On Thursday night, the eight seniors on the Keene baseball team took the field at Alumni for what will likely be the final time.
All eight were put in the starting lineup — something Keene head coach Dan Moylan said he normally doesn’t do — and all eight delivered in the Blackbirds’ 11-3 win over Monadnock.
The Huskies jumped out to an early lead with a two-run homerun from Hayden Haddock in the top of the first inning, but Keene responded with a seven-run second inning and rode that until the end.
It was the final regular season game for both teams.
Keene’s senior-heavy lineup did damage top to bottom — particularly in that second inning that saw 13 Blackbirds step up to the plate.
Seven hits and seven runs later, Keene had a 7-2 lead and were well on their way to the victory.
“A lot of positives tonight,” Moylan said. “The bats were better. Just overall better effort, better play tonight.”
Junior Jared Schmitt continued his hot hitting, recording two hits and coming around to score twice. Schmitt also showed off his base-running skills, snagging a few extra bases throughout the game.
Seniors Peter Haas, Zach Mooers and Aaron Caldwell also recorded multiple hits for Keene.
Mooers had a two-RBI double in the second inning that gave Keene the lead.
“Big win tonight,” Mooers said. “Building some momentum heading into the playoffs, it’s huge for morale and for everyone to get things going.”
Senior Aaron Kent got the nod for Keene, his first start of the season, and outside of the homerun in the first inning, commanded the strike zone and kept the Husky offense at bay. He went three innings, giving up three runs (two earned) while striking out six and only walking one batter.
Junior Owen Aivaliotis and freshman Lane LeClair both made their varsity debuts Thursday and made the most of the opportunity. Aivaliotis went 1.2 innings and sat down all five batters he faced while LeClair pitched the seventh inning and struck out the side on nine pitches.
“I need strike throwers,” Moylan said. “That’s what they did. It gives you a chance to pitch well if you do that. Really happy for them.”
Connor Haas also saw some time on the mound, throwing 1.1 hitless innings.
For Monadnock, Colin Donnelly got the start but couldn’t get past the second inning. Cam Olivo came in to pitch the next 2.2 innings and then Kevin Putnam pitched the final two innings.
All in all, Husky pitchers walked 11 batters on the night.
“We made a lot of errors and walked too many hitters. Kind of beat ourselves,” said Monadnock head coach Tom Cote. “Just one of those things, we need to tighten up the defense moving forward and throw more strikes and just start to prepare for the playoffs.”
Offensively, Putnam and Haddock led the way for the Huskies. Putnam went 2-2 and hit a double in the first inning. He scored on Haddock’s homerun a few batters later.
“We were happy with how our kids played with energy tonight,” Cote said.
Now both teams turn their attention to the postseason. Keene (10-7) travels to Nashua South while Monadnock (6-3) visits Mascoma for the first round of the NHIAA tournament. Both games are Monday at 10 a.m.
“Hopefully we can carry this momentum into Monday,” Moylan said.
“We’re going to really hammer defense,” Cote said. “We need to be able to make all the plays. We’re going to work on not beating ourselves going forward.”
Thursday marked Senior Night for the Blackbirds, with a pregame celebration for the seniors.
Liam Conley, Alex Charles, Dylan Germana, Peter Haas, Aaron Kent, Zach Mooers, Jaden Phillips and Aaron Caldwell each made their mark in the regular season finale.
“They are all great kids,” Moylan said, “They’ve all worked hard. I thought they all played well tonight. They’ve put in a lot of effort to be here.”
Playing the game under the lights, in front of one of the bigger crowds Alumni Field has seen in a long time, made for a special atmosphere for the seniors.
“When you grow up and you want to play high school baseball, this is what you want,” Mooers said. “Seeing all the fans — the track kids, we owe them one — and all the parents, they all did a good job.
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Mooers added.