By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – The Lebanon American Legion Post 22 junior baseball team departed from its District A schedule Saturday, hosting District B foes Exeter Post 32 and Hudson Post 48 and splitting the unorthodox doubleheader. The hosts lost to Exeter, 8-4, before defeating Hudson, 5-3, in a contest ended early by rain.
Lebanon led, 4-3, entering the sixth inning against Exeter, riding a strong pitching performance by Freddy Mierke, who struck out 10 batters. However, when the Hanover High student’s pitch count rose, coach Chauncey Wood turned to relievers Oliver Sperry and Spencer Cunningham and the visitors (9-2) scored five runs in the frame.
Sperry had a single and a double and Bodie Benoit and Nick Brill each produced a double. Zander Doyle, Shea Curley and Easton Wykes had a single each.
The second game, which began at noon, saw Post 22 jump out to a 5-1 lead after three innings. Hudson scored twice during its fifth at-bat, which ended on a deep fly to center that was caught amidst heavy rain by Ben Achmoody.
The umpires called the contest immediately after the play, displeasing the visitors, who were unhappy that they’d already been playing on a saturated field featuring puddles and countless slick spots.
“When we had to make the decision to play, at 7:30 this morning, the field was dry,” explained Wood, who received an earful of displeasure from his Hudson counterpart.
Starting pitcher Brill was Lebanon’s standout, allowing three hits and three runs while striking out two opponents and walking three. The Lebanon High student said the conditions meant he was mostly unable to throw an effective breaking ball.
“It was really tough to get a grip, so all I could throw was straight and fast,” Brill said. “It was hard to throw something that (the batters) weren’t expecting.”
Said Wood: “There were times when Nick took something off the ball for accuracy. We’ve walked way too many people and have to get the ball across the plate.”
Trailing, 1-0, Lebanon scored five runs during the third inning. Meike walked, Sperry moved him over with a sacrifice bunt and Brill singled. Doyle walked, Wykes laid down a successful suicide squeeze bunt with runners on first and third, and Achmoody and Benoit drew two more walks.
Because of injuries, promotions to the senior roster and players on vacation, Post 22 played with only two substitutes. Lebanon (4-8) is battling Merrimack Post 98 (5-7) and Keene Post 4 (5-4) for District A’s fourth and final berth in the upcoming state tournament.
“We’re going to have to keep battling but we control our own destiny,” said Wood, whose team has five games remaining on its regular-season schedule. “Our bench used to be a lot deeper, so hopefully we get some players back.”
Wood was elated at how his players responded after a Friday evening practice dedicated to baseball’s finer points. A notable improvement was Post 22’s ability to catch every sign, then execute the signaled play effectively.
“These guys came in today with a different attitude,” the coach said. “We paid attention to the small things and we didn’t let one error turn into two.
“As long as we’re focused, we can play with anyone in the league.”
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