniors, as Farmer, VanBuskirk, Stephens, Cullen and Brandonn Grassman were honored following the game.

Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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