IF YOU watched Londonderry High School’s Nolan Lincoln pitch in Monday night’s NHIAA Division I championship baseball game, you might find it hard to believe that Lincoln, a junior, entered the season with no varsity experience. He was strictly a junior varsity pitcher last season.
Lincoln blossomed this year, and he capped the season by tossing a complete game to help fourth-seeded Londonderry defeat sixth-seeded Bedford 1-0 at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
Lincoln held Bedford to four hits, all singles, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter. Two of his four strikeouts came in the final inning.
“I felt very prepared,” Lincoln said after the game. “I’ve been working all year with great coaches, great trainers. I’ve been hitting the weight room and it’s paid off. We ultimately got what we all wanted.”
Lincoln finished the season with a 7-3 record. Entering Monday’s contest, he had surrendered eight earned runs in 60 1/3 innings.
The victory earned the Londonderry program its sixth championship. The others came in 1982, 1983, 2004, 2010 and 2014.
“I knew we were going to be really competitive (this season),” Londonderry coach Brent Demas said. “To be here where we are now … I’d be lying if I said I expected it. That being said, I’m not surprised. This is an athletic group that showed a lot of heart coming back again and again in some one-run games early in the season. One of those was against Bedford (a 4-3 Londonderry victory).”
Lincoln threw 94 pitches in Monday night’s game, but his pitch count would have been lower had the Lancers not committed a two-out error in the top of the seventh. Bedford’s Nick Douidi extended the inning even more when he followed that error by collecting his second hit of the game.
Lincoln then got Ryan Juliano to hit a grounder to shortstop, which allowed the Lancers to record the game’s final out on a force play at second base. The feeling at that moment?
“Just pure excitement,” Lincoln said. “I’ve never felt anything better.”
The Exeter softball team’s 2-0 triumph over rival Winnacunnet in Saturday’s Division I championship game was not only Exeter’s first title, it was the program’s first appearance in a title game.
The top-seeded Blue Hawks outscored their three postseason opponents 24-3, and didn’t allow a runner past second base in their 7-0 semifinal-round victory over Concord or Saturday’s win against the Warriors. Exeter (20-1) ended the season with an 18-game winning streak.
Exeter and Winnacunnet will be among the favorites in Division I next year as well. Sydney Johnson is the only senior on the Exeter roster. Winnacunnet had two seniors: Brileigh Penniman and Savanah Sigman.
Bow’s Riley Elliott began Monday night’s Division II championship game on the mound, and finished it at the plate.
Elliott pitched the first four innings and exited the mound with his team trailing second-seeded Hollis/Brookline 3-2. Top-seeded Bow trailed 4-3 when Elliott came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh. After the count went full, he delivered a single to right field that drove in two runs and handed Bow a 5-4 victory.
“I was really nervous,” Elliott said. “I just told myself, ‘Try to get the ball in play and get a run in, at least. Just get mad at the ball and get it in play.’ I’m always up for that spot and I wanted to capitalize. That’s what ended up happening.”
Elliott, a junior, was a pitcher only last season, but Bow coach Ben Forbes said he never considered pinch-hitting for him in the seventh, even though Elliott struck out in his previous at-bat.
“He’s improved huge this year,” Forbes said. “He’s hit for himself all season and he’s come up big. He had several multi-hit games and he has good power to the right side.
“That’s exactly what I was hoping for — a line drive down one of the lines. I didn’t want to have to coin toss it for a play at the plate, so that was huge.”
The softball Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, as selected by the coaches in each division:
Player of the Year: Brittany Faucher (Spaulding)
Pitcher of the Year: Sam Wiberg (Exeter)
Player of the Year: Raven Comtois (Milford)
Pitcher of the Year: Jenna De Angelis (Milford)
Player of the Year: Madison Labrie (Mascenic)
Pitcher of the Year: Sam McCann (Berlin)
Note: No Player of the Year or Pitcher of the Year was selected in Division IV.
Londonderry’s Reece Manor collected a double in the first inning of Monday’s victory over Bedford, which gave him 36 hits for the season — one shy of the school record. … Epping’s 6-5 loss to Wilton-Lyndeborough in the Division IV softball championship game ended the Blue Devils’ 35-game winning streak, which began during the 2018 season. … Wilton-Lyndeborough coach Dennis Claire announced his retirement following Saturday’s game after 32 seasons as Wilton-Lyndeborough’s head coach. He guided the Warriors to eight championships. …
Hopkinton’s starting lineup for Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Campbell in the Division III softball title game featured six underclassmen. It was Hopkinton’s first championship since 2004.
Baseball Top 10 (final)
1. Londonderry (19-5)
2. Exeter (15-4)
3. Bedford (15-7)
4. Bishop Guertin (16-6)
5. Pinkerton (15-7)
6. Portsmouth (12-9)
7. Bow (18-2)
8. Hollis/Brookline (16-3)
9. John Stark (16-3)
10. White Mountains (15-6)
Softball Top 10 (final)
1. Exeter (20-1)
2. Winnacunnet (16-6)
3. John Stark (17-3)
4. Milford (17-1)
5. Concord (15-6)
6. Merrimack Valley (16-4)
7. Coe-Brown (16-4)
8. Hopkinton (16-4)
9. Campbell (16-4)
10. Wilton-Lyndeborough (17-2)