Baseball preview: Concord relying on new cast for success in 2024

Pinkerton shortstop Brendan Horne (2) throws out Concord’s Dawson Fancher (18) at third base in the Division I baseball semifinal on last June 7 at Nashua’s Holman Stadium. Fancher is one of just three players from last year’s team that is returning to the Concord varsity this spring.

Pinkerton shortstop Brendan Horne (2) throws out Concord’s Dawson Fancher (18) at third base in the Division I baseball semifinal on last June 7 at Nashua’s Holman Stadium. Fancher is one of just three players from last year’s team that is returning to the Concord varsity this spring. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

Nathaniel Wachter (center) and Zach McCoy (right) gave the Concord High baseball team plenty of bounce during a run to the Division I baseball semifinals last year. But both are gone — part of an 11-player graduating class — and although this year’s Crimson Tide also has plenty of seniors, most have had limited exposure to varsity play.

Nathaniel Wachter (center) and Zach McCoy (right) gave the Concord High baseball team plenty of bounce during a run to the Division I baseball semifinals last year. But both are gone — part of an 11-player graduating class — and although this year’s Crimson Tide also has plenty of seniors, most have had limited exposure to varsity play. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

The Bishop Brady baseball team celebrates a victory on last May 24. The Giants finished 16-2, making it to the Division III semifinals. This year’s squad is compensating for players lost to injury in other sports during the baseball offseason.

The Bishop Brady baseball team celebrates a victory on last May 24. The Giants finished 16-2, making it to the Division III semifinals. This year’s squad is compensating for players lost to injury in other sports during the baseball offseason. Courtesy

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL and DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 04-01-2024 11:05 AM

Modified: 04-01-2024 4:11 PM


Concord High baseball coach Scott Owen lost 11 seniors off of last year’s team that reached the Division I semifinals and went 16-6. Entering 2024, he’s relying on a more inexperienced group, with seven seniors, three juniors and one sophomore with no prior varsity experience.

Teams typically don’t have so many seniors with no previous time at the varsity level, but with the depth of the group that graduated last year, those athletes were forced to spend another year on the JV team. Still, they’ve stuck with the program, and this season will be the opportunity they’ve been working for.

“Tip of the cap to them, to do what they’re doing, play freshman, two years of JV in the hopes that you’re going to get to play a year of varsity. They’ve done that,” Owen said. “It’s their time to shine. Hopefully, we can get some good things out of them.”

On the mound, Owen expects senior Matt Jenness and sophomores Noah Chrabolowski and Alex Turant to start, with much of the rest of the innings up for grabs.

Owen listed Josh Turant, Brett McDonough, Jackson Martin, Trevor Craigue, Alex Lewis, Kealen Williams, Dawson Fancher and Mitch Coffey as potential options out of the bullpen.

More than anything, though, Owen’s harped on the importance of guys being able to throw strikes consistently and force opponents to put the ball in the play.

“They’re going to get their hits off us; that’s OK. Everyone does,” Owen said. “But we gotta force them to put them all together in order to score a run or two and not give them walk, walk, we make an error and they get a base hit and all of a sudden they’ve got two, three runs.”

Offensively, Fancher and Coffey look to be the prominent bats in the lineup. Last season, Fancher hit .321 with 10 runs batted in and 19 runs scored last season, while Coffey hit .302 with three home runs, 23 RBIs and 16 runs scored.

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As is the case with the pitching staff, though, it’ll take more than just a couple players if the Tide want to have a successful season.

The biggest key will be how quickly the new players adjust to playing at the varsity level.

“This is a special group. These guys aren’t acting like it’s their first year here,” he said. “That’s what we want. It’s what we’ve been talking about. You look at us on paper, and you’re like, ‘Oh they’re an older, experienced team,’ and we’re definitely older; we’re just inexperienced at the varsity level. How quickly we can grow up to varsity baseball is going to really determine how our year goes.”

Concord opens its season on April 9 at home against Windham.

BOW

Division: II.

Coach: Ben Forbes (25th year).

Last year: 11-7, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Jake Reardon, so.; Dillon Abbate, jr.; Peyton Larrabee, so.; Brady Lover, jr.; Sean Guerrette, sr.; Owen Webber, jr.; Nate Kiah, jr.

Top newcomers: Owen Cray, jr.; Caleb Szafran, sr.; Colby Smith, sr.

Outlook: After losing large senior classes each of the last two seasons, the Falcons are rebuilding with a core of young players. Solid defense behind a committee of pitchers will be a main focus. Pitchers Kiah, Larrabee, Guerrette and Abbate will get a bulk of the innings on the mound, throwing to Webber behind the plate. Webber, a First Team All-State pick last year, will anchor the defense.

Teams to beat: St. Thomas, Hanover, John Stark.

COE-BROWN

Division: II.

Coach: Rob Stockman (third year).

Last year: 8-9, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Joey Bush, sr., P/IF; Dylan Burovac, sr., OF; Braden Burt, sr., OF; Justin Stevens, sr., C/OF; Casey Colby, jr., C/P; Mike Flanagan, jr., OF; Liam Marcotte, so., P/IF.

Outlook: This is the first year that every member of the Bears’ roster has come up through the Coe-Brown program since Stockman took over as head coach.

“We are excited to begin not only a new culture but winning consistently in D-II for years to come,” Stockman said. “Although we are not quite there yet, we see lots of improvement with our first winter training and upcoming players to our program. Our team returns a few core players with lots of new and upcoming talent.”

Bush will anchor the starting rotation that has “very few innings returning on the mound,” according to Stockman, but “we hope to see some of the young players take that next step. The team is more athletic, and team defense will be stressed following a very disappointing 2023.”

Teams to beat: St. Thomas, Kingswood, Plymouth.

JOHN STARK

Division: II.

Coach: Dennis Pelletier (10th year).

Last year: 11-7, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Parker Laclair, so., 2B/3B/OF; Hunter Keim, sr., SS/2B; Hayden Pond, jr., OF/P; Anthony Paolicelli, sr., P/1B/OF; Chase Philibotte, jr., P/2B/SS; Deltyn Williams, sr., P/OF; Joey Dykstra, jr., 3B/P; Aiden Harris, so., C.

Top newcomers: Travis Lisofsky, so., C/OF; Aidan Williams, so., OF; Ben LaBrecque, so., 3B/2B; Tobin Prieto, so., 3B/SS/2B.

Outlook: The Generals return the core of a team that made its sixth consecutive trip to the quarterfinals and 10th straight playoff appearance last season.

With Paolicelli (D-II Pitcher of the Year) and Philibotte (First Team) returning, Stark has arguably the best 1-2 punch on the mound, plus Dykstra returning to provide innings in relief. Pitching will be the Generals’ strength, but they also have a good defense led by Harris at catcher, Keim (Second Team) at shortstop and Pond in center field.

Stark will need to score more runs this season to be competitive, but “the offseason commitment and camaraderie with this group is amazing and second to none,” according to Pelletier.

MERRIMACK VALLEY

Division: II.

Coach: Sean Wheeler (22nd year).

Last year: 4-12, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Luke Dougherty, sr., OF/P; Simon Keary, sr., 1B/OF/P; Alex McPherson, sr., 3B/C; Will McPherson, sr., SS/2B/P; Cam Chevarie, sr., SS/2B; Landon Abbott, jr., 3B/1B/P; Reece Clermont, jr., OF/3B/P; Jonas Weed, so., 1B/OF/P; Eli Wormald, jr., OF/P.

Top newcomers: Seth Norris, jr., OF/P; Brayden Harrington, jr., 1B/P; Ayden Clark, sr., OF.

Outlook: Keary, Dougherty and Weed return as the top starters for the Pride and give MV experience on the mound. That trio will look to keep the Pride in each game. Will McPherson, Abbott and Harrington will work important innings for the Pride in relief.

Defensively, Alex McPherson returns behind the dish for his third season as a starter and provides leadership and a steady presence. Will McPherson and Chevarie, the team’s leadoff hitter, will anchor the infield.

A rebuilt outfield will feature Wormald, Weed, Norris, Clark and Clermont, who are all fighting for playing time.

Teams to beat: St. Thomas, John Stark, Hanover, Souhegan.

PEMBROKE

Division: II.

Coach: Josh Coughlin (14th year).

Last year: 5-11, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Zachary Bemis, so.; Owen Stewart, jr.; Sean Bonisteel, sr.; Joshua Goyette, sr.; Cam Plumb, sr.; Devin Riel, jr.

Top newcomers: Eric Maccarone, fr.; Josh Maccarone, fr.; Andrew Fitzgerald, fr.

Outlook: Establishing their pitching staff early will be key for the Spartans.

“How (the pitchers) go will be how Pembroke goes,” Coughlin said. “We believe we have a good nucleus of newcomers who will mix well with the returners and look to get us back to playoff baseball.”

Teams to beat: Souhegan, John Stark, Bow, Merrimack Valley.

BELMONT

Division: III.

Coach: Matt LeBlanc (14th year).

Last year: 11-7, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Brayden Townsend, so., OF; Hutch Haskins, sr., IF/DH; Owen Waldron, jr., 2B/3B; Michael Collette, jr., CF; Eddie Rochenski, so., OF; Jaxson Embree, jr., C/P; Wyatt Divers, so., SS/P/C; Anakin Underhill, jr., P/1B.

Top newcomers: Max Ryder, fr., 3B/SS/2B; Wyatt Bamford, fr., 1B/3B/OF/P.

Outlook: Despite Haskins being the only senior on the roster, the Raiders return a lot of players from last year’s squad and hope to continue to develop this spring. Underhill and Divers combined for 77⅔ innings, 83 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA last year, while Waldron (Second Team All-State), Haskins, Underhill (First Team), Embree (First Team), Divers, Collette, Townsend and Rochenski are the leaders at the plate. Ryder, Bamford and junior Keegan Martinez and several JV players from last season will add depth.

Teams to beat: Monadnock, Campbell, White Mountains, Bishop Brady, Conant, Prospect Mountain, Gilford.

BISHOP BRADY

Division: III.

Coach: Skip Foy (19th year).

Last year: 16-2, reached semifinals.

Returning starters: Andy Hunton, sr., C/IF; Owen Thornton, jr., P/SS; Winn Thomas, so., SS/P.

Top newcomers: Luke Bedard, fr., 3B/P/OF; Henry Thresher, fr., P/3B; Dan Shedd, so. 3B/P/OF; Aiden Boule, jr., 1B/P; Max Guerra, fr., C/OF; Kolton Gaudreault, fr., 2B/P; Ryan Bossch, jr., OF/P; Ben Cornick, jr., OF; Jack Sheppard, fr., P/1B/OF; Tyler Miller, jr., 3B; Jake Blanchette, so., P/IF; Ronan Hetherman, so., P/1B.

Outlook: The Giants were hit hard by injuries in the offseason, including the entire returning outfield due to football injuries. Brady only had three returning starters, but Thornton (First Team), Hunton (Second Team) and Thomas (Second Team) all earned All-State selections last year. Hunton will play behind the plate, while Thornton will be the ace in the rotation and Thomas will be the No. 2 pitcher. Bedard and Shedd are vying to be the third starter, and Gaudreault and Sheppard will also see some innings in relief.

“With all the injuries, this is by far the youngest varsity team I have ever had at Brady,” Foy said. “In any given game, I could have six starters who are freshmen and sophmores. The good news is that these young players are talented. We need to just keep improving during the year and I still expect that we can have a good year and qualify for the tournament.”

Teams to beat: Belmont, Monadnock, White Mountains, Campbell, Prospect Mountain, Winnisquam.

HILLSBORO-DEERING

Division: III.

Coach: Jeff Miller (second year).

Last year: JV only.

Returning starters: Alex Crowe, so.; Ben Perrin, jr.; Lenny Seymour, so.; Jack Harrington, jr.; Joel Belanger, jr.; JT Robinson, so.; Sam Bradley, sr.; Dylan Shortt, so.

Top newcomers: Adrian Cordeiro, fr.; Jacob McClure, fr.

Outlook: After spending last season at the JV level, the Hillcats are returning to varsity level ball this spring.

“We’re a very young team with only three players having any type of varsity experience,” Miller said. “We look forward to the challenge and experience that this season will bring. Our goals are simple in that we strive to get better each and every day and play the best baseball we are capable of. Our focus is that through hard work, commitment and dedication we will be competitive.”

HOPKINTON

Division: III.

Coach: Kevin Hill (second year).

Last year: 1-15, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Adam Richter, sr.; Tyler Czarkowski, sr.; Bronson Ammann, jr.; Cody Charron, jr.; Mike Pantano, jr.; Nate Windhurst, jr.; Travis Windhurst, jr.; Kyle Buelte, so.; Tad Stokes, so.

Outlook: “Our goal for the 2024 season is to get the Hawks back to their rich tradition of being a very competitive baseball program and hopefully fight our way to being one of the fortunate teams still standing when the regular season is over,” Hill said. “A strength this year will be our overall depth and versatility on the field.”

Teams to beat: Monadnock, Campbell, Prospect Mountain, Conant.

KEARSARGE

Division: III.

Coach: Josh Judkins (first year).

Last year: 3-13, did not make tournament.

Top newcomers: Ethan St. Clair, fr.; Noah Byrne, fr.; Isaac Knox, fr.

Outlook: Judkins takes over a Cougars program that is looking to make the tournament for the first time since 2021.

“We’re hoping for a fun and competitive season,” Judkins said.

WINNISQUAM

Division: III.

Coach: Fred Caruso (18th year).

Last year: 9-8, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Alex Nichols, sr., 1B/P; Zach St. Onge, sr., SS/P; John Shea, jr., P/1B/3B; Ethan Carter, jr., 3B/P; Nik Puffinburger, jr., CF; Ben Wood, jr., OF/2B

Top newcomers: Dio Katsigiannis, so., P/SS/2B; Michael DeFosse, jr., C; Justin Tardif, jr., OF; Jake Twombly, jr., OF/P

Outlook: “We have a solid group but lack pitching depth and experience,” said Caruso. “We have less than 50 innings of varsity experience on the mound. The kids have been working hard all winter. Our defense should be solid and offensively we should be OK. Looking for another big year from Alex Nichols (Second Team All-State, .426 batting average, 2-1 on the mound last season) and Zach St. Onge (.300, 1-0, 0.95 ERA) and for our group of juniors to take the next step. If our pitching comes around, we’ll be in the mix for a tournament spot.”

Teams to beat: Belmont, Bishop Brady, Conant, Fall Mountain, Monadnock, Prospect Mountain, Somersworth, White Mountains.

CONCORD CHRISTIAN

Division: IV.

Coach: Mike Syvertson (fourth year).

Last year: 14-3, reached prelims.

Returning starters: TJ Charbono, jr.; Zachary Syvertson, sr.; Noah Wittenberg, so.; Connor Faherty, so.; Daniel Stopyro, fr.

Top newcomers: Caleb Funk, fr.; Annabelle Syvertson, fr.

Outlook: Pitching will be key if the Kingsmen hope to repeat last year’s strong 14-2 regular season. Charbono (Second Team All-State), Zachary Syvertson (First Team) and Stopyro will lead the way as the starters on the mound. Wittenberg and Faherty will be key to run production.

Teams to beat: Littleton.

FRANKLIN

Division: IV.

Coach: Kyle Kaplan (second year).

Last year: 1-15, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Owen Hannigan, sr., C; Hunter LeBlanc, sr., P; Matt Nason, jr., 1B; Brayden Turner, so., SS; Nathan Holmes, so., LF; Harrison Kaplan, jr., CF; Cody Williams, so., RF; Tyler Bennett, so., DH.

Top newcomers: Thomas Nason, fr., 3B; Kourtney Kaplan, fr., 2B.

Outlook: It’s been a tough stretch for the Golden Tornadoes, who have won just one game over the past two seasons, but with consistency developing in the coaching staff across all levels of Franklin baseball, plus a game scheduled at the Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y., on April 25, there is a lot of good energy with the program.

“Having coached them in middle school and Little League, we expect buy-in, comfortability and growth,” coach Kaplan said. “Overall, we are a young team with a strong versatile group of players. We expect to compete to the best of our ability, every inning, and every game. We look to win more games, shooting for .500 is the realistic goal; playoffs are the ultimate goal. Just as important is doing it the right way with sportsmanship in mind and building the ultimate sense of family. With the great group of kids we have, as coaches, we have all the faith in the world in that.”

Teams to beat: Gorham, Sunapee, Derryfield, Littleton, Newmarket.

PITTSFIELD

Division: IV.

Coach: John Carver (third year).

Last year: 7-12, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Casey Anderson, sr., P/IF; Mike Casey, sr., IF/P; Evan Henninger, sr., IF/OF; Brandin Weygand, sr., P/IF; Ethan Bedell, jr., P/IF; Riley Davis, jr., OF; Isaac Cote, fr., IF; Sam Diomede, fr., OF; John Duvall, fr., IF; Chris Lee fr., OF; Luciano Percorino, fr., IF/OF; Zach Simpson, fr., OF; Jon Lee, eighth grade, IF/OF; Tyler Mooney, eighth grade, IF/OF.

Outlook: The Panthers only graduated two seniors from last year’s team and return Anderson, “a top pitcher in the division,” according to Carver.

“Our pitching will be OK so long as we manage the arms safely, as so many of the pitchers play other key positions as well,” Carver said. “We will need senior leadership to keep us afloat as the younger players get acclimated to the varsity game. Many athletes got playing time on the varsity level last season, but they are all so young. If everyone continues to improve and is present, we will be playing our best by the end of the season. We hope to play well enough to qualify for a tournament spot and then anything can happen.”

Teams to beat: Sunapee, Newmarket, Portsmouth Christian, Epping, Littleton, Woodsville.