by: Kevin Rauch   6/9/2012

The Crusaders of Manchester Memorial High School continued their winning streak with two home victories in the first two rounds of the playoffs.  Repeating two of their victories during the regular season, they rallied past Salem and Timberlane Regional at Gill Stadium over the past weekend. They were among four teams in the semi-final tournament, which was held at Holman Stadium last Thursday.

The postseason excitement began on Sunday, May 27, when head coach Aaron Abood was named coach of the year at an All-State meeting at NHTI in Concord.  Pitchers Zack Beckwith, Vinny Langella, and Mike Torres were all selected for All-State.  Cody Marchant was selected for junior showcase.  Further insight was offered on Wednesday, May 30, during an afternoon practice at Gill Stadium. 

“It’s been a fun season.  We’ve got a lot of good pitching and good defense.  Hopefully we can keep that up,” said coach Abood of his players.

“The whole team is excited.  We’re ready to win four games,” declared right fielder Chaz Newton that same afternoon.

The first playoff game for the Crusaders was against #13 seed SalemHigh School at 8 P.M. on Thursday, May 31.  Salem rallied for one run in the top-of-the-first inning but was held scoreless for the rest of the game.  Vinny Langella pitched the first two innings before moving to third base and being relieved by Zack Beckwith, who pitched for the subsequent five innings.  Memorial began their scoring rally in the bottom of the second inning when designated hitter Mike Torres hit a single and Chaz Newton reached base on an error, moving Torres to third.  Bryant Bettez then hit an RBI-double, which scored Torres.  In the third inning, Jacob Boylan singled and stole second base.  Two batters later, Langella drove in Boylan with an RBI-single.  This lead held for the remainder of the game, as Beckwith struck out six batters without giving up a walk in the five complete innings that he pitched.  The Crusaders finished with a decisive, 2-1 victory.

Three days later, in a game that was delayed from the previous day due to heavy rain, the Crusaders faced a highly formidable opponent, #5 seed Timberlane Regional.  In this game, Mike Torres pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out eight batters while allowing only four hits during the course of the game.  Memorial scored its first run in the second inning when Tyler Burke led off the inning with a walk, advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on an error.  No one would score again until the sixth inning, when Jacob Boylan led off with a clean single and stole second base.  He scored on an error that occurred when Tyler Burke bunted in a single and advanced to second.  Donovan Murby pinch-run for Burke, advanced to third base, and scored on a squeeze bunt by Mike Torres.  This gave the Crusaders two insurance runs before Torres easily finished the game with three quick outs in the seventh inning.

“That’s the only bunt you’ll ever see out of me, and I got a single!” exclaimed Tyler Burke after the game.

Coming off this positive momentum, Memorial faced #1 seed Concord in the semi-finals at Holman Stadium in Nashua on Thursday, June 7.  Zack Beckwith pitched a complete game, giving up only two runs with five hits and no walks in six innings pitched.  This included four perfect innings, but Beckwith was outperformed by Concord’s pitcher.  The one run for the Crusaders came in the fifth inning when Mike Torres led off the inning with a walk and was bunted to second base by Chaz Newton.  Torres then advanced to third base on a bad pitch and scored on a bunt single by Bryant Bettez.  However, Concord scored in the second and sixth inning to defeat Memorial by a score of 2-1.

Concord, who lost to Nashua North in the title game last year, will this year face Merrimack at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Saturday, June 16.