Coach Dylan Mullin’s Derry American Legion Post 9 baseball squad entered last weekend feeling as though it could knock down the final few obstacles standing between it and a berth in the state Legion tournament.
And as things turned out, Mullin and his young men were able to do just that, qualifying as the fourth and final District B team to make the tourney, which begins late this week at Nashua’s Holman Stadium.
Last Saturday morning, July 19, the Derry side got to its field far earlier than usual with intentions of knocking the Portsmouth Booma Post team out of tourney contention while upping its own District B mark to 10-7. Doing so proved to be nothing short of a massive task for the locals, but it was done nonetheless.
The local hardball crew had bumped itself up some in the District B standings on Thursday night, July 17, with a sweep of the Salem Legion side in a doubleheader on that opponent’s home diamond.
Mullin’s young men entered the evening with a 7-6 record and ended it at a strong 9-6, perhaps a few steps closer to a state tournament berth.
In the first game, bulldog righty pitcher Chace Spears pitched all seven innings, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out six as Derry rolled to a fine, 6-0 victory.
Offensively, Jamie Collins smacked three hits and drove in two runs, and Chris Gerossie also contributed one RBI.
In game two, Josh Yaratz gave the locals a strong six innings on the hill, allowing just four hits and two walks while striking out eight would-be hitters as Derry pounded its way to an 11-2 blowout.
The offense was paced by Spears and his three hits and two runs batted in. Gerossie also drove in a pair of runs, and Ben Curry, Kyle Albertelli, and Pat Mahoney all chipped in with RBI for a potent Derry offense that collected a lucky 13 hits in the lopsided decision.
In the wake of that success on the road, Mullin and his charges lost a 7-1 decision to the tough Rochester team on the road Friday, July 18, to have their record move to 9-7. But then came the big match-up against 8-8 Portsmouth last Saturday morning, with the Derry side facing the possibility of squashing any tournament hopes that seacoast team still held.
The local hardball team managed to accomplish that feat, and it was an interesting game to watch. But one had to have nearly four hours free to enjoy all of it.
Derry snared the 5-4, walk-off win in the 14th inning of play as the rival Londonderry squad awaited word on whether Portsmouth would remain alive in the tourney race or bow out. Londonderry was in game one of a vital doubleheader in Rochester while the Portsmouth/Derry game was ongoing, and the Post 27 side had to sweep that twin-bill in order to remain in tourney contention itself. But the combination of the Derry victory and Londonderry’s 9-8 loss in game one of the doubleheader finished the Post 27 crew and boosted Derry.
The epic – as in extremely long – Derry win over Portsmouth was something else. It isn’t often that a team can commit eight fielding miscues and strand 18 men on base and win, but the Post 9 team managed to do it.
Booma Post’s starting pitcher lasted only three batters, but Derry had to settle for a single run on one hit and one error in the bottom half of the first inning.
Leadoff batter Joe Murphy reached on a walk, advanced all the way to third on an error, and then scored on a wild pitch.
That 1-0 lead stood up until the top half of the sixth when Portsmouth touched up Derry starting pitcher Gerossie and his teammates for one run on one hit and two errors.
Standout Gerossie would be on the mound for seven-plus innings for Derry, strike out eight batters, walk just one, allow eight hits, and give up four runs, all of which were unearned.
After the Booma crew knotted the score at 1-1 in the sixth, Derry regained the lead in the bottom of that frame when pinch-hitter Mike Albetski smacked a single to right field to plate teammate Spears, who had reached on an error.
The Portsmouth side claimed its first lead of the day in the top half of the seventh by scoring two runs on four hits and another Derry error. The visitors had a 3-2 lead at that point, but they’d also left the bases packed with runners.
The hosts knotted the score back up at 3-3 in the latter half of that inning when Jamie Collins – who bashed out four hits and was only put out once in seven trips to the plate – reached when he was hit by a pitch. Moments later he scored on a Portsmouth error.
The Booma crew regained the lead at 4-3 in the top of the eighth – knocking Gerossie out of the game in the process in favor of reliever Matt Tritto – with one run on one error and zero hits.
But Derry tied the game back up at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth, thanks to Collins’ run-scoring double.
The hosts appeared to have the game won in the 11th inning when Collins led off by hammering a triple to left-center field. But his teammates proved frustratingly unable to get him home from third base.
Then in the bottom of the 13th, Murphy led off with a double, reached third on a sacrifice bunt by Ben Curry, and ended up remaining right there on third as Derry proved unable to cash in once again.
Finally, in the latter half of the 14th frame, Kyle Albertelli led off with a ringing single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tritto, and scored on Brad Locke’s single to right-center field.
“Everybody did their job, moved guys over, and we played better defense over the last three or four innings,” said Mullin. “Brad made his first hit of the day really count, and we got some great relief pitching from Matt. It took a long time, but it was a good team win.”
The victorious hosts’ error and runners’ left on base woes were balanced off by their 14 hits and several exceptional 6-4-3 double plays that killed Booma scoring chances.
Collins ended up just short of hitting for the cycle with a triple, two doubles, and a single, Albertelli smacked three singles, and Gerossie knocked a double and a single.
Reliever and winning pitcher Tritto pitched a full seven innings and held Booma to one unearned run (credited to Gerossie) on just two hits while striking out two batters.