VERGENNES — The No. 7 Vergennes Union High School baseball team lost its first-round Division II playoff game to visiting No. 10 Milton on Wednesday evening in heartbreaking and controversial fashion. The score was 3-1 in 10 innings after umpires on consecutive plays in the bottom of the eighth inning twice waved off apparent winning Commodore runs and called a runner out at the plate on another debated call.
(Many other local teams also saw action; see scores below.)
The 7-10 Commodores also had the lead runner on base and failed to score in the fifth and sixth and ninth innings, and their seventh inning ended with a runner tagged out in a rundown between third and home. In all, the Commodores left five runners on base in regulation play and another five in the three extra innings.
Milton (7-10) broke through for the win off reliever Hans Westenfeld in the top of the 10th with a two-out rally. Max Cody beat out a slow two-out roller on another call that could have gone either way, and Dylan Leggett singled.
Cleanup hitter Matt Goulet — who also started on the mound and tossed eight shutout innings, allowing seven hits and no walks and striking out 11 — then doubled home both runners and came around to score on two throwing errors. Those were only the second and third VUHS defensive miscues in the well-played game.
The Commodores got one run back in the bottom of the 10th off winning pitcher Nick Ferguson. Shortstop Collin Curler led off with his third hit of the game, and third baseman Dylan Bresnick also singled; they reached second and third on a throwing error in the outfield.
Senior ace Logan Williams — who threw seven-plus shutout innings for VUHS, allowing four hits and two walks and fanning five — plated Curler with a sacrifice fly, but Bresnick ran into an out at third on the play. Westenfeld walked to bring the tying run to the plate, but Ferguson got a groundout to end the threat.
But the talk afterward was of the several defensive gems, the missed chances for both teams, and the wild eighth inning. Chronologically:
In the VUHS first, Williams doubled and reached third on a wild pitch, but was stranded.
In the Milton second, Goulet led off with a single, and a courtesy runner reached third. After a two-out walk put a second runner on, he left too early trying to steal, and Williams threw him out.
In the Milton fourth, Williams hit one batter and walked another, but centerfielder Jon Kauffman tracked down a long drive with two out.
In the Milton fifth, Commodore first baseman J.C. Dugan made a difficult scoop of an in-between hop on a throw for the second out, and Curler charged and picked up a tricky short hop and fired to Dugan for the third out.
VUHS second baseman Nick Richer led off the fifth with a hit, and Kauffman sacrificed him to second, but Richer got no further.
In the Milton sixth, the first two batters singled to bring up Goulet. Williams struck him out, and then got Milton’s No. 5 hitter to hit a grounder to Richer, who started a crisp double play to end the threat.
In the VUHS sixth, Curler led off with a single, and Goulet balked him to second with none out. Bresnick sacrificed him to third, but Goulet retired the next two batters on a pop-up and strikeout to strand Curler.
With two out in the VUHS seventh, right fielder Kameron Brooks singled, and he was stealing second as Kauffman legged out an infield hit. Brooks and VUHS coach George Ringer had what Ringer called a miscommunication as Brooks headed for third, and he rounded the bag and was tagged out in a rundown.
In the Milton eighth, Williams walked the first batter and left to applause; he and Westenfeld, the catcher, switched positions. After getting one out, Caleb Harris bunted for a hit, and Westenfeld threw high to first, putting runners on second and third. After Westenfeld got the next hitter to ground to Bresnick, who made a nice backhand play and held the runners, Ringer ordered Goulet walked to load the bases. Westenfeld then ended the threat by inducing a grounder back to the mound.
Then came the fateful VUHS eighth. Dugan led off by ripping a single to center. Curler sacrificed him to second, and Goulet balked him to third. Bresnick laid down a bunt, which Goulet fielded and threw home. It appeared Dugan slid under the tag, which was applied high; it is possible he came up short of home plate or the catcher blocked it. Regardless, he was called out, with Bresnick reaching first.
Speedy Michael Danyow then came on to pinch run for Bresnick with Williams up. With Danyow stealing second on the play, Williams hit a slow roller to third. The fielder bobbled the ball, and then threw wildly to first base, with the ball rolling out of bounds. By the time the ball left the field of play, Danyow had rounded second and was about of third of the way to third base.
The umpires first awarded him home plate, and the Commodores celebrated. But then the umpires held a conference, and the home plate umpire waved Danyow back to third, and the Yellowjackets went back on the field.
Westenfeld then came up with runners on second and third. He hit a ground ball toward the shortstop hole and beat the throw to first, with Danyow again scoring and the Commodores again celebrating an apparent win. But the umpires ruled Williams had deliberately interfered with the shortstop’s line of sight on the ground ball, and called him out to end the threat and again stun the Commodores.
After Westenfeld mowed down Milton in the top of the ninth, VUHS threatened again in the bottom of the inning. Pinch hitter Charlie Stapleford singled, and Richer bunted him to second. Ferguson intentionally walked Brooks to set up a double play, but he didn’t need it: The next two batters popped up and struck out.
And then came the 10th, and Milton’s winning rally, and the questions for the Commodores of what had happened and what might have been.
OTHER PLAYOFF SCORES:
Mount Abe 17, Middlebury 1 (Tuesday)
Windsor 8, Otter Valley 0 (Tuesday)
Green Mountain Union 5. Vergennes 4
D-I BOYS’ LACROSSE:
Woodstock 7, Middlebury 6
D-II BOYS’ LACROSSE:
Lamoille 7, Mount Abe 4
Green Mountain Valley 13, Otter Valley 5
Rice 21, Vergennes 0
D-I BOYS’ TENNIS
Stowe 7, Middlebury 0
D-I GIRLS’ TENNIS
Middlebury 4, Hartford 3 (Tuesday)