By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – Starter pistol shots from an adjacent track meet regularly punctuated Monday’s baseball game between Lebanon High and Hanover. On the diamond, it was the visiting Marauders who fired on all cylinders during a 14-5 NHIAA Division II victory.
Hanover pounded out 17 hits and capitalized on five Raiders errors to remain undefeated at 12-0. The teams will stage a Wednesday rematch at the Dresden Athletic Fields in Norwich. It’s the final regular season contest for both schools before next week’s playoffs, in which Hanover is the region’s top seed and receives a first-round bye.
Marauders coach John Grainger said Monday’s game “played closer than the scoreboard”, noting that his team struck out looking five times before working out its offensive kinks. Hanover led, 3-2, after two innings and 6-3 after five frames. The Marauders scored six times during the sixth inning to put the game away.
“Backwards K’s are totally unlike us,” said Grainger, whose club has outscored its opposition by a combined 133-22 with three shutouts. “Once we stopped looking at all those third strikes and hitters stopped getting into holes, we got more aggressive and put up a lot of hits.
“We’re used to seeing pitching where we get more walks and our hitters are patient, sometimes to a fault. Whether there were good pitches to hit earlier or not, you can’t leave the bat on your shoulder with two strikes.”
Ian Hedgepeth, Mason Gantrish and John Hill each had three hits for Hanover, the latter’s haul including a home run over the “Wire Mesh Monster” in left field and into the parking lot beyond. Gantrish had four RBIs and brothers Colin and Trevor Pierce each had two hits.
Gantrish, whose older brothers also played for Hanover, “struggled early on (this season) because he was swinging at bad pitches,” Grainger said. “But today it felt like every ball he swung at was hit hard, no matter where it was pitched.”
Wes Stocken started on the mound for the visitors, allowing six hits and three runs, two of them earned, during a 3 1/3-inning stint in which he struck out two Raiders and walked none. The righthander battled through a stretch where he and catcher John Hill weren’t in sync, causing the pitcher to mutter and step off the rubber in obvious exasperation.
“I’m confident in Wes, but he sometimes gets a little too fired up,” said Grainger, who holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Utah. “There’s an arousal bell curve in sports psychology and you can be on the wrong side of it.”
Trevor Pierce, his arousal seemingly under control, relieved and surrendered two hits and two runs, neither of them earned. He struck out six batters and walked one.
Grainger said he’s used Hanover’s lopsided victories to fine-tune everything from bunt defense to pickoff plays to smart and aggressive baserunning. The Marauders’ speed puts defenders under pressure and would have been even more of a weapon Monday if not for some disputed calls that went against the visitors.
“We want to go into the playoffs with everybody knowing what they’re doing,” Grainger said. “We’re fortunate to have (five days) to practice before the playoffs, so we’re in good shape that way.”
Lebanon’s starter, Braeden Falzarano, gave up nine hits and six runs, five earned, in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out six Marauders and walked two. Reliever Zach Howland allowed four hits and six runs, none of them earned, during an inning-long appearance. Freshmen outfielders Bennett Hewett and Zach Aldrich each had two hits for the Raiders (7-5).
“Hanover’s a hell of a team, top to bottom,” said Lebanon coach Chauncey Woods. “They can (hit) everywhere and we had one bad inning. Braeden threw real well with good velocity and was hitting his spots. Zach pitched well, too, he just didn’t have any defense behind him.”
Should the Raiders be better? Woods, who took over the varsity not long before this season after previously guiding Lebanon’s JV squad, pointed out his team’s lack of high-level service time.
“You’re looking at a team with two guys who had varsity experience before this year,” said Woods, whose team has lost to Stevens, Sunapee, Fall Mountain and Newport. “We have two freshmen starting every day. We’re young and we’re a program that will be strong in the future.”
Notes: Sacerdote, enjoying a monster season on the mound, will start Wednesday for Hanover… Former Hanover baseball coach and athletic director Mike Jackson, who hired Grainger as his diamond successor six years ago, attended the game… Also watching was former Marauders baseball standout Moises Celaya, now the punter for Colby College in Maine and showing off his weight-room physique beneath a canary yellow tank top… Lebanon shortstop Francis Calandrella was struck by a pitch near the left elbow during the second inning and exited the game, not to return. He was replaced by Alex Felix… Hanover speedster Ben Williams was thrown out at second base and third base, the latter call causing the sophomore to leap into the air in a cloud of infield dust while shouting in amazement and disgust.
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