Legion baseball primed for tourney

MIDDLEBURY — For two months, dreams of success and glory have been forming among some of the top American Legion baseball teams across Vermont. Now, as the focus shifts toward Castleton and the state tournament this Thursday through Monday, it is time for these dreams to come to fruition.
For Addison County, earning a five wins in nine games played in seven days means the team can pencil themselves in as the top seed in the North Division of the state tournament.
Claiming victories over Essex, Montpelier and South Burlington, Addison locked up the No. 1 spot on Sunday, the final day of the regular season, on the road, knocking off Montpelier, 11-3. Although AC did fall three times to Colchester and once to Essex during the final stretch run, the 16 wins that they compiled over the course of the season were good enough to edge out Colchester for the No. 1 seed by one game.
In the North, Colchester claimed the two seed while Essex finished third and Montpelier rounded out the top four. AC has gone a combined 5-4 against the top seeds in the North while being extremely competitive in every match-up.
In the South, Bennington picked up the top spot while Rutland finished second, Lakes Region third, and Brattleboro fourth — the same four teams as last season. AC will play Brattleboro on Thursday at Castleton, as it did on the opening day of the 2012 tournament. AC nabbed the victory last season.
2013 marks the sixth consecutive year that AC has made the state tournament. Addison grabbed the state title in 2008 and this year claimed its first No. 1 seed since 2009.
Last season, Addison lost to Essex, the eventual state champions, in their fourth game of the tournament, finishing third in the state.
Led by timely hitting and strong pitching, Addison has managed a 10-2 record in one-run games, thanks in large part to a pitching staff that continually puts the bats in position to win.
With Devin Hayes, Charlie Stapleford and Sawyer Kamman on the hill, along with Aaron Smith out of the bullpen, Addison has given up more than six runs in a game this season just two times.
Although pitching is a strong suit, the bats have been just as successful all year. At the top of the order, AC boasts one of the best 1-2 combos in the state leading off games, as Marshall Hastings and Ian Shaw have combined for 48 runs, 40 hits, 40 walks, 33 steals and 13 RBIs while reaching base at clips of .652 and .536, respectively.
Behind the quick Hastings-Shaw duo comes a strong group of hitters. Charlie Stapleford has led the team in batting average at .354 while posting a team-high 30 total bases. While Stapleford provides the bases, Hayes and Wade Steele give Addison the clutch hits from the 4-5 spots, combining for 29 RBIs and each totaling 29 total bases.
Among the top six batters in the order, the lowest on-base percentage is .415 but that doesn’t mean the top is carrying the load for AC, as many of the big innings for Addison have started from the bottom, proving the depth of an experienced AC roster.
“We have guys up and down the order that can produce in some way, shape or form,” said Hayes. “Some guys get on base, some steal bases, and a lot of guys can drive runners in. I’m very confident in this group of guys, and I hope we can continue to succeed in the postseason.”
On July 17, AC gained an important win against Essex in a completion of a previous match-up, claiming the 4-3 victory in 10 innings. Hayes got the win in relief, pitching two scoreless innings. Stapleford started the game for AC, surrendering three unearned runs, giving up four hits in eight innings, walking two, with seven strikeouts.
Stapleford gave AC a pair of hits while Hastings scored twice. Steele and Timmy Shea each added singles for Addison.
Then AC claimed the second game of the double header and took sole possession of the top seed with a 5-3 victory against Post 91. Kamman got the win for AC pitching a pair of innings, surrendering one run and two hits while striking out two.
Hayes got the start for AC, pitching five innings, relinquishing two runs, walking three while keeping Essex from collecting any hits.
Steele helped AC with a pair of hits and three RBIs. Stapleford scored a pair of runs while Hastings, Ian Shaw, Hayes, Josh Stearns, and Kamman collected a hit apiece for AC.
On July 18, Addison fell to Essex, 9-1, in the third game of the series. Forced to dig deep into their pitching crew, Hastings took the loss while pitching 2.1 innings. Shaw and Stearns each pitched in relief for Addison.
Hastings, Shaw, Hayes, Dylan Raymond, and Casey Covey all had hits while Hastings scored the lone run for Addison on a sacrifice fly from Stapleford.
Playing in their sixth game in five days, AC on July 19 traveled to South Burlington in hopes of getting back on the winning path. After gaining an early advantage, Addison fell behind 7-3 entering the seventh inning before grabbing six runs with two outs to collect the 9-7 lead.
With two away in the seventh, Steele started the AC rally with runners at the corners. He clubbed a 1-2 curveball to the right center field gap, scoring Hayes and Shaw. Shea followed by walking before Covey laced a 2-1 fastball to deep right center, tying the game at 7. With the go-ahead run in scoring position, Stearns singled up the middle before coming around to score on a bloop base hit from Hastings.
Aaron Smith got the win in relief, throwing 3.1 innings, giving up two runs while striking out two.
Steele and Kamman each added a pair of hits for the AC cause.
AC dropped a pair of road games on Saturday to rival Colchester, 6-5 and 4-3, as each game was decided in the later innings.
Stapleford got the loss in game one, surrendering nine hits while walking four and striking out six in six innings. Kamman lost game two, pitching 6.1 innings, giving up seven hits, walking four and striking out six.
Hayes, Hastings, Shaw and Steele each had two hits on the day for AC.
Addison grabbed the state tournament top spot for the North with an 11-3 victory on the road against Montpelier on Sunday, as the bats came alive behind a stellar pitching performance from Hayes. He threw five innings for the win, striking out three while walking one and giving up seven hits.
Hayes went 5-for-5 at the plate, scoring once while collecting two RBIs. Hastings went 2-for-4 with two RBIs while lacing a triple to left center. Stapleford added to the AC offense by going 3-for-5, collecting a single, double and triple.

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