Jun. 11—MANCHESTER — From the very first batter, you could see how much these Huskies wanted it.
The Monadnock baseball team scored three runs in the first inning and went on to beat Inter-Lakes, 11-2, in the Division III championship game Saturday morning at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester.
Monadnock racked up 11 hits — including back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning — flexing its offensive firepower one final time during the season.
The championship marks the team's second consecutive state title and completes the undefeated season. Monadnock finishes the season with a 20-0 record.
"It's huge," said senior Kevin Putnam, who pitched the complete game. "We came into this season with high expectations. We knew this team was going to be a good one. We always talked to coach saying, 'This is it. This is the group.' "
"It's all about the kids," said Monadnock Coach Tom Cote. "These kids are ballplayers, period. They know how to play baseball and they showed it again today."
After a quick 1-2-3 inning from Putnam to start the game, the Huskies jumped right on Inter-Lakes pitcher Ryan Bousquet, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first off an RBI double from sophomore Ben Dean and a two-run triple from junior Cam Olivo.
After the triple, Olivo gave Coach Cote a big hug at third base, as if to say, "We're on it today."
And they sure were.
"That was a stress-relieving hug," Cote said. "It was like, 'Ok, we're going to hit today. We're going to play.' It just let out that little bit of stress to feel better about everything. ... I'd exchange that hug any day of the week."
Olivo missed out on last year's state title run due to injury but was back and healthy all of this season to contribute to the second state championship run.
"Feels like I'm on top of the world right now," Olivo said. "I missed out on it last year. ... So much better now. Back to playing, it's just awesome."
"Cam wanted to show that he was part of this thing last year," Cote said. "Unfortunately, he got hurt, and today he made his impact in a big way. I envisioned him having a big day today."
Olivo finished the game a single shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. His home run in the fourth inning was a no-doubter, traveling well over the left field wall.
"I knew it was gone," Olivo said of his home run. "Just a different feeling when it leaves the bat.
"Our offense just clicks on all cylinders all the time," Olivo added. "We just keep hitting, keep mashing. That's been our goal all year."
It was the second of the back-to-back home runs for Monadnock in that fourth inning. With two outs and two runs already across in the inning, senior Connor Branon lifted one to deep right-center field.
It stayed in the park, but he rounded first base, then went around second base. Then Coach Cote sent him around third. He made it safely into home plate for the electric, two-run, inside-the-park home run.
"When coach was waving me home I was like, 'Oh he's really sending me?' " Branon said. "I was running as fast as I can rounding third."
"As soon as I saw it go over the relay man's head, [I knew Branon was going to score]," Cote said. "I didn't stop. I could see the throw going high. ... [Branon] ran the bases perfectly."
Branon was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and had a busy day at shortstop, cleanly fielding all five balls that came his way.
After that fourth inning, where the Huskies scored five runs, Monadnock was ahead 10-0 and on the cusp of another mercy-rule state championship.
Inter-Lakes scored twice in the top of the fifth inning to keep the game going, but Putnam finished off the final two innings, only allowing one more base runner and striking out pinch hitter Robert Blackey to earn the state title.
After struggling on the mound in the first two games of the playoffs, Putnam bounced back with a complete game outing, allowing just two runs (none earned) on four hits while striking out seven.
That's the stuff of a two-time state champion.
"My past two starts have been rocky," Putnam said. "But going into this game I was really confident. I've been here before. I pitched last year, pitched the whole playoffs this year. My whole team was giving me confidence. My teammates were boosting me up. My coach even said, 'This is your game. You're going to play really well.' Just the confidence boost from all my teammates made my pitch a great game today."
In addition to being locked in on the mound, Putnam was a contributor to the offensive onslaught, going 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and a run scored. He was also robbed of an extra-base hit in the first inning after Inter-Lakes left fielder Ben Beaudoin laid out to make a diving grab.
An early start
The hitting started at 6 a.m Saturday morning. The team was not allowed to take batting practice at Delta Dental Stadium in the morning, so they got up early to get swings in Swanzey before coming to Manchester.
"We spent like 45 minutes to an hour hitting at the field," Branon said. "I think it's just that that elevates us over everyone else. The extra work, the intensity."
It paid off.
The dedication has paid off all season, as the Huskies have now won 25 games in a row, including two state titles, and not many of those games have been close.
"We've been playing together since we were 6-7 years old most of us," Olivo said. "The chemistry is there. We've won championships in Little League, and we knew this team was going to be special."
All capped off with one more state title.
"These are the kids I grew up with, and it was a pleasure playing my last high school baseball game with them," Putnam said.
Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Detwiler.