NHIAA Div. IV Baseball Championship: Graduates, then champs
By ROGER BROWN New Hampshire Union Leader
Littleton High School players Nick Sanborn, left, and Josh Finkle high-five each other after winning the NHIAA Division IV baseball state championship Saturday afternoon at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester. Littleton beat Newmarket 3-1. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER - Saturday will be a memorable day for the seniors on the Littleton High School baseball team. Those six seniors graduated Saturday morning, then traveled to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, where they helped the second-seeded Crusaders defeat fourth-seeded Newmarket 3-1 in the Division IV championship game.
"They wore their baseball pants under their gowns at graduation," Littleton coach A.J. Bray said. "Then coming here for this? Days don't get much better than that."
Littleton senior Derek Walker needed 99 pitches to go the full seven innings. After a rocky start, Walker held Newmarket to three hits, walked three and struck out two. He walked two of the first three batters he faced.
"It was probably one of the toughest games we played all year," Walker said. "I felt a little nervous, but once we got past the first couple innings and got a lead I felt a lot better about the situation."
"Very gutsy performance," Bray added. "That's the sign of a good pitcher when you can perform when you just don't have your best stuff, and I thought he did that very well today."
It was also a memorable game for Littleton sophomore Danny Kubkowski, who collected three of the five hits Littleton had against Newmarket starter Josh Mastin, who pitched all six innings. Kubkowski had a triple that scored Scott Ridlon to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead in the first, singled in the third and doubled in the sixth.
Kubkowski, Littleton's starting shortstop, also scored twice. He came home on a balk to make it 2-0 in the second, and capped the scoring when he sprinted home from third on a wild pitch in the sixth.
Bray said Kubkowski had a total of two hits last season. "After today he's probably our leading hitter," Brady said. "He's somewhere near .500."
The championship was the second in three years for Littleton (18-2), which beat Sunapee for the Division IV title in 2016. Both of Littleton's losses came against White Mountains, which won the Division III title earlier Saturday.
Newmarket (16-4) scored when Greg Jablonski tripled to lead off the fifth, and Mastin followed with a run-scoring single. Littleton avoided further trouble in the fifth by turning a rare 4-3-6 double play, and Walker retired the final seven batters he faced.
"He (Walker) was good," Newmarket coach Stan Jurkoic said. "He had a decent fastball and a good curve. We put the ball in play for the most part, but what's good pitching? It isn't necessarily strikeouts, it's getting outs.
"I'm proud of my guys getting here and playing a good game. You hate to fall short, especially after the high of having a big game on Wednesday (when Newmarket beat top-seeded Pittsfield). Falling short is always a tough thing."
Brody Fillion's double was Littleton's other hit. Fillion, Littleton's catcher, is one of the six seniors on the team, all of whom are three-year starters.
"There was excitement (after the final out), but it's kind of bittersweet knowing that I'll never play with these people again on this field in this setting," Walker said. "It's a little emotional because we're all best friends."