Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in an ongoing series on significant local sporting moments and events from the past decade.
By Mike Whaley / firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc Schoff had to chuckle — just a bit.
The paper was doing a story, as part of a series on top sporting moments from the previous decade, on the 2012 St. Thomas Aquinas High School baseball team. The Saints ended Seacoast rival Portsmouth’s national-record 89-game winning streak, which still stands, and went on to win the Division II state championship.
“I don’t imagine you’re doing this story if we lose to Lebanon in the finals, even though we broke the 89-game win streak,” he said. “I really mean that. I know that sounds kind of odd.”
He may be right. But that’s not what happened. STA pulled out a dramatic 4-3 win over Lebanon in the bottom of the 10th inning to claim the D-II title at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester.
It was a moment of exultation and relief for the Saints who had spent the four previous seasons, not only losing to Portsmouth, but watching the Clippers build their incredible win streak while winning four consecutive Class I/Division II titles. During that four-year Clipper championship stretch, no team lost to them more than St. Thomas (0-10).
In two of those championship games, St. Thomas lost to the Clippers after leading. In 2010, a team Schoff said was loaded was shocked in the quarterfinals at home by Bedford, 11-10, after leading 6-0 and 9-3.
The 2012 championship helped to wipe many of those bad memories away.
“That ending was special,” said STA star Jordan Bean. “I’m glad to have closed that chapter of my life with a win.”
It was a very good team that finished its run with a school-record mark of 19-1. Six players earned All-State recognition, topped off by Bean being named both Gatorade N.H. and Division II Player of the Year. In addition, Schoff received several Coach of the Year awards.
“We had three good starters,” said Schoff, who coached the Saints to a pair of state championships in 15 years before stepping down after the 2017 season. “We also had a couple of decent backups, a solid infield, the outfield was outstanding as well. We had all the pieces. It was just a matter of executing it that season.”
Indeed the pitching was top-notch, led by Bean. A Portsmouth-native, Bean and STA teammate Steve Hemming played with a number of the Portsmouth players on the city’s 2006 Little League All-Star team that advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Bean had a 7-0 record with a 1.00 ERA, while Scott Munroe was 6-0 with a 0.80 ERA, and Craig Teed was 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA.
Offensively eight of the nine starters batted over .300, led by Josh Terry (.435) and Bean (.431). The only starter not to hit over .300 was Chris White, who still batted a tidy .268 and drove in the game-winning run to snap Portsmouth’s record winning streak.
Bean, for his part, never regretted his decision to go to St. Thomas. “(Portsmouth) was an amazing team with a great coaching staff,” he said. “I felt like I had a great experience at St. Thomas — the people, the school, the coaches. While it was maybe in the back of my mind once or twice — ‘Wow that would have been pretty cool to contribute to’ — I had no regrets being on the other side, too.
Still, losing year in and year out to Portsmouth became a heavy cross to bear.
“From my perspective it was a mounting sense of responsibility as the years progressed,” said Bean, who lives in Boston and works for Liberty Mutual. “Those questions around — it’s seven innings. It’s two hours. We do this 16 times a year. What’s different about these two games (with Portsmouth)? It’s a little bit more of a frustration after each of those losses compared to any other that we had.”
That all changed on April 30, 2012.
Portsmouth came to STA’s field for an early-season matchup. Both teams were undefeated. And again, it looked like it was going to be Portsmouth’s day. They carried a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Saints quickly got two runners on base as Arran Maran and Josh Terry singled to start the inning. After an out, Nick Gardner’s RBI base hit made it 4-2. A passed ball moved runners to third and second. With first base open, the decision was made to pitch to Bean, who promptly drove a two-run double to right-center to knot the score at 4-4.
Andy Johnson was intentionally walked to create a force play. Clipper starter Ricky Holt threw one pitch to Connor Kennedy before he was lifted in favor of Andrew Haslam, one of Bean’s former Little League teammates.
Haslam whiffed Kennedy for the second out, but was not as fortunate against White, who singled between third base and shortstop.
“They had tremendous players,” Schoff said. “I was thinking this is going to be a play at the plate. But I think (Bean) got a really good jump on the ball with two outs.”
Bean beat the throw for the winning run.
“It was relief sliding over the plate and scoring the run,” Bean said. “That happening early on was a great validation of all the hard work that we put in. It was affirmation that we belonged there.”
Schoff, of course, was ecstatic about the win, but had always expressed a level of caution when those games were played. “Every time we played Portsmouth during the regular season I kind of went back to an old standby and that’s — ‘You can’t win the state championship today,’” he said. “I tried to keep them level-headed about competing. (Portsmouth) had such a tremendous amount of success it’s tough to rally them to realize they have a shot.”
Schoff and the Saints had nothing but the utmost respect for Portsmouth. “When they won, they won with class,” he said. “I’ll tell you, even that 90th game when they lost, they did it with class. Obviously there were upset kids to see it end. They were really, really classy. I remember in 2012 on Channel 9 Billy Hartmann saying: ‘I’m almost glad we lost to St. Thomas because we battled for so many years.’”
St. Thomas played Portsmouth three weeks later and lost a close game, 4-2, its only loss as it turned out.
The Saints earned the No. 1 seed and advanced through the tournament in impressive fashion. They beat No. 16 Sanborn in the prelim via the mercy rule in six innings, 11-1. Bean pitched four shutout innings for the win with eight strikeouts, no walks and two hits allowed. Gardner and White paced the 13-hit attack with a solo home run each.
In the quarterfinals, after being rained out for three straight days, STA dispatched No. 9 Pembroke, 7-1, behind six strong innings from Teed (earned run, seven strikeouts). The Saints scored all the runs they needed in the first (three) on RBI singles from Gardner and Maran, and Bean’s run-scoring double.
Bean was the story in the semis vs. No. 5 Bedford, a 5-0 win in Concord. He struck out nine and tossed a two-hitter. STA scored two runs in the third with Sean Michael Fitzgerald crossing the plate on a wild pitch and Maran adding an RBI base hit. Three unearned runs scored in the sixth.
In a perfect world, knowing their history, St. Thomas and Portsmouth would have been a dream matchup in the state championship.
That didn’t happen.
Lebanon stunned the Clippers in the D-II semifinals, 2-1, in 10 innings.
“We were as surprised as anyone at Lebanon being able to beat them in the semifinals,” Bean said. “It was before our game, so we went into our game with the knowledge it would be Lebanon and not Portsmouth.”
Even so, it turned out to be a championship game to remember.
St. Thomas went up 1-0 in the second on White’s RBI single. Lebanon came back with two in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. STA regained the lead with two in the fifth, but the Raiders tied it at three apiece in the sixth, which is where it stayed until the bottom of the 10th inning.
The Saints loaded the bases with one out with No. 9 hitter Josh Terry at the plate.
“I remember this vividly because the pitcher got behind 3-0,” Schoff said. “They called time and their coach, Doug Ashley, went out to the mound. (Terry) looks at me with huge eyes, ‘Should I take it?’ I said, ‘No way, if it’s there mash it’ type of thing.”
Terry did take a strike to get the count to 3-1 before he hit a fly ball to shallow left field. “It had to be close to 11 p.m.,” recalled Schoff. “If he gets thrown out, we have to go out for the 11th. It had to be a perfect throw. It was a short fly ball, short enough that the kid had to slide to catch it.”
When Terry hit the ball, Schoff recalls Maran started for the plate. “I yelled as loud as I could, ‘Get back!’ He got back to the bag. I said, ‘On me. On me.’ The kid slid and caught it and I said ‘Go!’ He crossed the plate and flipped his helmet in the air.”
“We had guys in the lineup who could make things happen,” said Schoff, who now teaches eighth-grade math at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, Maine. “You’d be surprised how that could pick other people up. Offensive baseball was always contagious for us. It was really fun.”
That offensive contagion helped snap Portsmouth’s winning streak, and it helped to win the state championship.
Bean was not his dominant self in the final, but still worked nine solid innings, allowing three runs, five walks and whiffing 11. Teed pitched the 10th to earn the win. He walked the first batter, but got a double-play ball and a K to end the inning.
Bean had come a long way from his freshman year when he surrendered Mike Montville’s three-run homer that won the 2009 championship game for the Clippers, 10-8.
“He got to experience the highest level in high school athletics,” Schoff said. “He came full circle from his freshman year.”
Bean was recruited to play baseball at NCAA Division III Tufts University in Boston. But in the end he decided not to play.
“(Baseball) was such a big part of my life,” said Bean, who graduated from Tufts with degrees in Economics and Spanish. “Four years and four years before that. I’m proud of all that. And all the hard work I put in. I got to the next stage and looked ahead four years. Is this how I want to define the next four years of my life again? Is this where I want to put my energy and effort? The answer ended up being no. It was surprising to me. I was just ready for that next step, that next stage; a chance to start fresh, start new and kind of see what the next phase was for me.”
Jordan Bean was ready for the next chapter in his life after closing a singularly unforgettable one.