AC nine seeks return to playoffs

ADDISON COUNTY — Despite the loss of several mainstays to age eligibility rules, Addison County American Legion Baseball Coach Mike Estey is hopeful his 2014 team has the pieces in place to earn another berth in the Vermont playoffs.
It does help that a number of veterans do return to show the way for the team’s many newcomers, Estey said.
“We’re a little bit young, but we’ve got some great leadership,” he said. “We’ve got nine guys back from last year.”
Several of that group will form the core of the team’s pitching rotation: Devin Hayes, the former Vergennes Union High School ace who joined the Castleton State College rotation this spring; three-year Mount Abraham starter Sawyer Kamman; and Middlebury Union mainstays Josiah Benoit and Aaron Smith.
Estey will be looking for Josh Stearns, Dylan Raymond and Hunter O’Connor to step up and join them.
“We’re going to have to get some innings out of some other kids,” he said.
Estey will be looking for Chris Leach, Bryce Burrell and possibly Aaron Benway to share time at catcher, with one or two emerging.
Benway is also in the mix at first with veteran Wade Steele and Sam Messenger. Tim Shea, who helped Rice win the Division I title, has apparently committed to play for AC and will probably get the nod at second base, with Joe Hounchell and Calvin Desforges also available. Kamman, Hayes and Shea can all play shortstop; and Stearns, Benoit and Hayes will all see time at third base.
Smith will be the No. 1 centerfielder when he is not on the mound, and Raymond could see plenty of time in left, with Devon Kimball, Desforges, Messenger, Benway and Hayes all also available to patrol the outfield grass.
AC opened on Sunday with a doubleheader loss to Northern Division contender Colchester, and will be looking to bounce back at the Middlebury College field this weekend with two games vs. South Burlington on Saturday and a contest vs. Burlington on Sunday. Action begins at 11 a.m. both days. AC also is set to play at Essex on Monday.
As always, Estey said AC’s goal will be a top-four Northern Division finish that will qualify the team for a berth in the state tournament, which will again be played at Castleton State.
“We’ll be OK. We’ll compete,” he said. “We’ve got to finish in the top four and get down to Castleton.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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