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Roger Brown's State of Sports: 'ClubCats' are serious contenders

By ROGER BROWN
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 13. 2018 11:28PM
UNH recently qualified for the National Club Baseball Association Division III World Series. (COURTESY)



Although the University of New Hampshire eliminated its varsity baseball program in 1996, there is still baseball being played on the Durham campus. UNH has a club baseball team, and it’s a good one.

UNH recently qualified for the National Club Baseball Association Division III World Series, a four-team, double-elimination tournament that will be played May 18-20 at Showers Field in Dubois, Pa. UNH earned the No. 1 seed and will open the tournament against Missouri S&T.

The team captains are both from New Hampshire: pitcher/outfielder Charlie Day of Canaan and the Holderness School, and pitcher Zack Martineau of Salem and Salem High School.

The other New Hampshire residents on the roster are first baseman Chris Hyland (North Woodstock/Holderness School), shortstop/second baseman Mike Plentzas (Manchester/Manchester Central), second baseman/shortstop/pitcher Chris Murphy (Windham/Windham), pitcher/outfielder Chris Clement (Durham/Oyster River) and catcher/first baseman Ben Emerson (Salem/Salem).

These ClubCats are a talented and serious bunch. Erase any thoughts you have about this level of club baseball resembling your local Tuesday night men’s softball league.

“Everyone on the roster could have played Division I through Division III college baseball,” Day explained. “Our coach, Miles Roberge, is probably the most competitive guy I’ve ever met in my life — and I think a lot of other guys would agree.

“This (reaching the World Series) is definitely a big deal. We’re all ex excited. There’s a lot of buzz around campus, believe it or not.”

UNH plays its home games on the school’s student rec field, but beyond that gets minimal support from the school. The team played in two leagues last year — the New England Club Baseball Association in the fall, and the American Club Baseball Association in the spring — but moved into the more competitive NCBA this season.

“We work with what we have,” Day said. “We use a portable mound on the campus recreation field, but it’s far from a real baseball field.

“Things have become more serious now that we’re in a more structured league, but there’s still a balance between having fun and being competitive.”

UNH (20-0) went 9-0 in the fall and 9-0 this spring, and swept its best-of-three series against Neumann University to win the District I playoffs and earn a spot in the World Series.

Each player pays team dues that range from $200 to $300 per year, and the team relies on fundraising. UNH is currently raising money to cover the cost of its World Series trip. Information on how to donate can be found here: https://campusrec.unh.edu/sport-clubs (click on Donate to Sports Clubs).

Outfielder Alex Haslam (.647), Plentzas (.464) and first baseman Jared Gamache (.429) are the ClubCats’ leading hitters this spring. Sam Werman (4-0, 3.16 ERA in 24.1 innings) and Martineau (3-0, 0.28 ERA in 25 innings) are the top pitchers.

Adrian College and the University of West Georgia are the other teams in the NCBA Division III World Series field.

“We practice two times per week, sometimes three, and play on the weekends,” Martineau explained. “Everyone takes it very seriously. We had 70 kids try out my freshman year, and we’ve had about 50 kids try out the past two years. Once you’re on the team you stay on the team for your college career.

“If we win the entire tournament we move up to Division II, so there is incentive to win it all.”

Of course whenever UNH and baseball appear in the same sentence the following question has to be asked: Should UNH explore the possibility of bringing back varsity baseball?

“I think it would definitely be a conversation worth having,” Day said. “There are a lot of people who definitely would like to see Division I baseball return to UNH.”

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E.J. PERRY, who was hired as the boys’ basketball coach at Windham High School last week, had a good run as Salem High School’s boys’ basketball coach from 1998 to 2010. He guided the Blue Devils to two state championships (2007 and 2008) and had a 177-100 record in those 12 seasons.

Perry also had a 112-0 record in six seasons as Salem’s boys’ volleyball coach, and currently coaches volleyball at Andover (Mass.) High School. He was recently at the center of a controversy stemming from an Andover volleyball match on April 11 during which a senior captain allegedly refused the leave the court when Perry told another team captain to sub in for him. The player who refused to leave the court later boasted about his actions on social media.

After the match, Perry stripped both players of their team captaincy. Perry was placed on administrative leave and, after an internal investigation, the school reinstated him on April 20.

Windham director of athletics Bill Raycraft said his school reviewed the Andover situation and had complete confidence in its decision to hire Perry.

Perry left Salem in 2010 to become the varsity football coach at Andover, a position he still holds. He also had a 55-27 record in four seasons (2013-17) as Andover’s girls’ basketball coach and spent last season as the boys’ basketball coach at Triton Regional in Byfield, Mass.

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ICYMI: Kearsarge Regional’s Tayler Mattos, a 6-foot-10 forward, signed a national letter of intent Wednesday and will continue his basketball career at Bowling Green State University. Mattos averaged 25.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.8 blocks during his senior season.

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DEERFIELD RESIDENT Josh Partridge, a left-handed pitcher on the St. Joseph’s (Maine) College baseball team, was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year last week. Partridge, who played baseball for Concord High School, led the GNAC in ERA (2.45) and saves (six). He also ranked third in strikeouts (56 in 44 innings) and tied for fourth in victories (five).

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ROB STURGIS will likely be approved as Manchester Memorial’s varsity football coach this week. Sturgis played at Norwich University and was an assistant coach at Anna Maria College, a Division III school in Paxton, Mass.

Peter Colcord resigned as Memorial’s head coach following the 2017 season. David Bailey, who was an assistant at Manchester Central and Bedford, was hired to replace Colcord in March, but resigned several days later, citing health concerns.

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AMONG this week’s significant NHIAA games is Wednesday’s Division II softball matchup between Milford (11-0) and Goffstown (10-2) in Milford. The Spartans and Grizzlies are first and third, respectively, in the Division II standings.

White Mountains (10-0), Newport (9-0) and Campbell (9-0) — all Division III schools — are the only other unbeaten softball teams in the state.

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THERE APPEARS to be growing support among NHIAA baseball coaches to change the format of the postseason tournaments and make at least one round a best-of-three series. The thought behind this is that a best-of-three series is more apt to weed out inferior teams and help identify the strongest team in each division, whereas weaker teams with a dominant pitcher are more likely to advance in a single-elimination tournament.

One proposal called for an eight-team tournament with a best-of-three series in the quarterfinals and a single-elimination format after that.

rbrown@unionleader.com


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