MILFORD – The Merrimack Post 98 baseball team picked up its biggest win of the season Monday, beating playoff-bound Goffstown Post 16.
Merrimack might have had that game on the mind on Wednesday, or maybe something else, but whatever it was, Milford Post 23 took advantage, scoring six runs in the first two innings to win 8-3 at Keyes Field in Milford.
Andrew MacDonald went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, Ryan Britton had a two-run single in the first and Kole Duckworth was 3 for 4 with two runs scored for Post 23. Milford also got a stellar pitching performance from Andrew Martel, who threw 5 1/3 innings in relief, striking out seven while allowing one run on four hits and a walk.
“I think we played pretty well,” Milford coach Mike Caravella, Jr., said. “Martel did a great job coming in and closing the door. He had a couple of strikeouts and kept the ball down and got his curveball over. That was huge.”
Merrimack took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Post 98 couldn’t hold it, as starter Bryce Knight struggled, giving up six runs on six walks and two hits in an inning-plus. Logan Gillis gave Merrimack six innings of relief, giving up two runs on nine hits, striking out four.
“We were pretty flat all day, and it started with the pitching in the first two innings,” Merrimack coach Cliff Hicks said. “A lot of guys standing around because of all the walks, it doesn’t get you into a rhythm, it doesn’t get you doing anything with the ball. Then that one hit deadened us a little and kept our morale down when it should have been up.
“We had that big win against Goffstown the other day, and then coming out here and laying an egg isn’t exciting by any means. You come out with a big win against a team that’s in the playoffs. I don’t know if they thought they were on cloud nine, or what the scenario might be. We’ve got to come out, no matter who our competitor is that day, we’ve got to be ready to go for all nine innings.”
Britton singled with two out and the bases loaded in the first inning to put Milford up 2-1, and Post 23 loaded the bases again in the second on a single, an error and a walk. Knight walked Duckworth to bring in a run and end his day, and Gillis gave up back-to-back singles to Logan Danforth and MacDonald, the second of which scored two runs to make it 6-1.
Gillis battled back to strike out the next two and got pop up to end the inning.
Milford starter Matt Clarke battled a sore arm to give Post 23 3 2/3 before Martel came on in relief. After running into some trouble in the fifth inning, Martel finished the game by 12 of the final 14 batters.
“The thing that’s beaten us a lot this year has been slow lefties,” Hicks said. “The kid wasn’t throwing very hard and he had a curveball that he was able to have around the zone. When you get two strikes on our guys, they don’t have yet the fundamental approaches to go the other way. That curve is going to beat them all day.”
Martel’s slower speed is something that has allowed him to have success this season, according to Caravella.
“The kid doesn’t throw hard, but he mixes in his pitches and that’s what helps,” the coach said. “You mix your curveball in there, you’re going to get people out, no matter how hard you throw. In this league, you throw 93, they’re going to catch up to you. You’ve got to have a curveball with it.”
The teams will play again on Thursday at Merrimack High School.