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Commodore baseball rallies past MUHS nine

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Posted on May 1, 2017 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



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COMMODORE SOPHOMORE COOPER O’Brien slides safely back to first base during last Thursday’s game against Middlebury. Vergennes won the game, 4-3. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

VERGENNES — In a high school baseball game on Thursday between two teams eager to get on the right track, host Vergennes worked back from a 3-0 first-inning deficit to edge Middlebury, 4-3.

The Commodores improved to 2-3 before dropping a competitive game at Burlington on Saturday. Senior Hunter O’Connor tossed a complete-game three-hitter, walking two and striking out 10, after a rocky start, to earn the win.

He outdueled the Tigers’ Jordy Stearns, who allowed four hits and struck out seven in 5.1 innings, but had to work out of several jams after walking seven — VUHS left eight on base.

VUHS Coach Dwight Burkett was thrilled to see the Commodores — despite early mistakes in the field and on the bases — fight back to earn the victory.

“It was a great win. We had a few mental lapses early and we got down, 3-0, and we showed a lot of character,’ Burkett said.

MUHS Coach Charlie Messenger, whose team dropped to 0-6 with a home loss to Rice on Saturday, said the Tigers could have shown more discipline at the plate against O’Connor after taking the lead.

“I think defensively we battled out there. But I think offensively we got three runs in early, and then there was a little letdown. We didn’t do the things that got us the three runs, which is get the bat on the ball and start moving people around,” Messenger said. “We started taking big cuts at it, and then to his credit he started getting us off-stride, out front. Then his fastball looked a little quicker.”

O’Connor and Burkett viewed the shutdown innings that followed the first — O’Connor allowed only two baserunners between the second and sixth frames — through a different lens. O’Connor, who had struggled in his first two starts, said he finally made a change to his delivery that helped, raising his arm higher starting his windup to improve his balance and follow-through.

“In the first inning and throughout the season I’d really been struggling with some mechanical things that my coaches have pointed out and I’ve started working on,” O’Connor said. “And I finally made the adjustment in the second inning, and the ball started finding the strike zone, and we started making outs.”

Burkett praised O’Connor’s effort.   MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School sophomore pitcher Jordan Stearns struck out seven Commodore batters and allowed just one earned run in 5.3 innings last Thursday afternoon. Vergennes won the game, 4-3.

Independent photo/Trent Campbell

“He really found it today. Early on he struggled mechanically a little bit. He knows what he’s been doing. He’s been working on it. And he just got in a groove and took us home,” Burkett said.

In the first inning, Tiger hitters Hale Hescock and Wyatt Cameron led off with walks. O’Connor had a runner picked off, but an errant throw allowed the runners to move to second and third. Tiger center fielder Patrick Messenger scored both by pulling a single to right field. With two outs, Tiger right fielder Pierson Beatty dropped an opposite-field single to right, and Messenger, who had stolen second, came home to make it 3-0.

Between the first and the seventh, the only Tiger baserunners came in the third, when Messenger doubled and O’Connor hit Simon Fischer with a pitch.

The Commodores lost baserunners in the first, when Cameron threw out O’Connor at home on an attempted double steal; and in the second, when Jeffrey Stearns drew a leadoff walk and tried to reach second when a pickoff throw bounced away from first baseman Nick Beatty, but not far enough to prevent Beatty from nailing him at second.

In the third VUHS made it 3-1 on a walk to VUHS leadoff hitter Cooper O’Brien, a wild pitch, O’Connor’s infield hit and Devon Kimball’s line single.

The Commodores tied it in the fourth. Jordy Stearns walked Jeffrey Stearns, and wild pitches moved him to third. After a walk to Will Wormer, Jordy Stearns retired two hitters. But pinchhitter Aidan Gardner’s groundball up the middle just eluded Cameron’s stretch to score Stearns. O’Brien singled to load the bases, and a walk to O’Connor allowed Wormer to trot home.

The winning run came in the fifth. Casey Kimball doubled to lead off and moved to third on a Jeffrey Stearns groundout. With two outs Jordy Stearns tossed a pitch that hit the plate and bounced high over catcher Brian Foote, who had no chance, allowing Kimball to score.

After Gabe Quinto singled to lead off the VUHS sixth, Hescock came in and pitched around a Tiger error to end a threat.

Then the Tigers threatened in the seventh. Jordy Stearns led off and singled, reaching second on an outfield error. A pinchrunner moved to third on a Nick Beatty groundout. O’Connor fanned the next hitter, but Hescock reached on catcher’s interference and stole second, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Then O’Connor induced a fly ball to Wormer in center field to seal a win he said would give the young Commodores a shot in the arm. 

And Messenger said the Tigers need to remember to focus for seven innings on all aspects of the game.

“We’ve got to develop a winning attitude, and it’s hard to do that when things aren’t going your way, and when you play a tough beginning of a schedule,” he said. “But we’re getting there, little bit by little bit.” 

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