In boys baseball: Falcons finish season with best record since 2007

The Rice Memorial Green Knights displayed their aggressive base running all day as this spectacular collision with Falcon catcher Andrew Gonyaw (left) shows.  Coming in to score is Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald, who recorded seven stolen bases on the day as teammate Timmy Shea (number 11) looks on. Photos by Richard Creaser

The Rice Memorial Green Knights displayed their aggressive base running all day as this spectacular collision with Falcon catcher Andrew Gonyaw (left) shows. Coming in to score is Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald, who recorded seven stolen bases on the day as teammate Timmy Shea (number 11) looks on.  Photos by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle June 4, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — While the Falcons were unable to match a 20-year-old record, they did equal their best record since 2007, finishing the season at 8-8 on Saturday. Had the North Country baseball team won one or both games over the weekend, they could have matched a more than 20-year-old record, Assistant Coach Jared Gonyaw said.

“They’ve put together a great season, and this is without a junior varsity program,” Coach Gonyaw said. “We had three underclassmen pitch today, and they held heir own.”

Finishing with a .500 record is an especially significant feat given the peculiar nature of the 2014 spring sports season. The Falcons played nine regular season games in the last two weeks and only seven games in the first three weeks of the season.

“It’s been tough to get into a rhythm when games and practices are always getting canceled,” Head Coach Brian Bonvechio said. “It’s made it tough to give the younger boys a chance to get out there and pitch.”

North Country freshman Ben Myrick takes to the mound in the fourth inning of the Falcons’ 8-2 loss to the Rice Memorial Green Knights.  Without a junior varsity program to help their development, the Falcon freshmen have moved straight into the highly competitive varsity frying pan.  Despite an abundance of underclassmen on the roster the Falcons finished the 2014 season at 8-8, tying the school's best record since 2007.

North Country freshman Ben Myrick takes to the mound in the fourth inning of the Falcons’ 8-2 loss to the Rice Memorial Green Knights. Without a junior varsity program to help their development, the Falcon freshmen have moved straight into the highly competitive varsity frying pan. Despite an abundance of underclassmen on the roster the Falcons finished the 2014 season at 8-8, tying the school’s best record since 2007.

Finding that delicate balance that allows the team’s freshmen a chance to play and develop while maintaining a competitive edge against the other Division I teams has been a challenge, catcher Andrew Gonyaw said.

“Having a freshman, right out of Babe Ruth or All-Stars, come out and pitch against 18-year-olds isn’t easy,” he said. “So I end up reaching up, or digging it out of the dirt. Without a JV team, it’s the only way they are going to learn and that is hard. But we’ve got a pretty good, pretty young team.”

North Country's Collin Myrick (left) makes the grab as Rice Memorial Green Knight Chris Jansen tries to beat out the throw in Saturday’s game at North Country.

North Country’s Collin Myrick (left) makes the grab as Rice Memorial Green Knight Chris Jansen tries to beat out the throw in Saturday’s game at North Country.

On Saturday morning the Falcons took on the visiting Rice Memorial Green Knights in the first game of a double-header. Game two would pit the Falcons against the visiting St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltoppers. Rice, the third best team in Division I, showcased the plate discipline and speed on the base paths that earned them their 11-4 season.

The Green Knights jumped out to an early lead, courtesy of two singles, two walks, an error and a pair of fielder’s choices in the first inning, giving them a 3-0 lead. Rice would add to its lead in the third on a walk to Sean Remillard and an RBI double by John Boardman.

More threatening still was the facility with which the Green Knights’ top of the order ran the bases. Tommy Fitzgerald alone stole seven bases from the leadoff spot, while Anthony Phillip stole five from the number two spot.

“They have so much speed it was difficult to contain that,” Coach Bonvechio said. “We gave up a lot of walks and that speed put them into scoring position.”

North Country's Bryce Carter makes a jumping catch as Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald slides safely into second base on Saturday.

North Country’s Bryce Carter makes a jumping catch as Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald slides safely into second base on Saturday.

The Falcons would rally to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third. Ryan O’Donnell smacked a one-out single and advanced to third on Collin Myrick’s double. Gonyaw would drive them both home with a two-RBI single. Those runs would prove to be the lone offense Rice’s Will Hesslink would permit through five and a third innings. Fitzgerald would come in to replace Hesslink and close out the 8-2 win.

Though the Falcons would fare better offensively in the game against the Hilltoppers later that afternoon, they would lose in extra innings 5-4 to finish out the season at 8-8 and in tenth spot in the DI standings, right behind St. Johnsbury.

“Having so many games close together is hard on pitchers, especially young pitchers,” Gonyaw said. “The problems are mostly mental. They try to over think every pitch. It’s my job to reassure them, to help them focus. They know how to pitch, but sometimes they just need to be reminded of that.”

contact Richard Creaser at richard@bartonchronicle.com

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