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Baseball

Conant can’t find offense in loss

Orioles manage just two hits in 4-0 defeat

  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Conant senior Josh LeBlanc finished his senior season with five wins and saved his best for last. In his final start, LeBlanc tossed a complete game in an 11-2 win over Somersworth in the Division III title game. LeBlanc had 51 strikeouts and two complete games, while hitting .318 with 18 RBIs.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Conant baseball team dropped its home opener to Campbell 4-0 on Friday, April 19, 2013.<br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

It was a match-up that featured two of the better baseball teams in Division III.

Conant and Campbell both made it the Final Four last June, only to fall short of the team title. The Orioles lost to Hopkinton in the semifinals, while Campbell fell to the Hawks in the title game.

And Friday’s contest was viewed as one of those early season benchmarks.

Not only was it two of the better teams, but also two of the better pitchers.

Conant senior Josh LeBlanc had pitched six strong innings in his season debut and did not allow an earned run, while Campbell junior Connor Sahlin tossed a five-inning no hitter in his first start.

So it had all the makings of a pitcher’s duel.

But when all was said and done, the Orioles lost their first game of the season, 4-0, in large part because of Sahlin’s performance. Sahlin did not surrender a hit through the first 5 2/3 innings and finished with nine strikeouts and just two hits allowed in a complete game shutout.

“I knew they were definitely a good hitting team so I mixed it up a ton,” said Sahlin. “I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead.”

Conant senior Johnny Ciarcia broke up Sahlin’s no-hit bid with a pinch hit two-out single to left in the sixth, while Ryan Aho singled to right with one down in the seventh. But that was it for the Orioles.

“We just need to get in a groove,” said coach Brian Royal. “We’re hitting the ball hard, but it’s right to them. We’re just not finding any gaps.”

LeBlanc also threw the ball well, striking out five over five innings of work before giving way to senior Devin Drouin, who allowed one hit in two innings. LeBlanc gave up just three hits on the afternoon on 85 pitches, but a mixture of walks, errors and passed balls led to three unearned runs.

“I thought I pitched pretty well,” said LeBlanc. “We had three unearned runs. Other than that it’s a 1-0 game.”

Campbell’s first run in the second came with LeBlanc’s own no hitter still in tact. A leadoff walk, a passed ball and deep fly to center allowed Campbell catcher Cody Caron to tag and go to third. Another passed ball brought in Caron for a 1-0 Campbell lead.

Campbell would push two across in the third with two outs. A hit batter, a sacrifice bunt and a walk put runners on the corners and Christina Bourgea’s single, the first hit allowed by LeBlanc, made it 2-0. An error by shortstop Kyle Carland plated the third run of the game.

“We knew LeBlanc was a good pitcher so once we got those first couple runs I knew I had to hold them,” said Sahlin.

Another error by Carland to lead off the fourth and a ground rule double by Bourgea gave Campbell it’s fourth run.

“Kyle hasn’t played short and it was the first time he’s been out there so I understand,” said LeBlanc.

Conant had runners on the corners in the seventh with one out after Drouin reached on an error and Aho’s single, but could not push one across to break up the shut out.

“They’re not going to give up,” said Royal. “I think we’re going to break out. It’s only a matter of time. Once we get in a groove we’ll be fine.”

Conant traveled to Mascenic on Monday and will make a trip to Campbell on Wednesday.

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