Hudson - Litchfield News 10 - June 24, 2011
Champs- continued from front page
out, Campbell right-fielder Tyler Syphers made a nice, going-away catch in deep right field to end the inning.
After Baker and Nield began the Campbell fourth inning with back-to-back ground outs to second baseman Ryan Ducharme, Tyler “Chooch” Coughlin lined a frozen rope into centerfield for the Cougars’ first hit of the game. Somersworth’s Colbert next got Cody Caron to fly to deep centerfield to end any notion Campbell had of tying the game. In the bottom of the fourth, the Hilltoppers picked up only their second hit of the game when Justin Beckey’s one-out ground ball found its way between third and shortstop into left field. Catcher Brady Horning followed up Beckey’s single with a solid single to center, putting runners on first and second. Bearing down and being cheered on by a cry from the crowd of “come on baby, ring ‘em up,” Cullan Baker executed his older sister Tallie Service’s directive to a ‘T,’ as his ‘K’ of Somersworth’s Shatinsky and subsequent strikeout of Ducharme put a stop to the Hilltoppers’ threat. The Cougars got things stirring in the first half of the fifth when Cade LaCroix registered Campbell’s second hit of the game and Sean Gray drew a base on balls, eventually putting runners at first and second with two outs. With Christian Bourgea stepping into the batter’s box, the Campbell fans were hopeful their shortstop would continue his incredible streak at the plate and tie the game. Unfortunately, the fab frosh fanned on a tough pitch that caught the outside corner, leaving the Cougars still trailing by a single run at 1-0. DJ Colbert led off the Somersworth fifth with a single to left centerfield. Cullan Baker then made what could be described as the play of the game to that point. Nick Mariano’s sacrifice bunt attempt went over the head of the Cougar pitcher who initially started to charge the bunt. As the ‘non-textbook’ sacrifice popped over his head, Baker backed up and picked up the ball on the third-base side of the mound and threw a dart to first, nailing Mariano. Instead of runners on first and second with no outs, there was only a runner
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on second with one out. Being fired up by the defensive gem, Baker proceeded to retire the next two batters as the score remained Somersworth 1, Campbell 0 after five innings of play. If you had witnessed the Cougars’ semifinal game against Berlin High a week ago, you were now hoping for history to soon repeat itself. With Somersworth’s Colbert firing a stifling two hitter through five innings, the Cougars’ fans had very little to celebrate. That would swiftly change with one swing of Cullan Baker aluminum. The battling senior helped his own cause when he smoked a lead-off double onto the warning track in right centerfield. With a vocal eruption from the Cougar fans seated behind the first base dugout, the Somersworth skipper visited the mound trying to calm his starting pitcher. With Chuck Nield coming to the plate, I, and the hundreds of fans clad in red, wondered what the crafty Cougar head coach had up his sleeve this time. After falling behind with one ball and two strikes, Nield fought his way back in the count and earned a walk to put runners at first and second with nobody out. The walk issued by Colbert necessitated another trip to the mound for the Somersworth head coach, resulting in a pitching change. After five-plus innings of two-hit ball and holding the slimmest of leads, Colbert gave way to Josh Jacques. After Tyler Coughlin worked the count even, a passed ball ensued, pushing both Cougar runners into scoring position. “Chooch” Coughlin then lined the 3-2 pitch to the centerfielder, allowing Baker to tag and storm in from third, tying the game at one. With
Nield now sitting at third, 90 feet closer to putting the Cougars on top, Caron laid down a beautiful bunt down the third base line, creating a first and third scenario. Caron subsequently had an uncontested steal of second base, again putting two Cougars in scoring position. Semifinal game hero Nick Freson now stepped into the batter’s box. In addition to his power that propelled the Cougars into this championship contest, Freson also was very adept at playing small ball, as his late-inning, perfect execution of a suicide squeeze was a crucial play in a late season Cougar victory over Hopkinton. Remember earlier when I asked, ‘what do coaches know?’ Well, those of you who
have followed the red machine all season long know that the question was purely rhetorical. What ‘this’ cerebral coach knows is how to play baseball and what needs to be done to win games. As Freson approached the plate, an anxious quiet filled the stadium, allowing the fans to figuratively hear the grinding of the wheels resonate from the creative baseball mind of Coach Gorham. Another suicide squeeze? Possibly a safety squeeze? Way too obvious, right? Well, Gorham did what all good leaders do—he delegated an important decision to an important member of his team. Longtime assistant coach John Hartling made the call, and with a little bit of ‘baseball gods’ intervention, Freson’s suicide squeeze bunt, which had a little more hang time than is normally acceptable, not only gave the Cougars a one-run lead, it also boosted the lead to 3-1 as the bunt was mishandled and thrown away by pitcher Jacques, allowing Caron to score from second. “When it goes your way, it goes your way,” noted Coach Gorham on the mishandling of Freson’s bunt. “It could have been a double play,” added the CHS mentor. Gorham added that he was
very confident that Freson would get a bat on the ball in that crucial situation. The Campbell first baseman eventually scored on a two-out bloop single by Jackson Musco, increasing the Cougar lead to 4-1 as they entered the bottom of the sixth. In the bottom of the sixth, a harmless single is all that Baker allowed the Hilltoppers, as the Cougars were now just three outs away from a state title. With the Cougar fans sun-bathing and jubilant in the seats behind their team’s dugout, the next musical reference kicked in. Whoever was in charge of the music at the stadium was either from Litchfield or a DJ with an acute sense of timeliness, or both. During the break between the sixth and last inning, the Beach Boys’ song “Good Vibrations” echoed throughout the stadium, indicative of the joyous atmosphere that had abruptly put summertime smiles on the faces and hearts of all the Cougar loyalists. Although Campbell was held scoreless in the top half of the seventh, the Cougar fans rose as one, as their ovation implored their team to shut down the Hilltoppers in their last at bat and secure the state title. Despite Somersworth’s heroic attempt at a comeback, Baker was able to earn the masterful, complete-game victory, giving up only a single seventh-inning run. After the final out, Baker and his ‘mates converged and celebrated on the first-base line. Emotionally and physically spent, the Cardiac Cougars were now kings of Division III baseball. After the game, assistant coach John Hartling
After plating the Cougars’ third run, Cody Caron (#27) leaps and greets teammates Chuck Nield (#36) and Cade LaCroix (#35)
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matter-of-factly recounted the decision to implement the suicide squeeze. “We’ve been practicing bunting all week,” he said. Hartling also noted that “Somersworth doesn’t play for the bunt—it [the situation] fell right into place.” Coach Gorham expressed his happiness and admiration for his team and CHS sports: “I couldn’t be happier for those kids. They worked so hard all year. The baseball gods were with us that inning of the suicide bunt. They [baseball team] are like all our Campbell teams—they don’t quit.” And Coach Gorham would not leave the stadium without expressing sincere gratitude to his coaching staff. “I have to give a lot of credit to the assistant coaches [Sean Baskerville and John Hartling]. They have worked so hard with the kids this week.” Immediately after the game, a nauseous Cullan Baker said he “kept it together ‘til the end,” referring to keeping his ‘stomach’s activity in check’ until the final out had occurred. Baker battled through an entire week of being physically sick, and morphed that into one ‘sick’ championship performance on the mound. It was the second time in a six-day span that Campbell High had defeated Somersworth High for a state championship. Earlier in the week, the Lady Cougars spanked the Hilltoppers to bring the Division III softball championship plaque back to Campbell.
Elated and lingering Cougar fans continued to exit the home stadium of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats while the victorious Cougar team prepared to board the bus ‘back to earth.’ Then, Mr. DJ poetically reappeared. The final lyrical message of the day was being delivered. In a way that fittingly captured the way the Cougars played and fought all season long, the song that filled the ballpark air was Tim McGraw’s country hit “Live Like You Were Dying.” That they did! Congrats, Cougars !
e a s
staff photos by Marc Ayotte
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