Windham Jaguars Baseball '15

Windham grabs first state baseball title

MANCHESTER — A break-even mark on the diamond a year ago failed to dampen hopes at Windham High School and breezing through a one-loss regular season this spring only fostered greater championship expectations.

"I knew every year that I've been a part of this team we were capable of great things," senior right fielder Chris Murphy said. "And I knew year after year we improved, and it was all part of getting our heads in the right place, and wanting it badly. This year, this team wanted it."

Greatness struck the Jaguars yesterday afternoon at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in the form of a New Hampshire Division 2 state title as top-seeded Windham three times rallied from deficits to down second-seeded Goffstown 5-4. And it was Murphy who played a major roll in all three scoring rallies.

Both teams struggled with the sun early on fly balls, helping offenses. Goffstown, which had dropped a 15-run, five-inning decision to Windham a month ago, bit first when Connor Easton doubled with two out and scored on an outfield error four batters into the game.

But the Jags (19-1) tied it in the bottom of the frame when Murphy singled and Connor Hopkins followed with a double before Riley Magee had an RBI groundout.

Goffstown (18-4) reclaimed the lead in a two-run third that would have been much more severe if not for a diving stop to his left on a ground-ball out to freshman third baseman Tommy Costa and a would-be Grizzlie base stealer being thrown out at second by Riley Magee.

Like it did in the first, though, Windham bounced back in the second on a big two-out single by Murphy that plated Ryan Hardacre and Marco Allanach.

"I knew we were struggling early and we got down," Murphy said. "I had an opportunity to drive in some runs. I just wanted to win this so bad. It could be my last game and I wanted to say I did everything I could to win. You have to put the ball in play ... Base hits score runs and I was able to take advantage."

The Grizzlies, however, again took the lead in the fifth when a pair of hits and two hit batters put Goffstown ahead 4-3 against starter Brandon Dufault, who earned his third straight playoff victory while running his record to 8-0. Coach Jason Matthews visited the mound after the run scored and the bases loaded.

"I wasn't going out there to take (Dufault) out," Matthews said. "I just wanted to tell him to settle down. They had just scored a run to go ahead, but ... we had the top of the order coming up (in the bottom of the frame) and I just wanted him to settle down and throw a ground ball."

Dufault didn't induce Cam Bond to hit a grounder, but the ensuing line drive smash was just as good because it was hit in Costa's direction and the freshman made a diving catch and tagged third to double up the final out.

"The seniors have just taken me in," said Costa, who didn't earn the starting job until the seventh game. "It was like I wasn't even a freshman. They've treated me as one of their own out there."

The youngster wasn't done. In the sixth after just missing a fly ball that rolled off the tip of his glove while sprawling across the rolled-up tarp in foul territory, he initially lost a pop up by Nate Proulx in the sun, but caught sight of it at the last moment and caught it falling down. He then immediately got the second out on a hard-hit grounder to his right.

"He's a hell of a ball player," Matthews said. "He's going to be somebody special in a few years. He's already special, but he's going to be real good as a senior. He's been all good for us all year like that."

The effort by a defense that also turned an inning-ending double play on ground ball hit to shortstop David Carbonello in the third paid off with the game-winning rally in the fifth. After three errors had resulted in one run scored by Kellin Bail and left runners on second and third, Kevin Anderson squibed a grounder through the hole on the left side of a drawn-in infield, driving in Murphy and providing Windham its first lead of the game (5-4).

"I knew I just had to put something into the outfield because there was only one out," said Anderson, who had flied out his first two trips. "I knew if I got (Murphy) in from third, I'd done my job. I'd been hitting it to the outfield all day, but it was right at people. I knew it would find a hole eventually."

After Dufault stranded the Grizzlies 14th baserunner of the game at second in the sixth. Anderson earned the save with a perfect, seven-pitch seventh.

"Brandon was starting to get a bit tired, and they had the top of the order coming up, so we wanted to go with Kevin on the mound," Matthews said. "He's earned it being here four years."

So a team that began the season with such high hopes after a break-even season, will have even greater expectations next year, which will feature five returning starters from yesterday's lineup.

"Honest to God, a state championship was my expectation last year, and we fumbled a bit," Matthews said. "We had a quality team last year, but it's a chemistry thing and they didn't gel as well. These guys gelled real well (this year). But we realistically thought we'd win the state championship this year, and next year will be the same goal."

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