Baseball: Conant knocks out Mascenic before walkoff loss to Hopkinton; ConVal wins one before exit

  • Conant’s Jordan Ketola pitches in the playoff game at Mascenic Thursday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Conant senior Hayden Ketola and coach Aric LeClair have a laugh during a break in the action during Thursday’s playoff win at Mascenic. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic baseball team hosted Conant for an NHIAA Division III playoff game on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/4/2021 2:51:09 PM

Conant’s magical run through the NHIAA Division III baseball tournament ended Sunday afternoon, when the Orioles finished off a rain-delayed comeback against Hopkinton but then fell on an extra-innings walkoff. The extended postseason was all bonus baseball for Conant, who was never expected to be playing on a Sunday in June. But after upsetting Bishop Brady in their opener and then knocking off rival Mascenic, the Orioles showed they belonged on the big stage. 

 Conant freshman Jordan Ketola stymied the Viking offense in Thursday’s prelim round matchup, twirling a gem to outduel Mascenic’s senior ace Shea Zina.

Ketola allowed just two hits and no runs while striking out five and walking four as the Orioles came to New Ipswich and shut down the Mascenic bats.

“He’s got a pitcher’s mentality,” Conant head coach Aric Leclair said after the 3-0 playoff win. “He’s not going up there ‘I’m going to throw it by you,’ he’s going up there ‘I’m going to work here, here, show you this, show you that.’ So he’s the definition of a pitcher.”

It was a big week for the freshman pitcher, who’d closed out Conant’s upset win over Bishop Brady earlier in the week and then threw a complete game to beat the rival Vikings Thursday. The playoff victories show just how far the Orioles have come from the team that looked inexperienced and outmatched against DIII competition earlier in the spring.

“We’ve stepped it up and practiced hard,” Ketola said, “and now we are where we are…I think we’re less selfish, and more all a team. We’re just a team, and that’s how you win.”

Ketola had plenty of help from his team Thursday. Senior Hayden Ketola patrolled centerfield, taking away a hit from shortstop Sean Agonis in the first inning. And as the Vikings tried to rally in the seventh, Colson Seppala made the play of the game, sliding up against the fence to catch a foul pop off the bat of Ethan McGovern that was so close to out of play that LeClair tried to call his senior catcher off.

“That’s just a testament to what these guys have been doing,” LeClair said. “Even from the beginning when we were struggling, they’ve been playing and practicing like that all the time. These guys have this grit and determination that you can’t teach or coach. So that’s what’s making this so enjoyable, just watching them fight through everything.”

Mascenic, meanwhile, had a “frustrating” day, coach Jared Stauffeneker said.

“[Conant] competed, and we just weren’t fully in it,” Stauffeneker said. “We weren’t fully engaged, we didn’t show the fight we had all year.”

Zina hadn’t thrown for nearly two weeks coming into Thursday’s game, and it took him some time to display the command and velocity he’s known for. That allowed Conant to do all the damage they needed in the first inning, as Hayden Ketola walked, stole second and then took third and scored on two wild pitches as Zina and catcher Jackson Cocozella struggled to get on the same page.

Seppala singled and scored on a Griffin Labonte base hit in the fourth, and Mascenic handed Conant another in the sixth, when Chris Bergeron reached on an error, took second and third on wild pitches and then scored on a passed ball.

“Little stuff that we really didn’t have a problem with all year just showed up today,” Stauffeneker said. “I feel like that little bit of playoff atmosphere might might’ve done it.”

Zina (3H, 3BB, 11K, 2 ER) settled in and showed his dominance later in the game, striking out the side on a series of unhittable fastballs in the top of the seventh. The Vikings managed to squeeze in one last mistake there, allowing Garrett Somero to reach on a dropped third strike, but made up for it when centerfielder Joe Cocozella threw him out at the plate following a Zach Lovett single.

Mascenic did themselves no favors at the plate, with impatient approaches up and down the lineup that kept Ketola’s pitch count low and resulted in just two hits: a second-inning single from Zina and a seventh-inning single from Ryan O’Shea. The Orioles nearly opened up an opportunity for Mascenic in the seventh, throwing away the final out on a grounder up the middle, but Ketola got a first-pitch popout to end things and advance to the quarterfinals.

“You know, we have nothing to prove,” LeClair said. “Everybody is probably looking at us now a little bit, but we’re just going to go out there and play baseball, one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time, one out at a time, one inning at a time and hopefully at the end we’re competing and ahead.”

Conant went down early in Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup in Hopkinton, but the Orioles had a little bit more magic left in the tank. Trailing 5-0 after the Hawks put up five in the second inning off starter Luke Lambert, the Orioles battled back in the fourth, where Chris Bergeron walked and scored on a wild pitch to break up the shutout. Jordan Ketola knocked in two more runs to make the score 5-3 Hopkinton, but just as the Conant rally was getting underway, thunder clapped and hurried both teams off the field to resume the following day. 

The Orioles picked up right where they left off when the game resumed Sunday at noon, as Garrett Somero drove in a run with a bunt single and then Hayden Ketola tied the game at five with an RBI single. Conant even took the lead in the fifth, when Colson Seppala scored on an error; the Hawks would tie the game in the sixth and then win it 7-6 on an extra-innings walkoff double in the bottom of the eighth inning. 

Hayden Ketola (2-5), Griffin Labonte (2-4) and Luke Lambert (2-4) had multi-hit days for the Orioles. 

ConVal 6, Lebanon 4

Eric Stapelfeld threw a complete game and then hit a two-run walkoff homer in the bottom of the seventh as ConVal won their first Division II playoff matchup over Lebanon Thursday.

Stapelfeld struck out nine and allowed just one earned run.

Elias Niemela went 3-3 with a solo home run.

The win was just ConVal’s second of the season and the first over a Division II opponent.

 

John Stark 16, ConVal 6

ConVal went down early in Saturday’s playoff game against John Stark, but tied the game in the second with a three-run homer from Owen McGuire (2-3). However, despite Ollie Theriault’s solid three-inning start on the mound, the ConVal bullpen fell apart, head coach Matt Harris said, “which was the MO for the year.”

“It was definitely a tough year, but the boys fought until the end,” Harris said. “With the ability to work with three junior pitchers over the winter to get their pitching figured out, we should be a team that competes.”


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