Legion baseball tuned up for states

MIDDLEBURY — After wrapping up the regular season with a pair of home wins over Montpelier this past Saturday and a loss on the road in Essex, the Addison County American Legion baseball team on Thursday will begin play in the Legion State Championship tournament as the No. 2 seed for the North Division.

AC will face the Lake Region team, the South Division’s No. 3 seed, on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Castleton State College to kick off the tournament. The two teams have not faced off yet this season.

“Were excited to be going to Castleton again this year,” AC Coach Mike Estey said. “We put another strong team from Addison to go south and compete in the State Legion Tournament.”

In its second game of the double-elimination tournament, Addison County will face either Rutland or the No. 4 seed from the North (not named as of press time) on Friday at 2 p.m. either at Castleton State or at St. Peter’s Field. Tournament play will continue through the weekend culminating in the championship game on Monday afternoon.

The Vermont state champion will play in the Northeast Regional in Middletown, Conn.

Estey said he will have Devin Hayes start on the mound for Addison County in Game 1, and Sawyer Kamman will get the nod for Game 2. Hayes brings a 2-0 record into the state tournament. Kamman has the team’s most pitching wins on the season — five — with two losses. Estey will also be able to call on pitchers Aaron Smith (3-2), Josiah Benoit (2-2) and Hunter O’Connor (1-0) this weekend.

Hayes and Kamman are leading AC in the hitting department going into the tournament. Hayes has a .430 average with three home runs, 20 RBIs and 18 runs scored. Kamman is hitting .312. Estey said he expects to see good hitting from Aaron Smith, Dylan Raymond, Wade Steele and Josh Stearns, who have been performing well at the plate. Plus, AJ Benway and Sam Messenger could do some pinch hitting if needed, he added.

Expected to take the field in Castleton are Steele at first (“Wade has done a great job there,” Estey said), Hayes or Joe Hounchell at second, Kamman at shortstop, Stearns at third, Raymond in left field, Smith or Devon Kimball in center, and Josiah Benoit, Benway or Sam Messenger in right. Chris Leach and Bryce Burrell will play catcher.

Estey noted that AC will have the services of Stearns and Messenger only through Friday, because they both will report on Saturday for the Shrine Bowl senior football game practices.

“We are excited for them and wish them the best of luck,” Estey said.

The AC nine earned the No. 2 seed by amassing a 14-7 record in the North Division (14-8 overall, including a non-league loss to Southern Division No. 1 Rutland).

END OF REGULAR SEASON

The locals entered the home stretch by suffering an 11-1 drubbing in Essex this past Thursday. No game details were available.

AC bounced back with a forfeit and a win in a scheduled double header at home against Montpelier on Saturday.

Montpelier forfeited Game 1 on Saturday because they didn`t have enough players to start the 11 a.m. game. But the visitors almost made up for that with the close, extra-inning game that started at 12:15 p.m.

AC won that game, 1-0, in the ninth inning. Kamman reached on an error, then Hayes singled to left, and Steele got a bunt single to load the bases. Raymond’s ground ball to third forced Kamman out at home. With one out and the bases still loaded, AC had the squeeze on with Hounchell up. He put the ball in the dirt and the Montpelier catcher mishandled it, allowing Hayes to score from third.

Hayes started the game and allowed three hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in six innings. He pitched his way out of a couple of sticky situations in the first and third innings with runners on second and third with only one out. In both cases he struck out the next two batters, Estey said. In the fourth, Kamman playing at shortstop with runners on second and third made a nice throw to home to get out the runner, Estey said.

Kamman pitched the final three innings, allowing only one hit and a walk.

Kimball was two for four at the plate on Saturday.

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