Derry Legion Takes Second Spot at State Tourney

Saying the Derry Chase Post 9 American Legion baseball squad had a wild ride at the state Legion tournament at Nashua’s Holman Stadium may be a big understatement.

But coach Dylan Mullin’s contingent fell one slim win short of the state title, falling to the Dover Legion in the championship game by a 3-2 score in a hard-fought contest Tuesday afternoon, July 29.

“I’m happy with the way we played in the whole tournament,” said Mullin. “It came down to the last inning and the last out, and everybody contributed. The coaches are  happy with the way the guys handled themselves.”

In the Derry and Dover teams’ second meeting in less than 48 hours, Dover plated the first run of the game in the top of the second but left the bases loaded.

Dover manufactured a run in the top of the fifth to make it a 2-0 game, but the Derry offense got rolling in the latter half of that frame when it scored once on two hits and a Dover error.

Derry starting pitcher Josh Yaratz did gutsy work for 5 1/3 innings before yielding the mound to lefty reliever Riley Cahill, who was charged with helping his team out of a two-on, one-out jam. He was in the process of doing so when a fielding miscue allowed Dover a run that made it a 3-1 contest.

Dover pitcher Aaron Denis stymied Post 9 at nearly every turn as his team worked to keep the lead.

The Derry crew trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth when Collins laced a clutch single to plate Murphy, but they left the tying run in scoring position.

The local nine also had the tying run on base in the latter half of the ninth with its chances ebbing away, but Derry couldn’t manage any more scoring.

On Monday, Derry faced the possibility of two games. Sweeney Post stood in the local team’s way in game one at 4 p.m., with Dover waiting for a possible rematch that evening. But lousy weather wiped out virtually any baseball Monday, with Derry and Sweeney only making it to the bottom half of the second inning before thunder and lightning and then heavy rain ended the evening’s action.

The Manchester squad grasped a 1-0 lead – thanks to a fielder’s choice that scored a runner from third base – in the top of the second. The tourney directors then decided that play would resume – Mother Nature willing – Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the point where the squads had left off. The championship game between the winner of the Derry/Sweeney contest and Dover then began when the earlier game ended.

When that play resumed Tuesday morning, Derry’s Jamie Collins put his team in the lead at 2-1 by bashing a two-run homer over the wooden wall in left-center.

The Manchester side vaulted back into the lead in the top of the fifth with two runs on a double, a single, and a triple, and it became a 3-2 game.

However, the local guys managed to knot the score at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth when Chris Gerossie launched a line-drive homer over the brick wall in left.

And Derry knocked Sweeney starting pitcher Nolan Flynn out of the game in the bottom of the seventh by filling the bases with one out. Reliever Connor Walsh got Gerossie to ground out to third, with the throw going to home plate to cut down the go-ahead run, but Chase Spears smacked an infield single that plated Riley Cahill with the lead run. Pat Mahoney and Ben Curry followed with RBI singles to make it a 6-3 game before Kyle Albertelli busted things open with a bases-clearing double to make it 9-3.

Sloppy Derry defense in the top of the eighth helped Sweeney trim its deficit to four runs at 9-5, but the locals won to move on to the title battle with Dover.

The Post 9 crew’s first two games in the state tournament were, for the most part, well-played and entertaining. But Mullin and his charges were fortunate to survive to play a third contest.

Right-handed pitcher Spears gave his squad a superb performance in its first game of the tourney Thursday morning, July 24.

Spears had a magnificent, one-hit shutout going through the first eight innings of the game against Lebanon, but the Derry offense wasn’t able to do much of anything against Lebanon hurler Ben Bates, and the score remained at 0-0 despite Derry’s scoring chances.

The local team stranded 10 runners on base without scoring, and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Rob Woodward’s Lebanon bunch bagged a 1-0 walk-off win in the latter half of the ninth by plating an unearned run.

Derry collected six hits – with two coming from Jamie Collins – with hurler Spears allowing that same number of safeties along with two walks while striking out seven.

“Chase did a great job of keeping them off balance the whole way, and he kept us in the game. We just couldn’t find the hits we needed to get guys home,” said Mullin.

So with one mark in the loss column in the double-elimination tourney, the Derry side lined up against a Concord crew in Friday morning tournament action. Concord had suffered a 7-2 loss to Dover the previous day.

The local squad plated two runs in the third and fourth innings to grab a 4-0 lead, but Concord trimmed that lead in half with two unearned runs against pitcher Gerossie and his defense in the top half of the fifth.

Gerossie was on the hill for six full frames for Post 9, and the Derry offense flirted with busting the game open in the bottom of that inning when it collected three hits. But they left two men on base without scoring, and relief pitcher Matt Tritto experienced a few struggles in the top of the seventh but managed to hold Concord scoreless.

In the top half of the ninth inning, however, with Derry requiring just three outs to move on in the tourney, Concord struck for three runs on three hits and all of a sudden Mullin’s mob was trailing 5-4 and sat three slim outs away from ending its 2014 campaign.

But the Derry side pulled out in the bottom half of the ninth with a walk-off win.

Joe Murphy led off with a single, got to second on a stolen base, and sprinted to third when Riley Cahill put together a great, lengthy at-bat and wound up grounding out to the right side of the infield to move his teammate along.

Concord then got the second out it required, but Gerossie drew an intentional walk and Spears was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Pat Mahoney then lofted a lazy fly ball toward the drawn-in right fielder, who initially seemed to have the baseball lined up for the final out. But the ball sailed a good 15 feet over his head, Murphy and Gerossie sprinted home, and Derry had a 6-5 victory.

“It would have been tough to lose two games in the ninth inning, but they fought back to win it and move us forward,” said Mullin.

The dramatics continued  on Saturday, July 26, at Holman as the Derry crew went up against a tough Rochester contingent equally as intent as the locals about moving on in the tourney. But in the end, Derry would bag a late, 10-8 victory and advance to Sunday play.

The Derry Legion overcame deficits of 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 6-4, and 8-7 in a seesaw battle and wound up winners again. Derry’s biggest innings were the third, fourth, and eighth, in which they notched eight of their 10 runs.

In the three-run third, Derry went from trailing 3-1 to leading 4-3 when Collins thumped an RBI double off the wooden left-center field wall and Gerossie followed by sending the baseball flying over the brick wall in straight-away left field for a two-run homer.

Rochester answered with three runs of its own in the top of the fourth to snag a 6-4 lead, but Derry got all of those markers back and grabbed a 7-6 advantage in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to an RBI single by Cahill and two-run double by Gerossie.

But it was Spears – who had gone hitless in his first four at-bats of the day – who would wind up being the hero for the locals when he thumped a two-run double off the top part of that wooden wall in left-center to bust an 8-8 deadlock by scoring Cahill and Collins with Derry’s ninth and 10th runs of the game.

The victors ended up smacking 14 hits in the win, with Cahill, Collins, and Gerossie each knocking three. And relief pitcher Tritto snagged his second victory in two days when he hurled the last 2 1/3 frames after taking over for starter Yaratz.

The Legion’s wild ride continued Sunday afternoon, July 27, when the Derry side kept its championship hopes alive by claiming a 3-0 blanking of the undefeated Dover Post 8 crew.

Prior to that victory, the Derry bunch had watched Manchester’s Sweeney Post squad knock Hudson out of the tournament, leaving just three teams – Derry, Sweeney and Dover – in the running for the state title.

Spears gave the local team another excellent pitching performance in the blanking of Dover, putting forth a complete-game effort with three strikeouts while allowing just one walk and a modest six hits.

The Post 9 side plated single runs in the first. third, and seventh frames in besting a Dover side that, to be fair, played like a team that knew it was guaranteed a game the following day, thanks to its undefeated status. Derry played like a squad fully aware that it was facing a possible second loss and elimination from the tourney.

The Derry side scored the only run they’d end up needing to win the game in the latter half of the first inning, thanks in large part to two Dover errors.

Leadoff batter Joe Murphy produced another impressive bunt single, with a Dover fielder throwing the ball away to allow Murphy to sprint on to second base.

Cahill then pushed Murphy along to third base by smacking a grounder to the right side of the infield, and the base-runner made it to the plate on a fielder’s choice with an errant throw to home plate by another Dover infielder.

Insurance runs came in the third (RBI single by Spears) and seventh (RBI double by Collins), while Dover ended up frustrated by Spears’ gutsy pitching and the error-free defense behind him.