Commodore baseball falls to Missisquoi in quarterfinal

VERGENNES — As a few rays of sunlight fought through Saturday afternoon’s ominous clouds, the Vergennes Union High School baseball team fought to hold off elimination, rallying from a 5-0 hole against visiting Missisquoi. But just as the sun faded behind the clouds, so did the Commodores’ rally, and their season.
In their quarterfinal match-up with the No. 5 Thunderbirds, the fourth-seeded Commodores fell 6-4, ending their bid to repeat as champions of Division II vs. the team they defeated in the 2012 final.
 “I think Missisquoi outplayed us,” said VUHS head coach George Ringer. “I think they got some timely hits. Naturally Matt (St. Amour) pitched a great game. I think the difference was they got some timely hits. We waited a little bit longer to start coming back. It just didn’t work out for us.”
VUHS pitcher Charlie Stapleford kept the Thunderbird bats mute through the first two frames before MVU mounted a threat in the third. With one man out and a runner on first, MVU leadoff hitter Caleb Lothian drove a double to center field that bounced in and out of the glove of an on-the-run Zach Ouellette.
After an error put St. Amour on first, the Commodores couldn’t complete an inning-ending double play on a grounder to short, allowing the Thunderbirds to score their first run. With the bases loaded, Justin Laroche singled to left field, scoring a second run before Stapleford induced a ground out to end the frame.
Stapleford kept the Thunderbirds down in the fourth before MVU put together a second attack in the fifth. After Stapleford struck out his eighth batter of the game, St. Amour beat out an infield single. After a walk, Dustin Laroche smacked a double into left center, scoring a pair. Laroche came around to score after a single to right field by Jack Raleigh.
Trailing by five, the Commodores refused to roll over and rallied in the fifth. After a leadoff walk, Justus Sturtevant blooped a base hit to shallow left. After an MVU error loaded the bases, Ouellette grounded back to the pitcher. St. Amour threw home, recording the first out of the inning, but the throw to first sailed into right field, plating Sturtevant.
Wade Steele walked to load the bases, and Devin Hayes laced a triple to right center to bring the Commodores to within 5-4 through five.
As tensions rose, MVU rallied in the sixth. A leadoff walk put a runner on first and Lothian followed with a single, chasing Stapleford from the game. Stapleford finished with 10 strikeouts, while giving up four earned runs and walking four.
Hayes entered and proceeded to strike out the first batter before loading the bases with an intentional walk. Dustin Laroche followed by grounding to the right side of the infield and hitting the runner. After a lengthy conference, the umpiring crew correctly called the runner out, awarded Laroche a hit, and returned the runners to second and third. But with two outs, Hayes walked Joshua Laroche on a close pitch, bringing in the only run of the inning and making it 6-4.
As their season’s clock neared midnight in the bottom of the seventh, the Commodores made their last effort to complete the rally. Tommy Lee Hodsden led off with his third infield single of the game. St. Amour struck out the following batter before getting a force out at second on a ground ball.
Steele worked a two-out walk to bring up the dangerous Hayes, but St. Amour induced another ground ball to shortstop. The ball was bobbled before finally being corralled and the throw to second beat Steele by half a step, ending the Commodores’ season two games short of their ultimate goal.
The Commodores finished the spring at 11-7, and graduated a class of players who won the program’s second D-II title and also reached the semifinals once and the quarterfinals once. And Ringer noted this season they defeated the Nos. 1 and 3 seeds in D-I during Metro Conference play. But he said it just didn’t go their way on Saturday despite their late rally.
“It’s a great team and I would put them up against any team in the state right now, I totally would,” said Ringer. “This team is capable of beating any team in the state, but we just did not do it today. You have to win four in a row, that’s all there is to it.”
Marshall Hastings is an intern working at the Independentthis summer.

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