MANCHESTER, NH – With three teams competing in the state semifinals or deeper, Derryfield School was among the most successful athletics programs in this spring’s New Hampshire high school sports postseason.
And while the Cougars’ baseball and boys lacrosse teams each fell two-wins short of repeating the championship feat of the girls lacrosse team, coaches from both squads acknowledged the season was a success by most any other measure.
The last time the Derryfield baseball team played a complete varsity season, the Cougars finished with a 6-10 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
After a lost 2020 season due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the Cougars returned to their winning ways this spring, finishing with an 11-3 record and reaching the state semifinals. There, a late comeback attempt fell just short, as Derryfield concluded its run with a 6-3 loss to Newmarket at NHTI in Concord on June 9.
In addition to the deep playoff run, which included the program’s first postseason win over Sunapee, the Cougars defeated Hopkinton for the first time in the program’s history and swept Newmarket during the regular season.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of what this team has accomplished,” said longtime head coach Jeff Hastings. “Our goal was never to win a state title, but to become one-percent better every day, which I felt we accomplished. This team was one of the grittiest and most resilient group of players I have coached in a long time. They have fun playing the game, and they play it with energy.”
What made the Cougars so good this season, said Hastings, was a genuine love for playing with one another, a culture that was established by the team’s seniors, Frankie Brandt, Evan Drake, Aiden Lacroix, Derek Wagner and Parker Fey.
“(The seniors) meant so much to this team. Each one of them leads our team in different ways,” said Hastings. “Frankie Brandt was the vocal leader of the team. Mr. Upbeat. He brought energy and positivity to the group. Parker Fey is a grinder. He is quiet but worked so hard at his game. Aiden Lacroix was a hustler and worker. He leads by example. He and Frankie were the guys diving all over the field during practice. Evan Drake was Mr. Steady. He just went about his business all year. He was part of three no-hitters this year on the mound. Derek Wagner (D-Wags) wasn’t even supposed to play this year due to an injury. But, he made his debut late in the season and got a hit in his first at-bat. He is such a positive person and player.”
Even in defeat, that leadership was on display in the Cougars’ playoff loss to Newmarket.
Down, 6-0, with two outs in the seventh inning, Derryfield mounted a late rally, scoring three runs to go down fighting. Drake pitched 6 innings of four-hit ball while striking out five. All six Newmarket runs were unearned.
Though Hastings and the returning players will undoubtedly miss the contributions of this year’s seniors, Derryfield is expected to bring back plenty of talent in 2022.
In addition to freshman Alex Comire – who went 2-for-4 with a double against Newmarket in the playoffs – they’ll have two first-team all-staters in junior Janai Cruz and sophomore ace Will Perkowski back as well.
Perkowski was 6-0 on the mound this season, string out 83 batters in 44 innings pitched while sporting an ERA of 0.955. He won both playoff starts, taking down Wilton and Sunapee in the opening round and quarterfinals, respectively. He also led the team in hitting with a .357 batting average to go along with 21 runs-batted in (RBI), 20 Runs scored, four home runs and 16 walks.
Sophomore Mitch Regan, a second-team all-stater will also be back.
“We expect to be right where we were this year, right in the thick of a deep playoff run,” said Hastings. “Three-quarters of our starting line-up will be returning, and we have some great players waiting in the wings. This playoff experience will most definitely help the boys as they move forward. The more you can expose players to pressure situations, the better they’ll respond the next time they are there.”
Additional notes: Brandt and Drake were third-team all-state selections. Drake was 3-1 on the mound, was part of three no-hitters this season, and produced a 1.15 earned-run average (ERA) in 25.1 innings pitched.
Comire and fellow freshmen Zach Martin, Alex Drake and Jack Steward will be on the all-state watch-list for next year, and their classmate, Rachel Irving, was the first female athlete to make the Derryfield varsity team.
The 2021 Derryfield boys lacrosse team set a goal at the beginning of the season to honor the 2020 class who didn’t get to play.
Led by a strong 10-player senior class, Derryfield earned a 15-4 record, including the program’s 200th victory since returning to varsity status in 2007.
The Cougars once again made a deep playoff run, reaching the state semifinals, but their season came to an end on June 9 when they traveled to Portsmouth and battled the hosts down to the wire before falling, 6-4.
“This year’s success was due to the seniors passing along our winning culture through off season and daily hard work to the underclassmen throughout the year,” said head coach Chris Hettler. “They were also an incredibly inviting group of kids. Every underclassmen felt valued and known. Not an easy thing to do on a varsity team”
That group of seniors finished with a three-season record of 54-5. Five members of that group – Chas Dean, Ryan Etzo, Jaxon Snyder, Liam Hill and Ryan Caparrelli – will be playing in college next year.
“The team evolved over the 19 games, improving on both offense and defense,” said Hettler. “We once again were a true team not dependent on any one player. Every player had a role and executed it well.”
A prime example, said Hettler, was the team’s goalie situation, where three seniors Caparrelli, Snyder and Hill all split time in net despite all three moving on to play in college at Lake Forest, Maryville and Lasell, respectively. Each played the field as a long-stick middie or short-stick defender when not backstopping the team.
Dean (Lake Forest University) at midfield and Etzo (Nazareth College) at attack, captained this year’s team.
“Both Chas and Ryan were looked up to because of their work ethic and because each of them were so kind towards others who were less talented,” said Hettler. “They helped kids to learn the game and to become integral parts of our team this year and in the future.”
In addition, senior Kyle Carpentier was also extremely unselfish, dedicating himself to the important position of facing off and earning first team all state for it, said Hettler, who added that seniors Will Mancini and Andrew Wold anchored the defense this year.
Still, the Cougars bring back junior Evan Cote, as well as a 24-player group of freshmen and sophomores coming off their first year on the varsity field.
“We will be a younger team next year, with just one senior, but will arguably have more depth than we had this season due to the large classes of freshman and sophomores who gained valuable experience this year and the influx of talented freshmen coming next year,” said Hettler.
Derryfield started two freshmen on attack this year in Chili Cabot and Alex Murray, along with sophomores Quinn Silvio in the midfield and Tyler Lautieri on defense, not to mention Dugan Brewer-Little at long-stick middie.
“The big game experience they had this year will prove invaluable as we look to reload next year,” said Hettler. “The expectation every year at Derryfield is to compete for a state title. Next year will be no different.”
Additional notes: Dean was not only an Academic All-American, but also a first-team all-state midfielder on the lacrosse field. Etzo, Cabot, Carpentier and Mancini were also first-team all-state selections.
Silvio and Snyder earned second-team honors; and Caparrelli, Brewer-Little, Lautieri and Murray were honorable mentions.
As a longtime journalist in Southern New Hampshire, Ryan O'Connor has written for several local online and print publications covering everything from school board meetings and local high school sporting events to major crime stories and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary (yes, the last two are mutually exclusive). In addition to spending time with his beautiful wife and four amazing children, Ryan enjoys attending and serving at church, golfing as much as possible, home brewing, playing softball and snowboarding when time allows.
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