CASTLETON — The Addison County American Legion baseball team fell short of its ultimate goal when Essex eliminated AC from the state championship tournament on Sunday, 11-1, but the local nine enjoyed a strong summer.
AC won twice at the state tournament after earning the No. 2 seed in the Northern Division with a 12-4 record, in the process erasing some of the sting of the team’s 2011 tournament performance — AC lost twice and was the first squad ousted.
Coach Mike Estey said he and his team were disappointed not to claim the title that Essex went on to win on Monday, but not dissatisfied with its third-place finish in the eight-team state tournament.
“I feel real good,” Estey said. “We hit a real bump in the last inning against Essex ... but other than that we did well.”
Estey also said the team got excellent pitching from Charlie Stapleford in its opening 8-2 win over Brattleboro on July 26, from Mark Dickerson in a tough 4-3 loss to defending champion Colchester on July 27, and from Sawyer Kamman in a 5-4 win over South Burlington on Saturday. Games were played both at Castleton State College and at Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland.
Center fielder Ian Shaw made the tournament all-star team after two three-hit games, and Estey said Devin Hayes hit the ball well. Estey said AC missed the offense of leadoff hitter Marshall Hastings, who didn’t play because of his Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl commitment.
Back when the season started, Estey said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the team. He knew there was talent, but half of the 16 players from the team’s 2011 roster were no longer eligible. Given the turnover, he was happy with the results.
“We were 12-4 in the league, which was maybe better than we expected,” Estey said.
Beyond the record, Estey said the team got great leadership from veterans like Tommy Nelson and Collin Curler, who, like Dickerson, are in their last year of Legion eligibility.
As well as remaining focused, he said the athletes from Mount Abraham, Vergennes and Middlebury union high schools bonded well and enjoyed their time together.
“It was a fun season,” Estey said. “It was rewarding.”
In Sunday’s elimination game at Castleton, Essex hurler Nick Salerno tossed a complete-game four-hitter in his team’s 11-1 win. Salerno struck out eight and walked one. Essex went on to defeat Bennington, 11-10, in Monday’s final.
Essex scored single runs in the first, second, third and seventh off Hayes, and then scored seven runs in the eighth off Stapleford and Dickerson for a 10-run mercy rule win. Hayes allowed 10 hits, four earned runs and three walks while fanning five.
AC got its only run when Stapleford drew a walk and Nick Ouellette was hit by a pitch. Stapleford was forced out at third by a fielder’s choice, but Kamman and Shaw drew walks to force home Ouellette.
On Saturday at Castleton, AC rallied from a 4-1 deficit to beat South Burlington, 5-4, when Stapleford scored the decisive run on an eighth-inning balk.
Stapleford led off with a bunt single off losing pitcher Tim Rensch, and then stole second and moved to third on an infield out before trotting home on the balk.
The Nationals took a 1-0 lead off Nelson in the first, but AC knotted the score at 1-1 on a walk to Kamman, a Shaw sacrifice bunt, an error, and a Hayes sacrifice fly.
South Burlington capitalized on Nelson’s control problems in the third to go up 4-1, scoring three times on one hit, an error, a walk and two wild pitches.
AC got two runs back in the fourth. Casey Covey singled, Nick Richer doubled, and Kamman singled both runners home. In the fifth, Covey singled again, but was forced at second by a Wade Steele groundout. Richer singled Steele to third base, and Kamman plated Steele with a sac fly.
Kamman came on in the fourth and allowed just one hit and one walk the rest of the way. His good defensive support included two double plays. Stapleford in left field hauled in a long drive in left center in the sixth and doubled a runner off base, and second baseman Richer ended the game by snaring a ground ball, stepping on second and tossing the hitter out at first.
On Friday, Cody Sharrow’s ninth-inning bases-loaded single off Nelson scored the winning run in Colchester’s 4-3 win over AC. Colchester’s Matt Ravey, who pitched this year for Castleton, tossed a complete-game eight-hitter, fanning seven and walking one.
Dickerson was the hard-luck loser: He went eight-plus innings, fanning three and allowing eight hits, three earned runs and two walks.
AC took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. Shaw doubled, the first of his three hits, and Curler singled him home. But Colchester scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead.
AC made it 3-2 in the fifth when Shaw singled and Hayes doubled him in, and tied the score in the sixth. Steele singled and moved to third on a botched pickoff. From there, he scored on an Ouellette squeeze bunt.
The first two batters reached on a walk and a single off Dickerson in the bottom of the ninth, and then a bunt and a single plated the winning run.
In AC’s opening 8-2 win vs. Brattleboro, Stapleford tossed a complete-game one-hitter and struck out 11. He allowed just a second-inning single.
AC banged out 16 hits, Shaw singled twice and tripled, Stapleford drove in three runs with three hits, and Steele doubled, tripled and singled. Hayes tripled and singled, Curler singled and scored twice, and Richer doubled.