DENNIS PELLETIER is in an enviable position. It’s one he may never find himself in again.
Pelletier, the varsity baseball coach at John Stark Regional in Weare, guided the Generals to the NHIAA Division II baseball championship in the spring. It’s possible he could pull off the baseball equivalent of a daily double and lead Weare Post 65 to the American Legion Baseball senior state title this summer as well.
Weare (12-6) may not be the tournament favorite, but it’s certainly in the conversation when the discussion centers on teams that have a realistic chance to win this year’s state tourney. Weare earned the No. 1 seed in District A and will open tournament play against Exeter (9-8), the No. 4 seed from District B, on Friday night at 7.
The eight-team double elimination tournament will be played at Nashua’s Holman Stadium, and, weather permitting, is scheduled to conclude Tuesday.
“We’re the unique team in this eight-team field,” Pelletier said. “Look at all the schools a lot of these Legion teams can pull from. We have 13 players and 10 come from John Stark. Our base school is Goffstown and we don’t have one Goffstown player.
“A lot of people look at how many D1 or D2 commits you have on your team. We’re definitely not the team with the most talent. We just have that team dynamic that gives us a behind-the-scenes edge that isn’t given as much credit as it should. That’s why we did as well as we did in the spring, and that’s why we’re doing as well as we are this summer.”
In addition to John Stark, Weare has players from Pembroke Academy and Hopkinton on its roster.
Nashua, the No. 1 seed from District B, may be the highest hurdle Weare has to clear. Nashua (14-3) will open up against Concord (9-9), the No. 4 seed from District A, on Friday at 10 a.m.
“When you look at it on paper, man, Nashua’s gonna be tough to beat,” Pelletier said. “Especially on their home field. I think Nashua has the edge over everyone else.”
Nashua won the last state tournament (in 2019) and has the best record of any team entering this year’s tourney.
“Pitching-wise, we have a lot of guys who throw strikes with some decent stuff, but we don’t necessarily have a top-level sort of arm,” Nashua coach Tim Lunn said. “We have a lot of guys who are around the same ability and caliber. We have depth. I have eight or nine, 10 guys who I trust putting into a game who are going to throw strikes.
“The thing that sets us apart from (the 2019 team) is defense. I think we’re a lot better defensively than we were two years ago.”
Nashua draws players from the three Nashua schools — Nashua North, Nashua South and Bishop Guertin — plus Hollis/Brookline. Nashua played 28 games, the most of any team in the state. Eleven of those were non-district contests.
Nashua and Weare both have interesting first-round matchups, since Concord and Exeter qualified despite rarely being at full strength during the regular season. It won’t be a surprise if either of the No. 4 seeds is still alive after the weekend.
“Concord was like two teams this summer,” Pelletier said. “They have their weekday team and their weekend team. Their weekday team was really good, but on the weekend there’s a good portion of them who take off and play AAU. If they’re at full strength they have the best pitcher in the tournament in (Jonah) Wachter.”
In Friday’s other games, Laconia will face Dover at 1 p.m., and Portsmouth will meet Keene at 4 p.m. The state champion will move on to the Northeast Regional, which will be held Aug. 3-8 in Shrewsbury, Mass.
Pelletier has a chance to collect his second state championship in as many months primarily for two reasons: Weare has pitching depth, and it hasn’t been ravaged by AAU baseball like so many other teams.
Weare recently played nine games in seven days, used seven pitchers during that stretch and went 7-2. This year’s state champion may have to play seven games in five days.
“Our defense has been our Achilles heel this summer,” Pelletier said. “If we play good defense, I think we can definitely compete.
“In my opinion, playing baseball with confidence is sometimes more important than the talent. In the spring, we had the kids believing that we had a legit shot and the same thing this summer. We’re believing that we do.”