State American Legion tournament starts Friday at Holman Stadium in Nashua.
The Rochester Post 7 Senior American Legion Baseball team may be down (by its standards, anyway), but it’s certainly not out. In fact, Rochester, which has won five of the last six state tournaments — including the last four — is still in the hunt for another state title this year.
Post 7 is among the eight teams that qualified for this year’s double-elimination state tourney, which will begin Friday at Nashua’s Holman Stadium. Rochester has a 126-37 record over the past seven years, and will be participating in the state tourney for the 10th straight summer. Unlike recent years, however, Post 7 will not enter next week’s tournament as the overwhelming favorite.
Concord, which finished with an 11-4 record in District A, and Nashua, which went 15-2 in District B, are the No. 1 seeds. Lebanon (12-6), Manchester’s Sweeney Post (11-7) and Laconia (9-9) also qualified from District A. In addition to Rochester (10-7), Exeter (12-3) and Portsmouth (8-9) also earned tournament berths in District B.
Friday’s schedule will look like this:
Portsmouth vs. Concord (11 a.m.), Rochester vs. Lebanon (1:30 p.m), Sweeney vs. Exeter (4:30 p.m) and Laconia vs. Nashua (7 p.m.). Sweeney will be seeking its first state championship since 2007.
“I think (Rochester’s) coaches would tell you that they’re not as talented as they have been, but they’re still a scrappy team that cares about Legion baseball,” Nashua coach Tim Lunn said. “They’ll be a dangerous team just because of the heart and hustle they play with.”
Two of the eight teams in this year’s field didn’t earn a postseason berth until the season’s final weekend. Laconia beat Weare 7-3 in a win-and-you’re-in game on Saturday night, and Nashua’s 12-2 triumph over Derry on Sunday morning gave Portsmouth the final spot in District B.
This year’s New Hampshire state champion will advance to the Northeast Regional, which will be played Aug. 7-11 at Holy Cross’ Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass.
Before you dismiss Rochester this year know this: Post 7 beat Nashua both times the teams met this summer, and Nashua has the best record of any team in the tourney.
“I would not rule them out,” Lunn said. “You still have to put them in the conversation because they’ve been there and they know what they need to do.”
New Hampshire will be trying to end a three-game losing streak when it faces Vermont in this year’s Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl. Teams will report to Castleton (Vt.) University for practice on Sunday, July 28, and the game will be played Saturday, Aug. 3 (5:30 p.m. kickoff).
An inability to move the ball on offense has been New Hampshire’s No. 1 problem during its three-game losing streak. Vermont has outscored New Hampshire 93-15 during that stretch, and New Hampshire hasn’t run a play from the red zone in either of its last two losses.
Former Windham coach Bill Raycraft is New Hampshire’s coach this year, and he’ll be relying on two of his former players — quarterback Cody Potter and running back Tommy Emrick — to generate offense in this year’s game.
“We really tried to find the kids (during the selection process) who fit what we’re trying to do,” Raycraft said. “We have a ton of speed. Even the big guys move well.
“Offensively you can have unlimited formations, so I think that’s going to help us for what we do. We’ll have our double tights (tight ends), but we have multiple formations. We have a couple quarterbacks who can put the ball in the air, so we expect to spread the ball around quite a bit.”
Raycraft said he was impressed with Nashua North’s Mike Loveless during the team’s workout at Saint Anselm College last week. Loveless played both quarterback and running back for North.
“We’re gonna put the guys in the right spots to win the game,” Raycraft said.
Stratham’s Kyle Ball, an infielder playing for the Keene Swamp Bats this summer, was among those selected to the New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game, which will be held Sunday, July 28, at Montpelier (Vt.) Recreation Field.
Ball, an Exeter High grad who plays for Stetson University, is hitting .315 with 18 RBIs in 31 games with Keene (130 at-bats). He also has a team-high 14 stolen bases in 19 attempts.
Bowie center fielder Ryan McKenna, who played high school baseball for St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, entered Sunday’s game against Altoona leading the Eastern League in runs scored with 57. McKenna had the game-winning hit — a bases-loaded single in the 10th inning — to help Bowie beat Altoona on Saturday night.
The NCAA has tweaked its overtime format for college football this season. If a game reaches a fifth overtime period, each team will have a two-point conversion attempt instead of starting on the opponents’ 25-year line, as the teams would do in any of the first four overtime periods. Once a game goes to a fifth overtime, each offense will have one chance to convert the two-point try before the other team gains possession.