The “Spirit of 76” was clearly exhibited on May 19 when the Portsmouth (New Hampshire) High School baseball team played its way into the National High School Sports Record Book.
The 13-0 Clippers trounced Pembroke (New Hampshire) Academy, 10-2, to set the high school baseball national record of winning 76 consecutive games. The former mark of 75 consecutive games was held by Homer (Michigan) High School, which it set during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
The three-time defending New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association (NHIAA) Division II state champions, Portsmouth has not lost since the quarterfinals of the 2007 state playoffs. None of the players on this year’s squad has tasted defeat at the varsity level.
And what a long way the Portsmouth baseball program has come since head coach Tim Hopley assumed its reins 16 years ago. That season he inherited a team that was not only in the middle of a losing streak, but also lost its first 10 contests of the year.
As it has done all season, Portsmouth used its strong suit in the record-setting win – stingy pitching. Sophomore pitcher Rick Hold went the distance on the mound, didn’t allow a runner on base until the fourth inning, and allowed just five hits for the entire game.
The Clippers lit up the scoreboard first with five runs in the second inning. They added a run in the fourth inning and went ahead, 9-2, the following stanza. Matt Feeney’s RBI single in the sixth rounded out the game’s scoring.
Making the accomplishment special was the fact that Portsmouth’s police department met the team bus and escorted it into town, a service normally reserved for only state championship teams.
And making the accomplishment even more special was the fact that it was witnessed by NHIAA Executive Director Pat Corbin.
“I attended the game and it was indeed a record-breaking event that obviously could go higher,” Corbin said. “As I indicated to the Portsmouth players, as important if not more important than the win was the ‘humble’ manner in which they played the game and behaved after the event. Yes, the record is a great accomplishment, but the manner and dignity in which they won was even more remarkable. It was a proud day for Portsmouth High and New Hampshire.
“The host team, Pembroke Academy, also did an exceptional job and played an excellent game. They were more competitive than the score reflected. Their fans, players and coaches were very excited for the Portsmouth student-athletes when it was over and did everything to make them feel welcome at the start of the game. It was all that one would hope to see under what could have been difficult circumstances.”
Portsmouth went on to extend its winning streak to 83 games on June 18 with its 9-6 win over Dover St. Thomas Aquinas in the 2011 New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Division II state championship. With the victory, Portsmouth has now won four consecutive state titles. The Clippers finished their 2011 season 20-0.