CONWAY — Sometimes during a season a team may need to hit the reset button to create a clean slate moving forward. It might be to snap a losing streak or to change some bad habits or get some new mojo going. After a rough performance in Berlin on Wednesday, a 7-6 loss in which the boys from Conway were shaky in the field and had a sixth-inning to forget, Coach Josh McAllister hit the reset button.
“I gave them Thursday off,” he said. “The conversation I had with the team after Wednesday’s games was to take some time, rethink the process — the things that you do well, look to continue and build off those, and the things we’re not doing well, we need to resolve. We had one of best practices of the season Friday.”
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association had an open tournament last fall and winter for multiple sports with everyone making the playoffs and initially playing in a regionalized cluster in the opening rounds of post-season play. That format has continued this spring.
“With the open tournament, we’re going to be able to treat the 12 regular-season games like the preseason, getting ready for the tournament,” McAllister said in early April. “We’re going to try to win games, but we want to make sure we’re playing our best baseball in May.”
“We still have that mindset,” he said on Monday before the team heading to Laconia (4-0 with four games canceled due to COVID-19) to open a home-and-home series with the Sachems that is scheduled to culminate on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Coach Robert Burns Sr. Varsity Baseball Field.
Kennett currently sits at 3-4, with three games canceled due to COVID.
The Eagles opened a home-and-home series with Berlin in Conway on May 10. KHS got a complete-game victory on the mound from senior Noah Coleman, while the hosts collected nine hits at the plate.
“The Monday game was about as efficient a game as you can get when it comes to high school pitching,” said McAllister. “Carter Poulin for Berlin needed 74 pitches to get through six innings, and Parker needed 90 to get the complete game with seven innings.”
He added: “We had three half innings where there were two outs after only three pitches. The game was over in an hour and 18 minutes.”
After being shut out in back-to-back games the week before against rivals Kingswood (4-0 at home on May 3 and 5-0 in Wolfeboro on May 8), McAllister juggled the Kennett batting order and saw instant dividends.
“We moved people around to try and get something going,” he explained.
Harrison Keeler liked the move. He smacked a third-inning home run over the left-field fence for his first varsity hit and later belted a triple.
Brady King had two hits in the win, while Brady Robitaille and Noah Barrows also had base knocks.
“We had nine hits, but the nice thing was we finally were able to string some of them together,” said McAllister. “It was a good team win. Parker pitched really well — he was very efficient.”
On Wednesday, the Eagles scored twice in the first inning and added another run in the top of the third to lead 3-0, but the Mountaineers knotted the game in their half of the inning.
Barrows, who was being stretched out as a starter, went six innings on the bump, throwing more than two innings for the first time this season.
“It was a good performance by Noah,” McAllister said.
It was just an odd afternoon in The City That Trees Built.
“There were seven balks called in the game (four on KHS, three on BHS). I don’t think I’ve seen seven balks in my entire seven years (at the helm of the Eagles,” said McAllister.
With the Eagles leading 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, two balks led to runs scored, the hometown flock misplayed a ground ball and had a miscue on a pop fly.
“We were down 7-5 after than inning,” McAllister said. “It was ugly. We made mistakes. It was one of the worst innings we’ve played in a long time. Berlin earned their runs in the third inning but we gave them three in the sixth.”
He added: “We had nine hits and stole 11 bases. When those things happen, you’ve got a pretty good chance.”
King continued to swing a hot bat with three hits in the game, while Robitaille added two.
Kennett received some good news on Friday. The sports teams won’t have to wear masks when competing or practicing but must in the dugout area.
“I was excited by the news but both Laconia and Prospect Mountain are going to be wearing masks so we have to when we play them,” McAllister said. “At least the boys don’t have to wear them in practice.”
Before Wednesday’s game (3:45 p.m.), local veteran and Kennett High alumni Ricky Gaudreau, a retired U.S. Marine corporal and now a patrolman for the Conway Police Department, has been asked to throw out the first pitch as part of Operation Hat Trick, a non-profit organization founded in New Hampshire that generates awareness, support and funding for our nation's wounded warriors.