WALPOLE — Thursday was a day of big ups and big downs for the Keene Junior Swamp Bats 18 and under program.
The first day of the New England Babe Ruth 18 and under Regional Tournament began with the first Junior Bats squad, Team Purple, losing an afternoon contest to the PNJ All-Stars of Massachusetts in six innings, 10-0. But the second Bats team, Team Black, turned that result on its head later in the night, beating Vermont in six innings by the same score.
With the tourney taking place at Hubbard Park in Walpole, New Hampshire was allowed two entries: a host team and a state representative.
Team Black and Team Purple were the only two teams to compete in the N.H. state tournament, after Nashua dropped out two days before the event began. Black beat Purple in a best-of-three series, giving it the right to choose which half of the bracket it would compete in. So, Black chose to play as the host team, with Purple as the state representative.
After the win, Black next plays Cape Cod today at 1 p.m., while Purple waits in the loser’s bracket to face the loser of that game at 7 p.m.
Team Black dominated Vermont on both sides of the ball in its game Thursday.
On the mound, recent Monadnock Regional High School graduate Matt Dodd earned the win after four shutout innings and eight strikeouts. Dodd was pulled to reserve his pitch count, and Monadnock rising senior Jacob LaPlume pitched the final two innings.
“Matt Dodd’s been good all season long, so we knew what to expect from Dodd,” Team Black Manager John Luopa said. “LaPlume has really been a pleasant surprise on the mound; he throws really well, has a good curveball and I see him developing really well down the line.”
Dodd was also one of three players to record two hits at the plate, along with recent Keene High School grad Taylor Letourneau and Keene High rising junior Zach Mooers. Mooers was also one of three players with two RBI, with Keene High rising senior Noah Timmer and Norwich University rising sophomore Cam Chamberlain each hitting a two-run double.
Team Black got on the board with two runs in the first inning, then added one in the second, four in the third, two in the fourth and one last one in the sixth to secure the mercy-rule win.
“We definitely did some really good things, but we still have a few things we’ve got to clean up,” Luopa said. “Our approaches at the plate were not as good as they have been, but that’s probably just first-game jitters.
“The majority of the kids have never been to a World Series; some of them have never even been in a regional.”
In the day’s first game, Keene High rising junior Aaron Kent took the loss on the mound for Team Purple with the defense committing some costly errors, while Monadnock rising senior Carl Hoden pitched in relief.
Cape Cod figures to be a tough opponent for Team Black. The Cape team has won five of the last six regional titles, and according to Luopa, it has three Division I commits and three collegiate players on its roster.
Luopa said Timmer is expected to start on the mound in this game, and added that if the team plays the kind of game it’s capable of, it can hang around with the champs.
“When [the players] have good approaches at the plate, when we throw strikes and play good defense, we’re a hard team to beat as well,” Luopa said. “Coach [Marty] Testo said it best: ‘Cape Cod is good, but so are we.’ ”