Jun. 4—BEDFORD — Bedford High School baseball coach Billy Chapman characterized his team’s 5-2 NHIAA Division I preliminary-round home win over Manchester Central on Thursday as a game of two halves.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the first three innings and then relied on their pitching and defense to close out the win.
Bedford (15-3) will host Concord in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 4 p.m. Concord (14-4) defeated Trinity of Manchester, 14-8, on Thursday to advance.
The Little Green finished the season with a 7-10 record.
“I thought that was a big key for us was to get on the board first and get their pitcher working hard — get him to throw a lot of pitches,” Chapman said. “We had him throwing a lot of pitches early in the game and he battled and stayed in it and they didn’t roll over either.”
The Bulldogs plated two runs in each of the first two innings and one more in the third before Central junior left-handed pitcher Andrew Houghton settled in and sent them down in order in the fourth and fifth frames.
Bedford junior Evan Kaplo drove in the game’s first run on a one-out triple to right field. Senior teammate Austin Bequeath brought Kaplo home with a stand-up double to center field the following at-bat to build the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage. Bequeath also drove in Bedford’s final run in the third frame via a single to center field.
The Bulldogs took a 4-0 lead in the second on Ryan Juliano’s one-out, two-RBI single that brought home Armand Rouleau and Thomas Crowley, who drew back-to-back walks to start the inning.
“Baseball is a game of energy,” Kaplo said. “Whoever comes out and wants it the most will go get it.”
The Little Green crafted a nearly game-tying rally in the top of the sixth inning. After junior Jake Vachon’s two-out, two-run home run to right field, Declan Ryan, Neury Ozorio and Dylan Schuff drew walks off Kaplo, who got out of the jam by forcing a ground out.
Central also stranded runners on first and second base in the fourth inning. “Our defensive term is limit the damage,” Chapman said. “You’re going to run into times in the game where there’s going to be runners on and instead of a big inning, can you limit them to one run or limit the damage?
“Hits will happen, mistakes will be made but the only thing you can control is the next pitch, the next at-bat.”
Central coach Ernie Yerrington credited his team’s late-inning offensive success to getting used to Kaplo’s pitching and changing its approach.
“Usually when you see a pitcher the second or third time through, you can pick up on it,” Yerrington said. “We transitioned to a bit of small ball and we could tell it was getting in their heads…We had a couple opportunities.”
Using a fastball-slider combination, Kaplo struck out the side in the first inning and sent Central down in order again in the second on his way to a five-hit outing. The righty also allowed four walks, hit one batter and struck out nine over 6 1/3 innings. Juliano, who had two hits at the plate, relieved Kaplo and struck out one of the two batters he faced.
Houghton allowed five earned runs on six hits and five walks and struck out nine over 5 2/3 innings for Central. The Little Green received two hits from Vachon and a single each from David Hood, Tyler Chrabolowski and Michael Girard.
“Whenever Central plays Bedford, I feel like it’s almost like a Red Sox-Yankees type of thing because it picks both teams up,” Yerrington said.