A pair of sacrifice flies from Noah Timmer and Carl Hoden got Keene Varsity New England Independent Baseball League on the board early, building a 2-0 lead over NEIBL Salem at the end of the third inning Thursday at Michele Memorial Park.
Yet, while opportunities at the plate were there for Keene, it could not strike a big inning, and Salem scored seven runs in the fifth inning — all coming with two outs — to capture a 13-6 win on its home diamond.
“The challenge for us early on here has been getting big chunk innings,” Keene coach Rick Stromgren said. “We can get one or two runs off the bat usually in the first inning. But we need to have that big inning, where we score four or five runs and put the pressure on them early. We’ve yet to do that, but I’m happy with the way we’re swinging it and we are going to continue to build on it.”
It was a tough exit for Wyatt Carey, who had been cruising through the early innings. Carey recorded the first two outs in the inning before allowing a two RBI double, leading to his exit after 4 2/3 innings pitched.
The Fall Mountain product allowed six hits, four earned runs, walked two and struck out three. He was charged with the loss.
“It was just a few pitches I left up and they took advantage of it,” Carey said. “It’s the little things like that that can be the difference.”
Eric Norman came on in relief of Carey, and the offensive outburst from Salem continued to pile on. Norman was charged with four earned runs and allowed six hits in 1/3 innings for Keene.
Noah Poulin, Adam Smith, Donovan Kelley and Matt Michaud were the catalysts at the plate for Salem. The four combined to go 10-for-14 at bat and drove in eight of the 13 runs for Salem.
Keene got multi-hit efforts from Hunter Paquette, Casey Jordan, Kristian Hutchins and Carey. Paquette was impressive in his at bats, ripping a pair of doubles on pitches that jumped off his bat.
Stromgren got a glimpse of how potent the offense has the potential of being in the top of the sixth inning. With two outs and trailing 10-2, Keene strung together a four-run inning off big hits from Hutchins, Norman and Logan Thatcher. The offensive explosion brought Keene within four runs of the lead, but with only one-half inning left offensively and three more runs allowed, it was too much to mount a comeback.
While Keene put together 11 hits in the game, there were a lot of opportunities robbed by solid fielding out of Salem, especially in the outfield where its speed was on display.
“We hit the ball well. We just hit it right at them,” Paquette said. “We couldn’t find the gaps, but we were at least making good contact.”
Hoden, Norman and Thatcher all added hits for Keene.
Typically, this is the Keene Gordon-Bissell American Legion Post 4 team, but with the Legion season canceled the team transitioned to play in the NEIBL, a baseball league based out of Nashua.
Keene usually faces teams from the middle of the state such as Manchester, Concord and Laconia.
While it may be a little bit of a different summer in terms of the teams Keene faces, it could be beneficial seeing other towns.
“It’s a little different. The district we are in when playing Legion, we play a lot of the teams in the middle of the state,” Stromgren said. “We rarely get to get over here to Salem, Portsmouth, Dover and play. So, it’s been great to join this league and play teams we wouldn’t typically play.”
With the loss Keene moves to 3-2 on the season.