Boston High School: Mike Montville

Portsmouth (N.H.) sets national record for wins

May, 19, 2011
5/19/11
11:44
PM ET



PEMBROKE, N.H. –- Tim Hopley had a message for his Portsmouth High School baseball team Thursday, and he waited until the seventh inning to deliver it.

With the Clippers three outs away from breaking the national record for consecutive victories, Hopley gathered the Portsmouth players in front of the visitors’ dugout and made sure he had everyone’s attention.

“I told them there’s something like 17,421 high school teams that play baseball in the [United States] and they were three outs away from doing something none of those teams had ever accomplished,” Hopley said following Portsmouth’s 10-2 triumph over Pembroke Academy. “If that didn’t get them excited, if it didn’t get them focused and paying attention to what we were standing of the doorstep of, well, that was the best I could come up with.”

Portsmouth’s victory stretched the program’s winning streak to 76 games, one more than Homer (Mich.) High School won in 2004 and 2005. That 2005 Homer team featured pitcher Josh Collmenter, who made his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this season.

“Records are made to be broken,” Homer coach Scott Salow said. “There are no hard feelings. I’m sure they’ll do a good job carrying the torch. This has put Homer baseball back on the front page.”

Several Portsmouth players said they were relieved the record had been broken, but they insisted the team’s No. 1 goal is winning a fourth consecutive state championship.

“It’s definitely, definitely relief,” Portsmouth pitcher/outfielder Keegan Taylor said. “It’s always nice to have something off your back, but to me we’re not done. It’s more than just this. Definitely not satisfied yet. We want to be the last team standing.”

Pitcher Ricky Holt and catcher Connor McCauley are the Portsmouth players who made the biggest contribution to Thursday’s win. Holt, a sophomore, pitched a complete game and held Pembroke to five hits. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.

“Really happy and excited that we got that record,” Holt said. “Now we can start getting ready for the playoffs. We still have to get better every game and get to our main goal, which is to bring another championship back to Portsmouth.”

McCauley collected four hits, drove in three runs and stole three bases.

“Definitely my best hitting game of the season,” McCauley said. “It’s weird thinking we own a national record. Right now it feels pretty good, but after this weekend we’re gonna start thinking about winning another championship. There’s relief, but we still have work to do.”

McCauley and Taylor are among the five players on this year’s Portsmouth team who also played for the Portsmouth team that reached the 2006 Little League World Series. Shortstop Billy Hartmann, third baseman Matt Feeney and catcher/designated hitter Conor Trefethen are the others.

Feeney, Trefethen and second baseman Matt Main each had two hits for the Clippers, who raised their Division II record to 13-0. The loss dropped Pembroke’s record to 7-6.

Portsmouth did most of its damage in the second inning, when it sent nine batters to the plate and took a 5-0 lead. The big blow in the inning was Main’s two-run double.

Main made it 6-0 when he scored on a wild pitch in the top of the fourth, but Pembroke answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Matt Gosselin and Zac Gauss each scored on Pat Flanagan’s two-run single.

The Clippers padded their lead by adding three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. McCauley’s two-run single highlighted the three-run fifth.

Pembroke’s Shane St. Onge pitched five innings in relief of starter Patrick Jarvis. Each pitcher surrendered five runs.

“Every day the focus was simply just getting better,” Hopley said. “If we continue to get better, we’re gonna continue to play good baseball. If we get complacent and we stop trying to get better, it’s gonna end in the snap of a finger. It’s the nature of the beast in high school baseball.”

Hopley shouldn’t have a problem getting his team refocused for its next game. Portsmouth will play at rival St. Thomas on Monday. Portsmouth overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat St. Thomas 4-3 earlier this season.

“They know what’s coming,” Hopley said. “They know there’s not a team in New Hampshire that wants to beat them more than what’s in front of us on Monday.

“My job will be to remind them that it’s 76, and why can’t it be 77? Why can’t it be a bigger number?”

Shortstop Mike Fransoso (Maine), outfielder Mike Montville (Maryland), pitcher Ben Hart (UMass), and pitcher Nate Jones (Wake Forest) are former Portsmouth players who contributed to the streak and are now playing Division I college baseball.

Two players on this year’s team –- Taylor and centerfielder Aidan O’Leary –- have committed to play Division I baseball next season. Taylor is headed to Northeastern, and O’Leary will play for Manhattan. Taylor is 6-0 this season and 20-0 in his varsity career.

Portsmouth’s last loss came against Hollis-Brookline in the semifinals of the 2007 Class I tournament.

The Clippers used to make headlines for a different reason. Portsmouth was coming off an 0-18 season when Hopley became head coach in 1996. The program’s losing streak reached 30 games before Hopley collected his first victory as a varsity head coach.

“[Back then] I would literally wake up and pray it was raining that day because it meant we weren’t going to lose,” he said.

Hopley played for the Portsmouth team that won a state championship in 1988. The Clippers also qualified for postseason play in 1989, but didn’t play another postseason game until 2004.

“There’s been 42 guys who put this uniform on during the course of this streak,” Hopley said. “The fact that it’s stretched out over four different teams speaks volumes about those 42 guys because every single one of them has done one thing or another to help us be successful.

“These guys finished what was started by the guys before them. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
12:45
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The focus these past two weeks has been on win streaks.

New Hampshire is home to two teams, each with a consecutive victory count that's quite high – and continues to climb.

New HampshireOn the Seacoast, Portsmouth High's baseball team owns a state-record 68-game win streak, a run that's seven wins shy of matching the national record (75), according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Michigan's Homer High set the standard in 2005.

Meanwhile, in the southern part of the state, the Londonderry High girls' lacrosse squad rides a state-best 42-gamer.

“[The win streak is] something that's talked about throughout the community. We see more people coming to games as we get closer,” said senior Keegan Taylor, Portsmouth's Northeastern-bound pitcher. “As a team, we try not to think about it as much. It's not a distraction, but it is added pressure.

“Game-to-game is what we focus on most,” he added. “You don't want to be that team that loses.”

You'll hear the same sentiment echoed in Londonderry's camp. Here are three additional similarities that link Portsmouth and Londonderry, and their win streaks:

Tremendous turnarounds – Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley and Londonderry mentor Bob Slater didn't inherit powerhouse programs. They built them.

Hopley's start 16 seasons ago was particularly inauspicious.

“We were on a 30-game losing streak midway through my first season. I started 0-10 in my coaching career and the team lost the previous 20 prior to that. I thought I was going to get fired. So, all this stuff we're in the middle of, I don't see it as a negative,” Hopley said when asked if the constant questions about Portsmouth's win streak have grown tiresome.

Slater, in his sixth year guiding the girls, didn't take over a team trying to snap a long losing streak. But, he has often said, a defeatist's mentality hovered over the program.

Londonderry went 5-11 the year before Slater arrived. Six of those setbacks were at least eight-goal margins of defeat. Confidence among athletes was non-existent. The Lancers won 11 games in Slater's first season (2006).

“When I took the girls' program over, being in the concrete business, I said 'We’re going to put the foundation in this year,” Slater said. “Then, we’re going to build the house the next year, and we’re going to fill it.

“Lo and behold, we won two championships my fourth and fifth years,” he added. “It’s a game plan.”

Succession of stars – Graduation every spring is the great equalizer. Once-dominant teams can quickly disappear as rosters turn over.

The Clippers and Lancers lost their share of stars. As their streaks suggest, though, the talent pools are plenty deep.

Quality pitching has been a consistent theme at Portsmouth for three-plus seasons.

Southpaw Tim Welch (Bowdoin) and righty Ben Hart (UMass) pitched the program to the 2008 title, the first in the run.

Welch, at the time, was featured in Sports Illustrated “Faces in the Crowd” for not allowing a run all season (52 innings pitched, 9-0 record). Hart was also 9-0.
Pitcher Nate Jones (Wake Forest) and slugger Mike Montville (Maryland), who helped clinch crowns in 2009 and 2010, are also among the former stars responsible for three straight perfect campaigns.

This year, Taylor and Manhattan recruit Aidan O'Leary, a center fielder and designated hitter, are the leaders as three-year varsity players. The team ace, Taylor dominated his first two starts, totaling 26 strikeouts while scattering four hits.

Sophomore Ricky Holt, Portsmouth's No. 2 pitcher, should soon find himself atop the rotation.

Just like Portsmouth's streak, Londonderry's run has survived because new leaders continue to emerge.

Kayla Green – whose career totals include 261 goals and 172 assists for 433 points – paced LHS to its first Final Four in 2008. Now a Stonehill standout, she led the Lancers to their first title in 2009.

Virginia's Dana Boyle (257-79–336), arguably the best all-around talent to hail from the Granite State, and Vermont's Marcie Marino headlined last year's super-stacked squad.

This season, junior-laden Londonderry remains a juggernaut. Midfielder Jenny Thompson and attacker Leah Walter, both juniors, lead the high-powered Lancers. Freshman midfielder Alexa Bedell, already a force, is Londonderry's latest rising star.

Tunnel vision – Players may discuss their squad's streak periodically. But it almost never comes up in conversation with the coaches.

That doesn't mean each mentor finds his team's feat insignificant. Hopley and Slater simply place far more importance on the team's need to be better the next time out. It's the reason, after all, that these streaks exist.

“The thing I want to make sure we're still doing is continuing to improve, so when push comes to shove (in the state tournament), we know how to handle it,” Hopley said.

Likewise, Slater devotes complete attention to preparing for every opponent, regardless of record. He demands nothing less from the Lancers.

Of course, these teams and their streaks possess unique qualities. These two top the list:

Clipper quintet knows national pressure – Five Clippers played for Portsmouth's 11- and 12-year-old all-star team that reached the United States semifinals of the 60th Little League World Series in 2006.

The quintet includes Taylor and the junior foursome of third baseman Matt Feeney, catcher Connor Trefethen, shortstop Billy Hartman and right fielder/back-up backstop Connor McCauley.

“We played on a big stage, in front of cameras,” said Taylor, the starter in the LLWS national semifinal. “Being in the game, you're not personally thinking about pressure. But having that (experience) under your belt ... does make it easier to (compete) in big situations.”

Lancers have a long way to go – Londonderry, unlike Portsmouth, is still several perfect seasons from challenging its sport's record for longest win streak. If the streak survives the week – which ends with games against sub-.500 Salem High on Friday and the Bay State's Duxbury High on Saturday – Londonderry will own a 44-gamer (Framingham High was the last team to top the Lancers).

That's 60 wins shy of Loch Raven High. The Baltimore-based program is said to own the record with 104 straight wins from 1973-82.

“We are definitely aware of (the streak). We are all so proud of it,” said Thompson, a known name to several Division I women's college lacrosse coaches. “We all think about it all the time.

“Everyone wants to beat us,” she added. “We are everyone’s target.”

Marc Thaler is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He can be reached at marc.thaler@gmail.com. You can read his blog, "New Hampshire GameDay" and follow him on Twitter @marc_thaler.

Portsmouth (N.H.) nearing national record

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
12:43
PM ET
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- If you attend a Portsmouth High varsity baseball game this spring, you’ll see a team with superior pitching, a team that plays sound defense and a team with no easy outs in its batting order. There’s plenty of talent on the bench too.

It’s the same makeup Portsmouth teams have had since 2008, when the Clippers won the first of their three consecutive state championships. Portsmouth is 4-0 entering Wednesday’s game against Windham, and is considered by many to be the team to beat in Division II again this season.

The Clippers are also threatening to break the national record for consecutive victories. They’ve won 67 games in a row, which puts them eight victories away from a share of the record. Homer (Mich.) had a 75-game winning streak end in 2005.

“The winning streak is something I hear about a lot, but it’s not something we speak about,” Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley said. “We try to focus on what’s right in front of us and the kids have done a good job taking it one game at a time. It has been a great ride.”

Pitcher Keegan Taylor and outfielder Aidan O’Leary are among the leaders on this year’s team. Both have committed to play Division I baseball next season, Taylor at Northeastern and O’Leary at Manhattan College.

Taylor has been contributing to the program’s winning streak since he was a sophomore, when he won six games on the mound. He’s 16-0 as a varsity pitcher, and is 2-0 this year with 26 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.

“Throughout the school the winning streak is talked about, but as players coach drills us on one game at a time,” Taylor said.

Taylor is the latest in a long line of exceptional pitchers than have worn the Portsmouth uniform. That group includes Chris Anderson, Ben Hart, Tim Welch and Nate Jones.

The Minnesota Twins drafted Anderson, who was on the mound when Portsmouth ended a lengthy postseason drought by beating Timberlane (Plaistow) in the 2004 Class L tournament.

Hart and Welch led Portsmouth to its first Class I championship in 2008. Welch, who is now playing at Bowdoin, posted a 9-0 record and didn’t allow a run – earned or unearned – that season. Hart continued his career at the University of Vermont, and transferred to the University of Massachusetts when Vermont eliminated its baseball program.

Jones was the ace on last year’s staff. He was 20-0 with a 1.89 ERA during his varsity career and is now pitching for Wake Forest.

Infielder Mike Fransoso (Maine) and outfielder Mike Montville (Maryland) are some of the other Portsmouth players who have gone on to play in college.

“Work ethic has a lot to do with what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Hopley said. “When you have guys who are willing to listen, work hard and implement stuff they’re taught it makes it a lot easier.

“We had some pretty good players set the example by showing a good work ethic years ago and the younger players have followed that.”

Portsmouth hasn’t always been the program by which all others are measured. The Clippers won the Class L championship in 1988 and qualified for the Class L tournament in 1989, but didn’t make its next postseason appearance until 2001. The program ended a 30-game losing streak in 1996, when Hopley took over as head coach.

“There wasn’t a ton of good players back then,” Hopley said. “The talent just wasn’t there.”

Portsmouth didn’t win a tournament game under Hopley until 2004. The Clippers also won one tournament game in 2005 and 2006. Then, in 2007, the program dropped from Class L (the division with New Hampshire schools that have the largest enrollments) to Class I.

“We would not be on this run if we had remained in Class L,” Portsmouth assistant coach Matt Gladu said. “Class L is much deeper, particularly the pitching.

“I think we might have been able to win one or two state championships, but three in a row? Probably not.”

Kingswood (Wolfeboro, N.H.) coach Chip Skelly said it will come as no surprise to him if Portsmouth wins another state championship this spring.

“I attribute [the winning streak] to the program he has developed, and obviously the program stems from your coach,” Skelly said. “Coach Hopley has done a nice job getting his program to a point where the expectations are the exact same year in and year out. They just change kids. It’s an attitude. You can learn to win. You can also learn to lose.”

It seems that Portsmouth has forgotten how to lose, though. The program’s last loss came against Hollis-Brookline in the 2007 Class I semifinals. Bedford, which is 5-0 and the only other unbeaten team in Class I, and Souhegan are the teams that appear most capable of beating Portsmouth this season.

Portsmouth is scheduled to play Souhegan on Friday, and will meet Bedford on May 9. Both games will be on the road. Bedford is the team Portsmouth beat in last year’s Class I title game.

“We’re not 2009, we’re not 2010 we’re the 2011 team,” Portsmouth third baseman Matt Feeney said. “We make our own destiny. We do what we do, and nothing else matters except for this season.”

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