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Newmarket arrives on Legion stage

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 12. 2017 11:55PM
Newmarket Post 67 players celebrate their Junior American Legion Northeast Region 1 championship, which the team captured Aug. 6 at the regional tournament in Bangor, Maine. (Photos courtesy of Cam Calato)

Coach Cam Calato kept waiting for the magic to run out for his Newmarket Post 67 Junior American Legion team throughout the state and Northeast Region 1 tournaments.

It just never did.

Newmarket, which has been a program for five years, had never qualified for the state tournament before this past season. It capped its fifth campaign with a program-best 17-4 mark and as the New Hampshire and Northeast Region 1 champions.

Newmarket defeated Stratford, Conn., 8-4, in Bangor, Maine, on Aug. 6 to become the first New Hampshire team to ever win the Northeast Region 1 title.

The Junior American Legion does not have a World Series tournament. Its inaugural World Series will take place next summer.

Newmarket went 3-0 in the single-elimination regional tournament after a 4-0 run through the double-elimination state tournament.

After beating Alton and Lebanon in its first two state tournament games, Newmarket defeated Nashua in both the semifinals and finals to capture the crown. Nashua scored three runs in the seventh inning of the championship game but Newmarket shut the door on the comeback try and held on for a 4-3 triumph July 31 at Gill Stadium in Manchester.

"For some reason, as soon as the state tournament started, we played some next level baseball," Calato said. "It felt like we were the team of destiny running through but you never know when it's going to run out."

Heading into regionals, Calato's mindset was for the team to simply have fun and be competitive in Bangor. It wasn't until after Newmarket beat Connecticut state champion Ellington, 13-1, in its opening game that the first-year coach started seriously thinking about a title run.

"They're a tight group with good chemistry. That definitely helped in the regional," Calato said of his players. "We didn't have a lot of nerves..We didn't have much expectations for ourselves."

Calato described his team's mentality during both the state and regional tournament as loose but focused. That approach came in handy when Newmarket found itself in a back-and-forth Northeast Region 1 final against Stratford, Conn.

Stratford led, 4-3, before Newmarket took a 5-4 advantage in the bottom of the fifth inning. Post 67 also gave itself some insurance in the sixth inning when it scored the game's final three runs.

After Newmarket recorded the final out and clinched the regional championship, Calato felt a bit shocked.

"My intentions going up (there) were to be competitive but winning the whole thing was far from my mind," Calato said.

Calato credited the camaraderie between his players for the program's historic season. Post 67 features players from Newmarket High, Oyster River of Durham, The Governor's Academy of Newbury, Mass., and Phillips Exeter Academy.

Post 67 also worked in tandem with the USA Mavericks showcase team to make sure players who wished to be part of both programs could do so.

"There's something about this group of kids when they get together," Calato said. "They grew up together and getting older, they don't always play ball in the same place. (This) is a special place where they can play ball as a group again like when they were kids."

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