Concord Post 21 won last year’s American Legion state tournament, and Post 21 may be the team to beat in this year’s tournament as well.
Concord completed its District A schedule with a 12-2 record and will face Londonderry (11-7) when the tournament begins today at Concord’s Memorial Field. The Concord-Londonderry matchup is today’s fourth game and is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
“The way we’re similar (to last year’s team) is the strength of both teams on the mound,” Concord coach Bryan Caruso said. “Our pitching is actually a little deeper this year. The pitching has definitely been the key to this team.”
Concord enters the tournament with a 2.05 team ERA. The staff includes former Concord High School ace Eddie Dionne (3-0, 1.65 ERA), who pitched for Keene State last spring; Pembroke Academy’s Autrey Gates (4-1, 1.69 ERA), who will play for St. Anselm College; and left-hander Josh Partridge (2-0, 1.56 ERA), who was Concord High School’s No. 1 starter last spring.
Concord, the tournament’s top seed from District A, has also received some strong performances from relievers Shane St. Onge (Pembroke Academy) and Nate Corriveau (Bow).
Concord worked its way through the losers’ bracket before it beat Goffstown twice to win last year’s state tournament. Concord then went on to win two games in the Northeast Regional.
“On the mound, we’re definitely in a better spot than last year,” Caruso said. “We have fresher arms. We don’t have anyone who’s thrown more than 35 innings. We had guys in the 60s last year.”
First baseman Dillon Emerson is the team’s top threat at the plate. Emerson, who was named the offensive MVP of last year’s tournament, hit .400 with 26 walks in 90 at-bats during the regular season.
“We lost some good kids (from last year’s team), but I can honestly say we’ve replaced all of them,” Emerson said. “The way this tournament works you need a lot of arms, and that’s what we have. Our relief pitching has been phenomenal this year.
“We have a good team. Our record shows we’ve had a good year, but playoff baseball is completely different than the regular season. We just have to keep battling from the first pitch to however many games we play.”
The double-elimination tournament features four teams from District A and four from District B. Today’s other games will match Laconia (7-7) vs. Rochester (14-4) at 9 a.m.; Lebanon (8-6) vs. Derry (13-5) at noon; and Nashua (12-6) vs. Goffstown (8-6) at 4 p.m.
“Concord is a very, very sound team with good pitching,” said Laconia coach Joe Dee, whose team played Concord twice during the regular season. “They’re very sound fundamentally. We played Londonderry, Rochester, Nashua. The only team (in the tournament) that we didn’t play is Derry, and I don’t think there’s a clear-cut favorite this year.”
Barring any postponements, the tournament will wrap up Tuesday. The winner will advance to the Northeast Regional, which will be played Aug. 8-12 at Palmer Field in Middletown, Conn.
“We know what we have for a pitching staff,” Caruso said. “To me, the question comes from our offense. Are we going to be able to go out there and battle the best pitchers in the state for five straight days?
“We’re not the kind of team that’s going to score 15 runs. We’ll have to manufacture offense. It’s going to come down to our hitting.”