CONCORD — The Concord High School baseball team erased a four-run deficit and secured its first trip to the NHIAA Division I final since 2012 in one inning Wednesday at Warren H. Doane Field.
The Crimson Tide plated all of their runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and held Keene scoreless over the final four frames to earn a 6-4 semifinal triumph over the Blackbirds.
Concord (16-4) will play Winnacunnet of Hampton for the Division I title Saturday at 11 a.m. at Holman Stadium in Nashua. Winnacunnet defeated Londonderry in Wednesday’s other semifinal, 3-0.
Keene finished the season with a 13-7 record.
Concord trailed, 4-0, and had just three hits entering its explosive fourth inning.
Kevin McDonough, who made an error at third base that allowed Keene’s first run to score, put Concord on the board with a no-out, two-run double to left field. Ryan Castle tied the game at 4-4 with a two-RBI double of his own to right field with one out.
Ryan Philbrick followed by driving in the go-ahead run with an RBI single to right, then came home on Brooks Craigue’s one-out groundout.
Crimson Tide coach Scott Owen said he talked to his players before the fourth inning about changing their approach, staying on the ball, but credited them with generating the runs.
“When you get down sometimes, you try to press too much and in baseball you can’t press,” Owen said. “You’ve got to just stay loose and just try to do what you can do and not try to do too much. ... I didn’t do anything. I just talked them up and they went out and scored six runs.”
Concord senior pitcher Donny Cote allowed one hit, hit one batter and struck out two over 3⅔ innings of scoreless relief before classmate Jonah Wachter came in and sent Keene down in order in the seventh.
Wachter closed out the game as some of Concord’s softball players, fresh off their 5-2 home semifinal win over Merrimack, entered the stands.
Willette allowed four unearned runs, one hit and two walks and struck out four over the first 2⅓ innings.
Cote said his split-finger fastball was dropping and he was hitting his spot throughout his relief outing.
“The boys came in, put all those runs on and I just grooved it in there,” Cote said. “I said, ‘Go ahead, hit it,’ and then we made plays. That’s what we do.”
Keene plated the game’s first two runs in the second inning and added two more in the third.
Alex Charles scored on a fielding error and Jared Schmitt hit an RBI single that scored Cal Tiani in the second inning. Keene’s two third-inning runs came via a Concord throwing error that scored Zach Mooers, and a Charles sacrifice fly.
“We took advantage of some walks early, some errors, some base hits here and there,” Keene coach Dan Moylan said. “We felt pretty good being (up) 4-0 there but (Concord is) a very good team. They’ve got a lot of talent. They kept sending hitters up, taking good at-bats and they did that and managed to stay in the game.”
Philbrick and Wachter both had two hits while Tyler Wright hit a single and drew a walk for the Crimson Tide.
Mooers, a senior pitcher, allowed six earned runs on eight hits and one walk alongside three strikeouts over five innings. Teammate Sharik Khan allowed one hit over his one inning of relief. Khan and Schmitt both hit singles for the Blackbirds.
“Hats off to (Keene),” Owen said. “Mooers pitched a great game and kept them in that game. We just had a bigger inning than their two innings.”