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Astros enter tournament on high note

By ROGER BROWN

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 25. 2018 10:11PM
Pinkerton's Frank Gulezian scores as Exeter's catcher Sean Lavery waits for the ball in the fourth inning at Exeter High School on Friday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)



EXETER — Perhaps no team will enter next week’s NHIAA Division I baseball tournament with more positive momentum than Pinkerton Academy, which polished off the regular season with one-run victories over the top two teams in the division.

After beating top-seeded Bedford on Wednesday night, Pinkerton completed the perfecta with a 7-6 triumph over second-seeded Exeter on Friday.

Pinkerton, which secured the No. 3 seed for the tournament — and the bye that comes with it — with its 3-2 triumph over Bedford (19-1), has won five games in a row and 14 of its last 15.

“Exeter and Bedford are great teams,” Pinkerton coach Steve Campo said. “They do everything well and to be able to come out and compete with them and pull off a couple wins is great. In a couple weeks, though, these wins mean absolutely nothing. Our only focus is next Saturday (Pinkerton’s first tournament game) and whoever we end up matching up against.”

Friday’s victory came with a little too much drama if you’re a Pinkerton fan. The Astros (16-4) took a 7-3 lead on George Welch’s three-run home run in the top of the seventh, but watched Exeter score three run in the bottom half of the inning. The Blue Hawks (17-3) had the tying run on first when Sam Rollick grounded out to first for the game’s final out.

Exeter’s three-run seventh included a solo home run from Tom Polhemus and a two-run single by Bobby Cliche.

“I like how we battled,” Exeter coach Kevin McQueen said. “We showed some fight today at the end of this game. Give Pinkerton a lot of credit. They put a lot of good at-bats on Ethan (starting pitcher Ethan Imbimbo) and Bobby (Cliche) in the seventh.”

Although it will be the No. 2 seed, Exeter has lost to top-seeded Bedford, third-seeded Pinkerton and fourth-seeded Concord.

“I think with the history of this tournament, we know that sometimes somebody finds their way to a couple tournament wins and finds themselves in the semifinals unexpectedly,” McQueen said. “There’s a handful of teams that will begin the tournament on the road who can certainly win one game, if not more. Maybe two or more.

“Some team is going to earn their way here (at Exeter for the quarterfinals) and they’re gonna deserve to be here. You’re gonna get somebody’s best shot and you just have to be ready to do everything you can to advance when that time comes.”

Pinkerton trailed 2-1 after three innings, but took the lead with a three-run fourth. Connor Jenkins and David Unkles each had two hits for the Astros.

Welch pitched the first three innings. The Astros received two innings of relief from Richie Marique (fourth and fifth) and two from Unkles.

Exeter received three hits from outfielder Ben Malgeri, who drove in his team’s fourth run with a single that scored Garrett Roberts in the fifth. Shortstop Cody Morissette added two hits for the Blue Hawks.

The 15-team Division I tournament will begin at home sites Thursday. Bedford, Exeter and Pinkerton each earned a bye into Saturday’s quarterfinals.

“Any time it’s a one-and-done tournament we know that crazy stuff is going to happen,” Campo said. “I don’t think there’s any one team to worry about. I think it’s who’s hot and coming in playing well at the right time.”

rbrown@unionleader.com


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