AC sweeps twin bill, reaches 3-2 in league

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County American Legion baseball team rode one dominant pitching performance and one solid one to a Sunday doubleheader sweep of Orleans-Essex-Caledonia, 2-0 and 8-3, on the Middlebury College diamond.

The two wins made it three straight for AC and moved the local nine over .500 in the Northern Division at 3-2; AC is 3-4 overall after dropping four competitive games to open its season.

Sunday’s biggest buzz came courtesy of Game One starter Charlie Stapleford, who tossed a one-hitter at OEC and struck out 15, including 11 of the first 12 hitters he faced. It was a breakthrough effort for the hard-throwing righty: He did not win a game in a hard-luck high school season, even when fanning 10 in a playoff game.

OEC broke up Stapleford’s no-hit bid in the sixth, when No. 3 hitter Nate Stewart dropped a soft, opposite-field single just out of the reach of first baseman Tommy Nelson, second baseman Devin Hayes and right fielder Nick Richer.

AC Coach Mike Estey said Stapleford had both his fastball and curveball working, and that it was the best he has seen Stapleford throw.

“He was real sharp early, and he finished strong,” Estey said. “I’m real pleased.”

Nelson tossed six innings to earn the win in the nightcap, allowing three runs, two earned, on five hits and four walks while striking out seven.

Nelson said he was happy to do enough to allow AC to move over .500, especially after watching Stapleford mow down OEC.

“You want to try to do good when you’re following up something like that,” Nelson said, adding, “I was a little wild at first, but I felt like I came around.”

In the opener, Stapleford allowed only three runners to reach second. In the fourth a walk and an error moved leadoff hitter Sullivan Kiley that far, but Stapleford struck out the side. In the fifth, he walked a pair, but centerfielder Nate Tabor collared a long fly ball to end the threat. Stewart also reached second on a passed ball after his hit, but a strikeout stranded him there.

AC got both of its runs in the first off losing pitcher Matt Lyon. Tabor led off with a walk and stole second and third. Catcher Logan Williams singled him in, and stole second. Stapleford (who tallied two hits in the game) then knocked in Williams with a single.

“We did just enough in that first game,” Estey said. “Charlie had a big base hit for us in that first game, and Logan did another outstanding job for us behind the plate.”

AC also jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead in the second game. Hayes and Williams set the table with singles, and Nelson and third baseman Dylan Bresnick singled them home.

AC made it 4-0 in the third. Williams singled to lead off, and eventually scored when OEC misplayed Tabor’s ground ball. Shortstop Collin Curler singled in Tabor.

OEC got one run back in the top of the fourth. Darik Messier doubled to lead off, moved up on a ground ball, and scored on a wild pitch.

AC made it 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth and knocked out OEC starter Tom Blake. Hastings and Hayes singled, and Williams walked. Nelson plated one run with a sacrifice fly, and Hayes scored on an error.

OEC began to get to Nelson in the sixth, when also AC’s defense got a little shaky. Burly first baseman Richard Trucott lined a leadoff homer, and singles by Jake Bielecki and Lincoln Lemieux and two errors scored another run and moved runners to second and third with two outs. A base hit could have made it 6-5, but Nelson struck out Kyle Greenwood to end the threat.

After a solid 1.2 innings from Bielecki, Addison added two more runs in the sixth off Dan Smith, the third OEC pitcher. Singles by Nelson, Tabor and Bresnick produced one run, and Curler’s line-out to center scored the second. Hayes then came on and tossed a 1-2-3 seventh to nail down the 8-3 win.

Estey was happy to see AC respond each time OEC scored.

“Both times we gave up runs we answered,” Estey said. “We kept pressure on them, and they made a couple mistakes, and we capitalized.”

AC is looking to keep it rolling in a busy upcoming stretch. After a make-up game set at Burlington on Wednesday after the deadline for this edition of the Independent, AC will play at South Burlington on Thursday; host South Burlington in an 11 a.m. doubleheader on Saturday, only the first of which will count in the league standings; travel to Bellows Falls on Sunday; and host Burlington at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Estey said he hopes for more success; he believes the modest three-game winning streak has given AC a lift.

“It’s big for us. It’s just the way we’re playing, better at-bats, better approaches at bat, we’re getting better swings at the ball. We’re always ready defensively. We play well defensively,” he said. “And then we’ll take the pitching we got today.”

Nelson said the team’s chemistry is working well as the team’s many new players have gotten to know each other better, and he agreed the recent wins — including over S.D. Ireland as well as OEC — have boosted AC’s confidence.

“I think we can be good,” Nelson said. “We can play with any team, really.”

Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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