SWANZEY CENTER — The Monadnock baseball team picked the worst possible time to have its worst offensive outing of the season.
The time was Thursday, in the first round of the Division III state tournament.
The result was the team’s first shutout loss of the season, 3-0, and an upset elimination for the No. 3 seeded Huskies at the hands of No. 14 Prospect Mountain.
“We ran into a good pitcher,” Monadnock Coach Jim St. Laurent said. “Give him credit, he threw very well. We hit the ball, but we hit it right at people all day long, and made a couple costly errors that hurt us, but overall (Prospect) played a good ballgame today.”
That pitcher was Prospect senior Caleb Piwnicki, a right-handed commit to Division III Suffolk University.
Piwnicki held the Huskies — who averaged 9.2 runs per game in the regular season — to four hits and one walk while striking out five.
“He was just spotting up with his fastball; threw pretty hard, Monadnock senior Mat Dodd said. “And then he could break off the curveball when he needed to. He just kept it low and we couldn’t really hit it.”
While the Huskies’ offense floundered against Piwnicki, the defense relied on its own senior ace in Dodd to keep the team’s hopes alive.
Dodd allowed five hits and three walks and struck out eight in a complete-game outing and gave up no earned runs through the first six innings, but a pair of runs did come across thanks to some defensive hiccups.
In the second inning, an error on a pickoff attempt at first by Dodd allowed Piwnicki to advance from first to third, and he then scored on a groundout by Richie Stevens.
The score remained 1-0 in a heated pitchers’ duel until the sixth, when Ryker Burke reached on an error at second and later scored on a single by Stevens.
The final run came in the seventh, when another pickoff error allowed Noah Sanville to advance from second to third; he later scored on a single by Burke, giving Dodd his only earned run of the day.
“It’s really tough, because you can’t really do anything about it,” Dodd said. “One mistake, and then they score.”
While the Huskies couldn’t string many hits together, they did have opportunities to score throughout the game.
After going down in order in the first, Monadnock stranded a runner in scoring position in each of the next four innings. This included a situation in the fourth in which Joe Morrell hit a two-out grounder to short and nearly beat the throw to first, which would’ve brought in pinch runner Lincoln Blodgett from third for the tying run.
An even closer chance came in the sixth, when Connor Branon hit a fly ball to right-center out of the reach of Prospect’s diving center fielder. But Eric Chase — attempting to score from first — was gunned down at the plate to end the inning.
“We had a couple bang-bang plays,” St. Laurent said. “We thought Joey was safe at first, but the umpire saw something different, called him out, so you’ve got to live with it and move on.”
After tying for the division’s best record at 14-2 and finishing the regular season on an 11-game win streak, the Huskies had looked poised for a potential run at their second state title in four years.
Now that the ride has abruptly ended, the disappointment is impossible to mask.
“This was probably one of our better years in a while, but in the end, we didn’t come ready to play and we didn’t get a W,” Dodd said.
St. Laurent added: “We had a team that we felt could go deep in the playoffs, but it just didn’t happen — that’s baseball. We play them next year, we play them tomorrow, things might be different, but they beat us today, plain and simple.”