Baseball season recap: Concord reaches Division I semifinals, Bishop Brady does the same in D-III

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 06-14-2023 7:56 PM

With an enormous 11-player senior class, Concord High baseball had itself set up for a strong 2023 season, and that’s exactly what the Tide turned in.

Although it came up short of reaching the Division I championship game, the Tide finished the season 16-6 with a 3-0 loss to No. 3 Pinkerton in the semifinals after upsetting No. 2 Exeter in extra innings in the previous round.

“Great season,” Concord head coach Scott Owen said after the Pinkerton loss. “We were the seventh seed. We beat an excellent Exeter team and lost to an excellent Pinkerton team. … (The 11 seniors) have done everything we’ve asked them to do. It’s an enjoyable team to coach. I’m going to miss all of them. I wish this could’ve turned out differently for them.”

The senior class included Brooks Craigue and Nater Wachter – the D-I Offensive Player of the Year – who will both continue their baseball careers in college, Craigue at Merrimack College and Wachter at Southern New Hampshire University.

Craigue and junior pitcher Matt Drewes formed a talented duo on the mound for Concord all season. At the plate, Craigue was as consistent as a high school player can be at the top of the lineup. Wachter, meanwhile, was a force in the middle of the order and played a great center field.

“We weren’t supposed to be here, but we fought through,” Craigue said after the loss to Pinkerton. “We really didn’t care what anyone else said. We had a good run. It’s a great group of guys.”

In Division II, three of the five area teams qualified for the playoffs. The sixth seed, John Stark finished the year 11-7 after an ugly 20-0 loss to No. 3 St. Thomas in the quarterfinals.

Still, it’s a young team for head coach Dennis Pelletier to continue to develop heading into next season.

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“The team unity is incredible,” he said after the Generals beat Laconia on May 9. “These boys love each other. Sometimes they’re goofy beyond what I like and I have to rein them in, but just the fact that they love playing baseball together (is great).

“My ’21 team that won the championship was like that. They weren’t as goofy as these guys, but they still had that camaraderie and that love of playing ball together.”

Among that group of players is Anthony Paolicelli, a junior, who was named the D-II Pitcher of the Year.

Bow had a similar season trajectory to John Stark with generally strong play occasionally held back by mistakes, especially defensively. Also 11-7 in 2023, the No. 7 Falcons beat No. 10 Pelham, 5-0, in the first round before losing to No. 2 Hollis-Brookline, 3-1, in the quarterfinals.

“We played great baseball in almost all aspects of our game,” assistant coach Dennis Ordway told the Monitor after the loss. “We just didn’t string enough hits together to produce the runs we needed to get the win.”

Contrary to John Stark, which graduates just four seniors off its roster (Aidan Johnson, Hayden Nunley, Chris Dustin and Dominic Massaro), Bow will be losing seven (Zach Cross, Alex Magdziasz, Cam Evans, Calen Smith, Luke Wilke, Ethan Gray and Mark Folsom).

Coe-Brown was the third area team to qualify for the postseason. In head coach Rob Stockman’s second season, he helped the program continue its rebuild in the right direction. After finishing 2022 at 6-11, the No. 9 Bears wrapped up 2023 at 8-9 after a 4-0 loss to No. 8 Plymouth in the first round of the playoffs.

While Coe-Brown stumbled down the stretch after starting this season 6-2, Stockman has a clear vision for what he hopes to implement in the program after finding success playing a similar brand of baseball at Pittsfield.

“(It’s) been my philosophy even at Pittsfield: Smart, boring ball wins games. It always has,” he said after the Bears lost to Oyster River on May 8. “I feel that way even in D-II, and we were 6-3 just by throwing strikes, trying to make the plays, get on base and we’ll do something. That’s what we’ll keep doing. It’s always worked, so we’ll see.”

Pembroke and Merrimack Valley were the two area D-II teams to miss out on the playoffs. The Spartans started the season 2-2, but a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season doomed their chances at qualifying for the postseason.

After an early-season win over MV, head coach Josh Coughlin forecasted where his team needed to improve.

“We gotta make more plays,” he said on April 12. “Defensively, we gotta support our pitchers a heck of a lot better if we’re going to progress throughout this season.”

MV also struggled to find consistency this season. The Pride’s biggest issue came in converting at the plate with runners in scoring position.

“This whole season, it hasn’t been lack of effort, it hasn’t been lack of fight, it’s just been lack of the big timely hit,” head coach Sean Wheeler said after a loss to Bow on May 15. “We haven’t gotten the hit that we needed with runners in scoring position. Can’t ask for anything more from this group. Hard-working group that I enjoy being around.”

Bishop Brady led the way among area teams in Division III this year. The Giants finished the season 16-2, coming up short in the semifinals against White Mountains, 4-0.

Still, it was a dominant year for Skip Foy’s team, which outscored opponents, 169-27, during the regular season. The Giants just couldn’t quite get past a similarly strong White Mountains team.

“Of course they’re all disappointed and so am I, but still when you end up 16-2 (and) you make the state semifinals, that’s not a bad season,” Foy said after the loss. “I don’t feel like we underachieved or anything. I think definitely we had a good enough team to get to the finals. But I told them to keep their heads up. It was a great season still.”

Also in Division III, Belmont and Winnisquam both qualified for the playoffs. The No. 8 Red Raiders pushed No. 1 Monadnock in the quarterfinals but ultimately came up short in a 4-3 loss. Belmont finished the season 11-7. Winnisquam, the 10th seed, lost to Fall Mountain in the first round of the playoffs to finish with a record of 9-8.

Kearsarge and Hopkinton both missed out on the postseason. The Cougars were 3-13, and the Hawks were 1-15.

In Division IV, Concord Christian and Pittsfield both reached the playoffs. CCA was 14-3 and suffered an upset loss in the first round of the playoffs against Mascenic. Pittsfield, meanwhile, snuck into the bracket as the 15th seed and lost, 9-0, to Sunapee to wrap up the season 7-12.

Franklin did not qualify for the playoffs, finishing 2023 with a record of 1-15.

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