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H.S. Baseball/Softball -- New attitude, same results: Campbell baseball team keeps rolling

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2017 12:18AM
Campbell's pitcher Griffin St. Onge with Matt Gagne at short stop in Litchfield on Wednesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
Power Rankings

1. Exeter (13-0)
2. Bedford (13-1)
3. Souhegan (11-1)
4. Concord (10-5)
5. Dover (11-4)
T-6. Portsmouth (11-2)
T-6. Windham (11-2)
7. Pinkerton (11-4)
8. Campbell (12-0)
9. Goffstown (11-3)
10. Belmont (10-2)


1. Londonderry (14-1)
2. Salem (13-2)
3. Milford (11-2)
4. Souhegan (10-1)
5. Pelham (10-2)
6. Bishop Guertin (10-3)
7. Pinkerton (11-4)
8. Goffstown (11-2)
9. White Mountains (12-0)
T-10. Sunapee (14-0)
T-10. Gorham (11-0)

Campbell High of Litchfield has been the gold standard in Division III baseball the last decade. Numbers alone can tell you as much. The Cougars have made it to six Div. III championship games since 2006, winning in four of those appearances, while stringing together an unprecedented 41-game win streak from 2014-2016.

A 12-0 start this season comes off as another walk in the park for the Cougars, however, the success appears far more rewarding than ever before. The end of the 41-game streak and a first-round playoff loss as the No. 1 seed were sobering experiences for a talented but inexperienced Cougars squad last year. The majority of last year’s club is back in the fold and Campbell coach Jim Gorham can tell his team learned from its misfortunes.

“You can see that there is a completely different attitude here,” said Gorham after Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Conant of Jaffrey. “It’s been different from day one. They like each other and hang around each other. They enjoy coming to practice early because they want to be with each other, and that’s a big part of it.”

The improved camaraderie has the Cougars playing for one another and sticking together through the ups and downs, but a renewed approach to each game is also at work.

“Being on that streak last year, we thought we could just roll over the league,” Campbell ace Griffin St. Onge said. “That was exactly why we lost to Bow (to end the streak) and then Raymond (in the playoffs).

“If we’re down or in a close game this season, we’re always fighting back. We aren’t as good as we were last year or past years, but you can count on us to never give up.”

St. Onge has backed up his words by producing another dominant season on the hill. While the lefty has reprised his role as ace, he’s done so with less pressure. The fate of Campbell’s fortunes hasn’t fallen solely on St. Onge’s arm this season as the Cougars have four other solid arms to turn to.

“No matter who has gone out there, they’ve been clutch,” St. Onge said. “We’ve got three starters to rely on and some bullpen arms. Not many teams can say that.”

St. Onge is followed in the rotation by Matt Gagne and Keegan Mills, while Chris Woods and Bryce Barrett come out of the bullpen. Gorham is high on the growing potential of Mills, a freshman, while the confidence in Barrett has only grown after shutting the door in wins over Somersworth and Prospect Mountain of Alton.

“I kept looking at the way the weather was at the start of the year while everybody was inside and we knew our greatest strength would be having five pitchers,” Gorham said.

The pitching has masked an offense that has relied more on timely hitting than big outbursts. Among the offensive standouts thus far for Campbell are Gagne, Woods and Payton Musco, while others have slotted in like DJ Simoneau did on Wednesday with his game-winning hit. Gorham has tried to get his entire roster playing time during a given week to ensure everyone is ready to contribute if their number is called.

“We haven’t played a set starting-nine game after game,” Gorham said. “We don’t want anybody to be just a specialist. We need you to try different things in case we need you and this group has really thrived doing that.”

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SEVERAL STORIES of siblings joining forces on NHIAA sports teams have popped up over the last few seasons. Conant baseball continues that trend this spring with the Kirby family as brothers Chance, Aidan and Preston have taken the field together regularly for the 8-2 Orioles.

Chance, a senior, is the eldest of the trio and has arguably been Conant’s best hitter this season, totaling six RBIs in seven games. Aidan is a contact hitter who offers a solid glove, sporting a 1.000 fielding percentage on the season. Preston, a freshman, remains a work in progress but the there is good potential for the youngster to follow in his brothers’ successful footsteps.

Conant coach Josh Heaphy said each Kirby goes about their business differently on the field beyond sharing a strong work ethic. Heaphy added that while they are individuals, the younger brothers follow Chance’s example.

“He is the oldest, so to call him the lead dog is fair,” Heaphy said. “They look up to him. He plays well and hard, so it’s hard not to want to follow that.”

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BEFORE THE 2017 season started Goffstown softball coach Matt Fleming was asked to name the teams he thought would contend for the Division II championship. He mentioned Milford, Windham, Souhegan and his Goffstown team. Then he paused, and began to talk about St. Thomas of Dover.

“I’m not sure how much depth they have overall, but they have a pitcher who’s really, really good,” Fleming said. “She will make things tough on any team.”

That pitcher is junior Abbey Bass, who tossed a no-hitter to help St. Thomas (7-5) defeat rival Portsmouth 8-0 Wednesday. Bass struck out 15 and allowed one baserunner (a walk) through the first five innings.

Because of Bass, St. Thomas is a team many will want to avoid when the NHIAA tournament pairings are announced at the end of the month.

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THE BEST game on today’s softball schedule looks like the Division II contest between Milford (11-2) and Pelham (10-2) that will be played in Pelham.

Pelham’s only losses came against Souhegan of Amherst, 5-3, and Windham, 2-1. The Pythons moved from Division III to Division II before the start of this season.

Milford, which won last year’s Division II title, will be trying to end a two-game losing streak, which includes a 3-1 eight-inning setback against Pelham on Tuesday. The loss ended Milford’s 15-game winning streak. Pelham’s Shannon Morin pitched a complete game, limited Milford to six hits and struck out nine.

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Entering today’s games there are three unbeaten softball teams remaining in the state: Division III White Mountains of Whitefield (11-0); Division IV Sunapee (14-0) and Division IV Gorham (10-0). Sunapee, last year’s Division IV champion, has posted nine shutouts and has allowed 12 runs in its 14 games.

High School Baseball/Softball appears in Fridays in the New Hampshire Union Leader during the season. To reach Joe Duball or Roger Brown, e-mail or