In a dramatic turnaround from the previous year, the Crusaders of Manchester Memorial High School have been dominant on the diamond to compile a record of 9-4 heading into the final five games of the season. They are now virtually guaranteed an entry into the playoffs with at least a moderate seeding rank.
After starting 4-2 in the first two weeks of the season, the Crusaders hit a mild stumbling block on Tuesday, April 24 in a home game against Bishop Guertin. There, all 21 Memorial batters were retired by a single pitcher in what was a perfect game pitched against them. For Memorial, senior Vinny Langella also pitched brilliantly, giving up only four hits and two walks in seven complete innings. The only run of the game was an unearned run against Langella that scored in the top of the first inning, setting the stage for the dramatic, 1-0 victory for Bishop Guertin.
Despite this setback, the Crusaders rebounded from the incident three days later when they traveled to Exeter High School on Friday, April 27. They began the game on a positive note by scoring two runs without a hit in the top of the 1st inning. Cody Marchant led off the game with a walk and was bunted to second base by Kevin Gonzales. Pitcher Zack Beckwith then took first base after getting hit by a pitch. Jacob Boylan then drew a walk to load the bases. Marchant then scored on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Burke, moving Beckwith to third. An error by Exeter allowed Vinny Langella to reach first base and Beckwith to score. This gave Memorial a 2-0 lead as Beckwith took the mound in the bottom of the 1st. Exeter would score one run, but Memorial increased their lead in the top of the second inning when Kevin Gonzales hit an RBI double to score Cody Marchant, who had reached base on a walk. Exeter scored again in the third inning, which made the score 3-2 through the end of the 4th inning. In the top of the 5th inning, Beckwith led off with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Jacob Boylan. Tyler Burke then hit a single which moved Beckwith to third base. Beckwith would then score on a one-out ground ball hit by Langella who hit into a fielder’s choice but was safe at first after a failed attempt at a double play. Then in the sixth inning, the Crusaders started a two-out rally when Cody Marchant again drew a walk and scored on an RBI-double by Kevin Gonzales. Zack Beckwith then hit a triple to drive in Gonzales. Exeter then made another error to allow for Jacob Boylan to safely reach first base and for Beckwith to score, giving Memorial a 7-2 lead which held through the remainder of the game.
With a record of 5-3 after eight games, Memorial came home to start an undefeated week consisting of three consecutive home games. They faced the winless Manchester West on Tuesday, May 1. Mike Torres pitched another complete game, surrendering just one run in a 4-1 win for Memorial. Runs were scored by Kevin Gonzales, Tyler Burke, Jacob Boylan, and Cody Marchant on a sacrifice fly, RBI single, fielder’s choice, and fielding error, respectively. Tyler Burke also had one RBI, and Torres had two. Two days later, Vinny Langella pitched another complete game without an earned run in a 3-1 win against Trinity High School. In this game, Zack Beckwith drove in Bryant Bettez and Cody Marchant with a 2-RBI double in the 3rd inning. Marchant drove in Mike Torres with an RBI single in the 4th inning. This was a pivotal with for Memorial, which solidified their status as the best high school team in Manchester. The biggest win of the week, however, came against Timberlane Regional High School on Friday, May 4. In this game, Timberlane scored two runs in the first inning, one unearned run in the second inning, and one unearned run in the third inning against Beckwith. The Crusaders held firm and began their own rally in the bottom of the 4th inning. Kevin Gonzales led off the inning with a single and then advanced to second on a walk by Beckwith. Two batters later, Tyler Burke hit a double to score Gonzales. Vinny Langella then hit a single to score Beckwith and Burke. Langella advanced to second on a throw to home and then scored on a series of bad pitches to tie the score at the end of four innings. In the 6th inning, Tyler Burke drew a walk, stole second base, and ultimately scored on a fielding error. Sophomore Warren Silver was then called to pitch for the last three outs in the 7th inning to complete a 5-4 win for the Crusaders and increase their record to 8-4.
The following week, the Crusaders faced another minor setback in Merrimack; when Mike Torres pitched effectively but lost on two runs in the 4th inning to give Merrimack a 2-0 win. Three days later, Memorial returned home to face Salem High School. Vinny Langella pitched his third complete game and first shutout of the season, with six out of seven perfect innings. The three base runners from Salem came on two hits and one walk in the third inning, which ended with all three runners left on base. Memorial first scored on a RBI single by Chaz Newton in the 2nd inning which drove in Tyler Burke. In the 6th inning, Bryant Bettez led off with a bunt single and moved to 2nd on a sacrifice bunt by Cody Marchant. He moved to third base on a single by Zack Beckwith and then scored on a wild pitch. This held out to be the final run on the game as Memorial defeated Salem by the same score of 2-0.
Next Monday afternoon, the Crusaders will face rival Central High School as the “road” team in the classic match-up at Gill Stadium. They will then travel to Alvirne on Wednesday, May 16, and Dover on Friday, May 18. The following week, they will play a home game at night against Keene on Monday, May 21. Their final regular season game will be at Winnacunnet on Wednesday, May 23.