THE Manchester West High School baseball team may have only a slim chance to qualify for the NHIAA Division II tournament this season, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you consider that West had zero chance to make the tournament in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
A lack of players — particularly experienced players — led West to drop varsity baseball for three years, starting with the 2016 season. The Blue Knights are back in business this year, however, and opened the season with an 8-7 triumph over Kearsarge of North Sutton.
Dan Colburn took over as West’s varsity coach in 2014. He steered the Blue Knights through another varsity season in 2015 and stuck with the program as the junior varsity coach for the last three seasons.
“We didn’t have a JV team then (2015),” Colburn said. “The varsity had a large group of seniors and when they graduated I knew we weren’t going to have enough experience to compete at the varsity level. We didn’t have the skill level to play at that level. I think we had about four or five kids who had played after Little League. If we had tried to be a varsity team we would have lost a lot of kids.
“We had to ask ourselves, ‘What would be best for the program?’ The frustrating thing was the numbers. We couldn’t get the kids to come out. We were worried that the baseball team would dry up here. The goal was always to come back to varsity.”
Colburn, a Laconia High School graduate, was hoping West would have a junior varsity team as well this season, but not enough players showed up for tryouts. Still, even though West has lost its last two games, things appear to be moving in a positive direction. West has a 17-player roster, and it’s filled with primarily underclassmen.
“We had six freshmen come out this year,” Colburn said. “We’re still fairly young. We have one senior on the team, but we have a good junior group and a good sophomore group. What would really help is if the middle schools in Manchester had (baseball) teams.”
West is scheduled to play three home games this week, starting with today’s contest against ConVal (4:15 p.m.).
“We still have a lot of work to do, but the goal we set at the start of the year was to make it to the tournament,” Colburn said. “We figure we’ll have to finish pretty close to .500 to do that.”
A fundraiser will be held Saturday for Nashua South wrestler Nathaniel Tejada, who was recently diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Tejada, who also played varsity baseball and varsity football for South, wrestled at the 195-pound weight class last season.
Nashua South wrestling coaches Adam Langlois and Matt Dittolla organized the fundraiser, which is a cornhole tournament at Pipe Dream Brewing in Londonderry. Check-in is at noon, and the tournament will begin at 1 p.m.
The cost is $30 per team (two players per team) and there is a 64-team limit. Many items will also be raffled off and all money raised will go to the family to help cover costs for treatment.
“He goes to chemo at Boston’s Children’s Hospital every other week, is in great spirits and knows he will beat this,” Langlois said. “He has been one of the the best kids we have had the privilege of coaching. An unbelievable athlete and very coachable — things that are very hard to come across these days. When the diagnosis came, the coaching staff knew we needed to do something to help the family and say how grateful and appreciative we have been to know this young man.”
Tejada plans to continue his wrestling career at Springfield College. Anyone willing to support this cause is welcome to attend.
The Wilton-Lyndeborough softball team is off to a 5-0 start in Division IV, and it seems likely that Wilton-Lyndeborough head coach Dennis Claire will collect his 500th victory as the program’s head coach this season.
Friday’s 13-8 triumph over Hinsdale moved Claire’s record to 493-129 in 31 seasons.
Former Salem High School coach Harold Sachs holds the NHIAA record for softball victories. Sachs had a 611-88 record in 32 seasons at Salem. Sachs, who stepped down as Salem’s coach after the 2017 season, guided the Blue Devils to 15 state titles. Salem also finished as the Division I runner-up five times.
Former Nashua South assistant coach Rob Clauss has been hired as the varsity football coach at ConVal of Peterborough, which removed Ray Puglisi as the program’s head coach after four games last season. Steve Bartsch finished the 2018 season as ConVal’s interim head coach.