Portsmouth High baseball sets national record
Playing before a crowd of 300 folks eager to witness a feat that was four seasons in the making and caught the attention of national media outlets like ESPN and the USA Today, the Clippers were three outs away from making history when their coach huddled the team together for a little more inspiration.
"There are 17,421 high school baseball teams in this country and you are three outs away from doing something none of them has ever accomplished," Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley said to the team prior to the bottom of the seventh inning. "I'm proud of you."
Eight pitches later, three-time defending champion Portsmouth ended the game and secured its place in the national record book, erasing the old mark of 75 set by a squad from Homer (Mich.) High School from 2004-2005.
Portsmouth fans blasted air horns, cheered and applauded while watching a rather modest reaction from a humble group of players, basically following the same celebratory protocol used in its 75 prior wins. Parents and coaches had to force the team to pose for photos behind a banner proclaiming the feat.
The club that owns the longest-ever high school baseball winning streak understands and respects what it takes to win. Five players were on the Portsmouth squad that played at the 2006 Little League World Series. Portsmouth's Little League program has claimed six of the last nine state titles.
The last Portsmouth loss occurred against Hollis/Brookline in the quarterfinal round of the 2007 state tourney. Since then the Clippers have finished three undefeated seasons with state championships.
"These guys finished what other teams started," said Hopley.
Forty-two different Portsmouth players participated in setting the record. Essentially the same Homer team won 75 games over two seasons.
Porstmouth is 13-0 this season, having outscored the opposition by a total of 111-25. They entered the game hitting .353 as a team. The pitching staff owned a 1.53 ERA and the defense was fielded the ball at a .949 clip.
"It's a result of Portsmouth's game-by-game philosophy," said senior Keegan Taylor, who is 20-0 in his three-year varsity career.
The focus is present tense, taking one pitch, one inning, one game at a time.
"It's all about the getting better for the next game and for progression of taking it to the next level from Little League to high school, college and maybe even professional ball," said the Northeastern University-bound Taylor.
Portsmouth took control early against Pembroke (7-6), which entered the game having won two of its last three. Matt Main, who was hitting ninth in the Clippers' potent lineup, led a five-run rally in the second inning with a two-run double over the third-base bag.
"It feels great to make a contribution to this," said Main, who had two hits, scored two runs and tallied three RBIs. He was on the freshmen team when the streak started.
Amed with the lead, sophomore pitcher Rick Holt (5-0) nailed down the complete-game win. He didn't allow a base runner until the third inning, scattering five hits while striking out four and not walking anyone.
Portsmouth's defense played error free ball and turned a nifty double play. The offense collected 14 hits, though Pembroke's defense threw out five Portsmouth base runners, including one at home and third.
"There always seems to be something we've got to work on. The way to win is always striving to improve," said Portsmouth catcher Connor McCauley, who had four hits, swiped three bases, drove home three runs and, like most of his teammates, expressed relief at having put the record in the rearview mirror.
The players and coaches didn't talk about the streak prior to Thursday's win.
"Winning is hard work and you've got to respect what they've done," said Pembroke coach Joshua Coughlin. "It was a good day for our program, our school and out community to witness what hard work can accomplish."
"Every day the focus has to be on getting better," said Hopley. "Get complacent and watch the streak end. And there's not a team in New Hampshire that wants to beat us more than the one we face Monday."
Monday's foe is rival St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover.
Click here to see more photos from Portsmouth's record-breaking day.