If the high school baseball season ended today, five area teams would be headed to the playoffs, with four of them poised to host a game in the first round.
It’s been a year of rebounds, rebuilds and sustained success for Monadnock Region baseball. Let’s check in with the local teams and see where each one stands as they prepare to make their final push for the postseason:
The Blackbirds started out hot with four straight wins, including three straight mercy-rule victories. They’ve since come back down to Earth, but have still established themselves as one of the top teams in Division I.
They currently stand at 11-5 — having already passed their win total from each of the last two seasons — and are in sixth place in the division, which would allow them to host a playoff game for the first time in three years.
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Coach Dan Moylan said. “We’ve won the games that we’re supposed to win. We’ve played well, been pretty consistent the whole year.
“We feel pretty good about where we’re at coming down the last week of the season here.”
There hasn’t been much in the realm of upset wins or losses for the Birds. They have a 9-0 record against teams ranked below them in the Division I standings, and a 1-4 record against the five teams above them (they are 1-1 against out-of-state opponents, with a win over Brattleboro, Vt., and a loss to East Catholic, Conn.).
The one upset was a 2-1 win over first-place Concord on May 4, in which sophomore pitcher/infielder Zach Mooers threw the biggest gem of the season. Mooers held the Crimson Tide to just three hits and two walks while striking out three, and also hit an RBI double to help his own cause.
Unfortunately, Mooers hasn’t played a game since, missing the last four games due to injury. Moylan said his status is being monitored on a day-to-day basis, but they don’t want to rush him back and risk his health for future baseball and hockey seasons.
While team may have lost a strong pitcher and one of its best hitters (Mooers was hitting at a .524/.577/.762 clip), it’s still been going strong. Keene has gone 4-1 in his absence, and is currently on a four-game win streak.
Throughout the lineup, there are six hitters with at least 10 RBI — Alex Charles (14), Gabe Fletcher (13), Owen Fauth (11), Marcus Soucia (11), Brian Langevin (11) and Tucker Brown (10) — and eight with at least 10 runs scored — Fauth (18), Noah Timmer (15), Langevin (13), Soucia (13), Logan Thatcher (13), Fletcher (12), Charles (12) and Brown (11).
“We were never solely dependent on (Mooers),” Moylan said. “He’s a good player, we miss him, but guys have stepped into different spots and really done a fine job of hitting in the middle of the lineup there.”
As well as things are going, however, Moylan knows his team will eventually run into those top-five teams that his club has struggled.
But he also said his team has learned from those losses, and is aiming to be a stronger club come playoff time.
“They’ve got to realize how they’ve got to play against good teams,” Moylan said. “Take quality at-bats; make good pitches; limit the big innings. I think when you look at the games that we’ve lost against East Catholic, Exeter, Pinkerton and Bishop Guertin, we gave up, I think, 7-, 8-, 9-run innings, which basically takes you right out of the game.
“If it’s 9-0 after the first inning, I’m a realist, the game is, for the most part, over.”
The Huskies continue to rank among the best teams in Division III, but this year could see them enter the playoffs with their best seeding since 2014.
The team currently holds a record of 9-2, standing in third place in the division — three spots above where it finished last season.
“We’re pleased with it,” Coach Jim St. Laurent said. “These kids are playing good baseball.”
Depth has been the name of the game for Monadnock on both sides of the ball, despite a relatively small roster with just 13 players.
Senior Matt Dodd has led the way for the pitching rotation, posting a 4-1 record with a 1.59 ERA and averaging more than one strikeout per inning. But Carl Hoden has also turned into an effective starter-reliever hybrid, making four appearances (two starts) during the team’s current six-game win streak for a total of 18.1 innings, giving up just two earned runs. In addition, younger hurlers like Kevin Putnam, Jake LaPlume and Hunter Langworthy have stepped up to become solid pitch-by-committee players.
Aside from an error-filled 8-4 loss to Hopkinton on April 29, Monadnock has held all of its opponents to less than four runs.
On the offense, the team has turned its well-balanced lineup into a consistent scoring machine, putting up at least nine runs in each of its last six wins.
But where the team has shown its best depth is through its versatility in the field.
The Huskies lost pitcher/shortstop Conor Branon after he took a line drive to the face in a May 6 win at Newport. He projects to be out for the rest of the season and most if not all of the playoffs, but in his stead, Putnam has stepped up at shortstop while Joe Morrell has moved to second base.
“At the beginning of the year, we tell our players, ‘I want you to be able to play more than one position,’ and for that reason right there,” St. Laurent said. “If an injury happens, and it seems to happen every year, I can put somebody in at a different position, and they may not be a standout there but we can get by with it.”
Monadnock won a Division III title in 2016, but since then has yet to make it out of the quarterfinals. St. Laurent wants his players laser-focused on the games in front of them, because he knows how fast the baseball landscape can take that success away from you.
“I tell these kids it doesn’t matter really what we’ve done up to this point, it’s how we finish,” St. Laurent said. “The games we’ve played, we’re (9-2), but those games are behind us. The bottom line is, with a single-elimination tournament, who’s going to win it is who’s hot at the right time.”
The Orioles’ first season under Coach Arric Mather has been a bit of a roller coaster, as far as win-loss record is concerned.
The team opened the season with a 1-2 stretch — on a bumpy road trip that featured two 10-run losses — then bounced back with a six-game win streak. Conant has since gone 1-2 again, including its second double-digit loss to region rival Monadnock and a 10-run win over its other region rival, Fall Mountain.
The Orioles’ 8-4 record puts them in eighth place, a half-game ahead of Laconia and a half-game behind White Mountains in a tight battle for home-field advantage.
Mather said in the wake of the team’s up-and-down results, they’ve been trying to hone in on building a stronger bond as a team.
“We had a team meeting and said, ‘OK, enough of these team chemistry buzzwords; we need to come together as a family,’ ” Mather said. “I’ve been really impressed with the transformation they’ve shown since then.”
Among the standout performers, Preston Kirby has posted a 3-1 record on the mound, while Nick Germano had a four-RBI day against Fall Mountain May 14 and a walk-off hit against Bishop Brady May 6.
Conant will be closing out the regular season with another long road trip, playing three of its last four games on the road. Its only home game will be May 22 against fourth-place Hopkinton.
After graduating six seniors and bringing in a new head coach, it’s been a tough rebuilding year for the Wildcats.
The team currently stands in third-to-last place in Division III at 2-10.
“It’s not quite played out as well as I planned,” Coach Tom Boudro said.
Not much has gone right for Fall Mountain this year, and it’s all snowballed on top of itself, according to Boudro.
Consistent mistakes in the field have led to longer innings for the pitchers, which has led to more pitchers being used each game due to pitch-count rules, which has led to a lack of depth in the pitching staff.
On the other side, the hitters have struggled with leaving runners on base, and at times with even getting on base. At one point, the team struck out 50 times over a stretch of four games, according to Boudro.
But even with all these struggles, Boudro insists there is still potential within his club, although it may take a year or two to come out.
“This program does have a future,” Boudro said. “There’s a lot of freshmen and sophomores that are really talented that are coming up through the program.
“There is a bright side to this program, it’s just going to probably be in a year or two to see what happens.”
Experience was the key ingredient in guiding the Cougars back into the playoff picture after missing the postseason the past two seasons.
The team is currently fourth in Division II with a 10-3 record, with two of its three losses coming against top-three opponents.
The team’s five returning seniors — Jack Plourde, Manny Bowman, Duncan Cahoon, Ben Garfinkle and Max Davie — have been the catalyzing force behind ConVal’s revival.
“We don’t panic,” Coach Mike Marschok said. “We were down (Thursday against Milford) in the seventh and we ended up pulling out the game, 3-2. We don’t panic and we don’t give up, we play right to the last out.”
It’s a good thing they don’t panic, because they’ve had plenty of games where they’ve had to keep their cool. Out of the Cougars’ 13 games so far, 10 have been decided by two runs or less.
“We’ve played playoff-style games lately,” Marschok said. “We’ve played a lot of tight games, which is good, I think that’s going to bode well going forward.”
Right now, ConVal is all but guaranteed to host a playoff game for the first time since 2014. Marschok said he’s confident his team won’t slide in its remaining games, but they’re still taking it one game at a time.
“What I want to see is the team playing hard and trying to win every game,” Marschok said. “Just play hard and play as a team.”
The Pacers stand in a very interesting position at this point in the season.
Standing in ninth place with a 7-8 record, the team has already clinched its first playoff berth since 2011, and is even in a position to clinch its first home playoff game since 2009.
“That’s a big step for the program,” said Coach and Athletic Director Sam Kilelee. “I think we’re starting to put baseball back on the realm of things here in Hinsdale.”
But in order to clinch home-field advantage, some things will need to happen outside of Hinsdale’s control. Certainly, the team can win its last game at home against Portsmouth Christian Monday at 4 p.m., but from there the Pacers just have to sit and watch the other teams finish their schedules before they can find out where they stand in the playoffs.
“We’ve gotta worry about what we can control,” Kilelee said. “We can’t worry about what everybody else does, we’ve got worry about what Hinsdale does, playing Hinsdale baseball at this time.”
Regardless of where they fall, Kilelee said this season has been a successful revival of the program. In his three years coaching the baseball team, it has gone from one win to four wins to seven so far this year.
Senior Bryce Lindsell-Klaus and junior Greg Howard have stepped up in a big way on the mound, but the team has had some clutch performances from some youngsters as well, including freshmen Andrew Lindsell and Dan Tetreault.
Kilelee said the team’s increased maturity and work ethic have been big factors in their improvement over time, but also added that frustration from past losing seasons has also played a big role.
“I think a big goal this year was we were gonna compete in every game, and I think the kids really took that to heart,” Kilelee said. “That’s where this work ethic came in, when they found out we can do this and we’re way better than we’ve been.”