SOMERSWORTH — The playoff road ended for White Mountains in Somersworth, 5-2, on Wednesday in the Division III baseball semifinals.
The Spartans were overachievers all season. Just not on this day.
“You have to play clean baseball when you come to the semifinals,” said WM coach Ben Hicks, his young team winning three road playoff games to reach the final four. “We’ve played above our abilities all year and fell a little short today. We were shaky all day.”
Hilltopper pitcher Tahj Robinson struck out 12 and held the Spartans to two hits in six innings. The White Mountains duo of Tyler Hicks and Karter Deming struck out eight and held Somersworth to four hits. The big difference was walks. The Hilltoppers received eight walks and gave back only one intentional walk. Both hit a batter with a pitch.
Four of those Somersworth players turned free passes into runs, two on bases-loaded walks.
WM had only a Robert Breault hit through the first four innings and only one other runner aboard when Hicks was hit and stole over to third.
Somersworth scored an unearned run in the first on walks and an error. The hosts scored again in the third using the same scenario.
“This was our second-worst defense game this season. We looked like we didn’t come off the bus ready to play and made some mental mistakes that hurt,” said Hicks. “Too many walks, too few hits.”
Deming sat the Hilltoppers down in order in the bottom half of the fourth. WM broke through in the fifth when Breault used wild throws to get to second and a passed ball to make it home and close in to a 2-1 game.
Somersworth responded with three critical runs in the bottom half of the fifth, featuring a two-run single by John Dejesus and a second hit for Jeremy Levesque. Three walks in between turned lethal.
The Spartans scored again in the top half of the sixth. Brody LaBounty lashed a single and Deming on a fly ball to center earned the RBI. On this day, there would be no seventh-inning rally for the Spartans. Robinson saw to it and Somersworth goes to the finals.
The Spartans have only two seniors, Brayden White and Parker Valdez. Hicks had called it a rebuilding year, one that ended with a 14-3 record. “The team played very well this season for such a young group,” he said.