Valley News - Junior achievers: Lebanon Post 22 routs Keene, remains alive in NH state tourney picture

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Junior achievers: Lebanon Post 22 routs Keene, remains alive in NH state tourney picture

  • Keene's Vincent Pierannunzi slides safely under the tag of Lebanon third baseman Bennett Hewett in the fourth inning of their Legion juniors game in Lebanon, N.H., on July 30, 2021. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • Lebanon's Ian Smith hits a slow-rolling grounder in front of Keene catcher Vincent Pierannunzi in the third inning of their Legion juniors game in Lebanon, N.H., on July 30, 2021. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Lebanon pitcher Freddy Mierke winds up to throw in the second inning of their Legion juniors game with Keene in Lebanon, N.H., on July 30, 2021. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2021 9:51:29 PM
Modified: 7/30/2021 9:55:08 PM

LEBANONLebanon Post 22 didn’t shy away from the stakes of Friday’s game against Keene Post 4 at Lebanon High. Head coach Chauncey Wood wouldn’t let them.

Lebanon needed a win to keep its hopes of qualifying for the New Hampshire American Legion baseball junior state tournament alive. Post 22 came through in a 12-4 win.

“I made them aware of what we were going to be playing for tonight,” Wood said. “And they rose to the occasion.”

Lebanon (6-10) fell behind early as Keene (7-8) took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Starting pitcher Freddy Mierke said the importance of the game was on his mind in the first few innings.

“First inning, I struck out the first batter, but I (fell behind) 3-0 on him. And I was just nervous,” Mierke said. “I’m like, ‘Oh God, this is a big game. I ain’t feeling this.’ And then I calmed down, and I hit my stride.”

Lebanon responded in the third inning with three runs, two of which scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Keene tied it up in the top of the fourth, but Lebanon quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the inning with three more runs, including two on bases-loaded walks.

After Keene scored one run in the top of the fifth to cut its deficit to 6-4, Lebanon pulled away in the bottom of the fifth. Post 22 scored five runs in the frame, highlighted by a two-run double by right fielder Ian Smith.

Wood didn’t panic when his team went down early. He reassured them in the dugout.

“I told them that they’re very capable of doing this. They just have to clean it up,” Wood said. “And if they clean it up and hit the three stages of the game, they’re going to be fine. Once these guys get rolling, they can keep that momentum good.”

Meanwhile, Mierke settled in on the mound. He gave Lebanon five solid innings, surrendering four runs (two earned) on five hits, two walks and one hit batsman while striking out seven batters.

Mierke said when he was anxious early, he calmed down by taking a few deep breaths and walking around the mound. “I took a break,” Mierke said. “I went back to the basics for pitching. I sped up my motion before, and I realized that. I slowed down.”

Smith closed out the final two innings on the mound for Lebanon. He controlled Keene’s offense with a sweeping curveball, and he didn’t allow any baserunners while recording two strikeouts.

Lebanon third baseman Bennett Hewett finished 3-for-4 with a walk, one RBI and four runs scored. First baseman Bodie Benoit went 2-for-3 with a walk, two RBIs and two runs. Center fielder Nick Brill walked twice, stole two bases and scored three runs.

Lebanon concludes its regular season Saturday against Salem Post 63 at Lebanon High.

Lebanon is tied with Merrimack Post 98 for fourth place in New Hampshire Junior District A, and the top four teams in each district qualify for the state tournament. Each team has one game remaining.

“We’re going to go out and do our job tomorrow, and we’ll see how it plays out,” Wood said. “We’re going into tomorrow open-minded, and we’re going to play ball.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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