MANCHESTER — Earning the No. 1 seed in the NHIAA Division II tournament came in handy for the Bow High baseball team. Three times, in fact.
The first two came in the Falcons’ quarterfinal and semifinal wins against Coe-Brown and St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover. The last, and most important, came Monday at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, where Bow once again capitalized on its right to speak the last word.
Trailing 4-3 with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning of the championship game, Riley Elliott took his turn playing hero, sending a 3-2 pitch the other way and into right field that allowed Brian Carter and Evan Provost to score, giving Bow the 5-4 win over No. 2 Hollis/Brookline.
“I was really nervous,” Elliott said when describing his emotions entering the batter’s box. “I was just trying to put the ball in play and try to get one run in, at least. When I hit it, I wasn’t sure if it was going to land in, but I saw how far over (to the left) the right fielder was and it fell in.”
It was a proud moment for Elliott for many reasons, but he was most satisfied with how far he had come over the last year.
“I’ve really improved this year,” the junior said. “In previous years like last year I didn’t hit at all, really. I was just a pitch-only guy. But I really improved my bat and feel like I earned the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup.”
He’s earned the confidence of his coach, too.
“Nope,” Bow coach Ben Forbes said when asked if he had any advice for Elliott before the at-bat. “I just let him go. Some of these guys, and Riley is one of them, some of these guys are just ballplayers. If you try to get (Riley) to be too cerebral and start guessing pitches and locations, it doesn’t play to his strengths. His strengths are see the ball, hit the ball. He made it happen.”
After Nick Kiah flew out to center field to begin Bow’s half of the seventh, Matt Hamilton singled up the middle into center field and moved to third when the next batter, Ben Harris, doubled deep down the left field line.
Brandon Hsu fanned Steven Guriette behind Harris, leaving runners at second and third with two down. Matt Lamy was intentionally walked to load the bases, leaving the game in the hands of Elliott.
“It’s just clutch,” Forbes said. “He had a little bit of ice water running through his veins in that situation. Luckily they played him to pull the ball and he has a tendency to hit the ball to the right side and that’s what we needed.”
Connor Blandini scored the first run of the game to put Bow up 1-0 in the third inning. He singled to left center field, advanced to second on a fielder’s choice and scored on an error.
Hollis/Brookline retaliated in the next inning, scoring twice in the frame. Joe Messina plated Max Mello on a double to right field and came around on a Nik Direnzo sacrifice fly.
Bow scored two more runs in its half of the fourth to jump back out in front, 3-2, as Lamy crossed home on a balk and Harris scored on Blandini’s RBI triple to right center.
The Cavaliers put forth a last-ditch effort in the fifth with Grant Snyder and Mello each notching RBI singles.
“The way that they’ve played in this tournament coming from behind with two walk-off wins (to reach the championship) I knew we were capable of doing it (today),” Forbes said. “I knew they knew they could do it, it was just a matter of getting the right pitch in the right spot.”