Jun. 4—After a lot of deliberation considering his pitching options, Hanover High School baseball coach John Grainger gave Sam Sacerdote the nod for the team’s season opener against Sunapee.
That Opening Day start on April 12 marked the beginning of Sacerdote’s standout sophomore campaign.
Hanover’s right-handed ace tossed a one-hitter and struck out seven batters over five innings en route to a 12-2 win over Sunapee. Sacerdote finished April with a 3-0 record, allowing four hits and no walks. He struck out at least seven batters in each start and also went 9-for-10 at the plate over those three games.
Hanover finished April with a 6-0 record on its way to a 13-0 regular-season run.
For his performance over the first month of his high school career, Sacerdote was selected as the April Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center/Express MED Athlete of the Month by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.
“From the get-go, his poise and command on the mound, the fact he didn’t walk anybody until the third week of May shows how many strikes the guy throws,” Grainger said of Sacerdote. “He’s not just throwing down the middle of the plate. He’s throwing up in the zone, throwing his curveball for strikes and freezing guys. His command is amazing for a high school pitcher. I have not seen anybody like that.”
Sacerdote, who throws a fastball, curveball and changeup, said he has always had slightly below average velocity for his age, which is why he focuses so much on his command.
“I’ve had to learn to throw really accurately and hit my spots every time,” Sacerdote said. “I’ve always thrown like that.”
The Hanover resident followed up his Opening Day outing with another one-hitter in a 10-0 five-inning Hanover win over Mascoma Valley of Canaan. Sacerdote struck out nine and helped himself at the plate with a 2-for-3, two-RBI day.
The key to both one-hitters, Sacerdote said, was his success getting first-pitch strikes. Grainger said Sacerdote, who also plays third base, has more than a 70% first-pitch-strike success rate entering the postseason.
“That just gives me such an advantage,” Sacerdote said of having an 0-1 count. “I can work outside the strike zone, maybe get a call right off the corner … or get him to swing outside the zone. There’s more opportunities and more options.”
Sacerdote, who was 7-0 entering the playoffs, ended April with an eight-strikeout two-hitter in Hanover’s five-inning 11-0 win over Fall Mountain of Langdon. He also went 3-for-3 with two runs scored, an RBI and a walk.
Grainger has had Sacerdote, who considers himself a contact hitter, in the No. 3 spot in the batting lineup since the second or third game of the season. Sacerdote did not strike out and had the best batting average on the team (.500) in the regular season.
“He has really surprised me offensively,” Grainger said of Sacerdote. “He’s able to hit off-speed and fastballs and one thing he does well and the rest of the team does well is we don’t go outside the strike zone to chase pitches. We’ll take a walk when we can get them.”
When he is in the dugout, Sacerdote studies the opposing pitcher to find any tendencies that can help him at the plate.
“Sometimes pitchers, if they throw a curveball and it’s not a strike, you’re going to get a fastball next pitch,” Sacerdote said. “My focus in the dugout is to pick up on things like that that I can take advantage of when I’m hitting.”
Considering what Sacerdote accomplished over his first month and regular season of high school baseball, Grainger is excited to see how the hurler progresses over his career.
“He’s an incredibly hard worker not just physically but mentally is where he really shines,” Grainger said. “I expect he’ll be a pretty (darn) good coach one day.”
Other athletes considered for the April honor were Plymouth State University women’s lacrosse player Meaghan Allard, Southern New Hampshire University men’s lacrosse player Gennaro Marra, Pinkerton Academy of Derry girls lacrosse player Caroline Daziel, Saint Anselm College softball player Kylie Fitzpatrick, St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover softball player Ashleigh von der Linden and The Derryfield School of Manchester boys tennis player Jack Schroeder.
Allard, a senior goalkeeper from Amherst, posted a 5.9 goals-against average and made 72 saves over a 6-2 April campaign for Plymouth State that included Little East Conference quarterfinal and semifinal victories over Castleton and Southern Maine.
Marra, a sophomore faceoff specialist from Hampstead, won 101 of the 161 faceoffs he took and logged 64 ground balls and an assist over a 4-3 April campaign for SNHU that included a 19-9 Northeast-10 Conference Championship opening-round triumph over American International.
Daziel, a senior attacker, recorded 29 points on 18 goals and 11 assists over Pinkerton’s 5-1 start to the season.
Fitzpatrick, a sophomore from Danville, batted .394 (26-for-66), including 10 extra-base hits, with 19 runs scored, nine RBIs, two home runs and two walks over a 19-3 April run for Saint Anselm.
A sophomore pitcher, von der Linden went 4-2 and posted a 3.46 ERA with two two-hitters and a no-hitter and batted .450 with two home runs, five RBIs and seven runs scored over St. Thomas’ 4-2 start to the season.
Schroeder, a sophomore, went undefeated at No. 1 singles and 4-2 in No. 1 doubles competition with partner Christopher Lynch over a 5-1 start to Derryfield’s season.
Previous 2021 winners: January, Diana Pivirotto, East Kingston (hockey); February, Royce Williams, Manchester (basketball); March, Isabella King, Bedford (basketball).
To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at firstname.lastname@example.org and enter “Athlete of the Month” in the subject line.