Sunday, May 13, 2012
New England Roundup: New Hampshire
By Marc Thaler
Every win streak, no matter its length, has an expiration date.
Learning the life span of record runs for Portsmouth High baseball (89 games) and Londonderry High girls' lacrosse (59 games) ended in the same week, however, was certainly unexpected.
The Clippers run of consecutive NHIAA wins on the diamond, currently a national record, was snapped April 30 by Seacoast rival St. Thomas Aquinas High. The Dover club celebrated a comeback 5-4 home win.
“This year's group, 2012, is the most different of all the five teams (that contributed to the streak),” Portsmouth head coach Tim Hopley said. “Ten of the 18 guys had never been in a varsity game before the season started, and they weren't necessarily invested in what had happened in the past.
“Yet our best players, our leaders, pointed us in the right direction and they went out and were able to get the record back,” added Hopley, referring to Martensdale-St. Mary's (Iowa) High, which briefly broke the Clippers' record last season. “Whether it be for a few weeks or longer is irrelevant. It really is."
The Lancers' state-record streak of NHIAA wins was stopped by visiting Concord High. The date was May 5. The score was 14-12.
“I told the girls, 'Now it's done. You've set the bar for the state. You've done something that's going to be awfully hard to do again. Now you can focus on the next game. As long as we don't lose the last one, that's what matters,'” said Londonderry coach Bob Slater, whose program owned one of the nation's longest overall win streaks, a 51-gamer, until last season's 12-9 loss at Andover (Mass.) High.
Portsmouth, the four-time defending Division II champion, last lost an NHIAA contest in the 2007 quarterfinals. Hollis/Brookline High eliminated the Clippers, 4-3.
Londonderry, the three-time defending Division I champ, hadn't lost to an in-state foe since the 2008 title game. Amherst's Souhegan High scored a 15-7 win.
Both streaks were snapped by teams that nearly won a state title last spring. STA and Concord closed their 2011 campaigns in heartbreaking fashion.
The Saints were four outs from hoisting hardware. Pitching ace and star slugger Jordan Bean -– less than a calendar year before scoring the streak-snapping run -– was tagged for a two-out, two-strike bases-clearing double in the home sixth. It was the critical blow in a four-run inning for the Clippers, 9-6 winners.
The Crimson Tide erased a five-goal halftime deficit and had the chance to tie the championship at 10-apiece with 21 seconds to play. But goaltender Sarah Ford clinched the 10-9 win for the Lancers by stopping Jenna Tewksbury's free-position shot.
Here's how the win streaks came to a halt:
STA rallied for four runs in its last at-bat. Chris White ripped the game-winning single back through the box. White's winner scored Bean, who belted a two-run, game-tying double in addition to scattering eight hits and allowing two earned runs over six frames.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the entire Portsmouth program and all that they have accomplished over the past five years. I think this year's victory went a long way to dispel the myth in the minds of our players that we simply cannot beat them,” said STA coach Marc Schoff, whose program entered the showdown 49-15 since 2009, with eight of those losses to the Clippers.
“One of our players said after the St. Thomas game that most people never have the opportunity to set a significant national record once in their lifetime," Hopley said. "But we were fortunate enough to be able to accomplish it twice.”
Concord quickly surrendered four goals, but rebounded to take a 7-5 halftime lead. Late in regulation, Jane Symmes ensured the game's seventh tie didn't materialize. Winning the draw with her team protecting a 12-11 lead, she scored Concord's critical 13th goal.
“They got down, 4-0, at the beginning and that was a wake-up call. After that, they got back into the game and took charge,” Concord coach Terry Anderson told the New Hampshire Sunday News. “This was an intense and competitive game, and the difference was ball control, just getting the draw and making good decisions.”
MORE WITH HOPLEY What else did Portsmouth's baseball coach say about the national record-setting streak?
On the post-game message after losing: “First, standing in short right field 3 minutes after the game, we told them that it was bound to happen at some point, and that we really did do everything that day to win.
“The next day was the second step, more reflectionary. We told them how proud we were of them for what they had accomplished and for how they handled themselves through everything. It had to be said, and it will be said to every player who's been a part of this crazy ride. But we also reminded them that the seventh game of the season wasn't going to, couldn't, and shouldn't define who we were as a group.”
On winning while in the national spotlight: “The fact that the last two groups had to deal with the circus of media attention was probably fun at the time. But in hindsight, for 15-, 16-, 17-year-old high school kids who have to worry about a Calc test, their girlfriends, and cleaning up their room so mom and dad stop yelling, dealing with something like that is pretty heady stuff.
“And I'm sure we'd all do it again in a minute if we had the chance.”
NOTEWORTHY – Holly Kathios, a freshman pitcher for the softball team at Nashua's Bishop Guertin High, threw a complete-game no-hitter on May 10. She notched nine strikeouts, worked around three walks, and contributed a fourth-inning RBI single. The Cardinals beat Hampton's Winnacunnet High, 2-0.
– Jake Kennedy, a soon-to-be senior at Amherst's Souhegan High, was nominated for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 5, 2013. Offered a scholarship by the University of Massachusetts, the offensive and defensive lineman is one of 400 football players nationwide, and the only one from New Hampshire, to receive a nomination. Ninety players will be selected later this year for the East vs. West matchup televised on NBC.
Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “N.H. Sports Show” on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's 96.7 FM every Saturday morning. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.