Eagles thump Terriers to claim division championship

BURLINGTON — The Mount Abraham Union High School baseball team should consider switching its mascot from the eagle to the mythological phoenix.
It would seem appropriate, given how the 9-11 Eagles rose from the ashes of an 0-6 start to thump the Bellows Falls Terriers in Saturday’s Division II final at the University of Vermont’s Centennial Field, 11-1, using a potent offense and the two-hit, complete-game pitching performance of starter Adam Whitcomb.
The Eagles (9-11) peaked in the playoffs, topping No. 1 Lamoille and the No. 5 Highlanders in order to set the stage for the final against No. 6 Bellows Falls (11-9), which itself had done some giant killing. The No. 6 Terriers had beaten No.3 Lake Region and No. 2 U-32 to reach the championship.
The Eagles, who became the first Division II baseball team with a losing record to win a championship, got all the runs they would need in the top of the first.
First baseman Coleman Russell set the table with a single to right field. Right fielder Dustin Whitcomb advanced Russell to second on a groundout. Russell scored easily on shortstop Chris Wood’s double down the first-base line, and Wood came home on Adam Whitcomb’s solid single.
The Terriers got one back in the bottom of the frame without the benefit of a hit.
Pitcher Zach Streeter got on base when grazed by a pitch. His brother Jake, the Bellows Falls shortstop, moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt. Zach Streeter scored when Eagle outfielder Keion Correll couldn’t squeeze a fly ball hit his way by Terriers first baseman Brady Illingworth. Whitcomb struck out Terrier catcher Liam Hackett, and second baseman Alex Groenewold ended the inning with a lazy fly ball to Eagle left fielder Zach Hines.
The Eagles and Terriers traded clean innings until the fourth, when Mount Abe broke through for another two runs.
After Wyatt Gendreau was robbed by a diving stab by his counterpart at second, Zach Hines hit a booming triple to left-center. This was not the only time the Terriers’ outfielders were punished for playing shallow. Then, with one out, Eagles Coach Jeff Stetson rolled the dice on a suicide squeeze and came up snake-eyes: His third baseman Caleb Bonvouloir didn’t make contact with Streeter’s offering, and Hines was tagged out trying at home.
But Bonvouloir kept the inning alive with a single, followed by a walk to catcher Anthony Robideau. Both advanced on a passed ball. Russell then hit a ground ball that went off the Groenewold’s glove, allowing Bonvouloir and Robideau to score, and it was 4-1, Eagles.
Mount Abe extended the lead in the fifth inning. Shortstop Chris Wood reached on an infield single and went to second on an error on a grounder hit by Eagle DH George Bailey. Adam Whitcomb then helped his own cause with a prodigious double to left centerfield that scored both Wood and Bailey.
Gendreau walked, and he and Whitcomb advanced to second and third when Groenewold made a great over-the-shoulder catch on a Hines pop-up, but made a wild throw to try and double-off Gendreau. Whitcomb scored on a Robideau groundout, giving the Eagles a 7-1 lead after five.
The Terriers took their hacks throughout the game and sometimes hit the ball right on the screws. But when they did, there always seemed to be an Eagle defender positioned perfectly to make the catch. Whitcomb didn’t allow a hit until a fifth-inning single by Terriers right fielder Rein Coursen. Zach Streeter also singled in that inning for Bellows Falls’ final hit of the game.
The Eagles scored another four runs during a lengthy seventh-inning onslaught in which their bench players played key roles.
With one out against Terrier reliever Brady Illingworth, infielder Kyle Barrows doubled to deep left. Robideau followed with an RBI double to make it 8-1. After Russell moving Robideau to third with an infield hit, Dustin Whitcomb grounded out to second, forcing Russell and scoring Robideau to make it 9-1. Wood doubled to deep center, scoring Whitcomb to make it 10-1. Wood reached to third on the throw to the plate and scored on a passed ball to create the final score of 11-1.
The Eagles smacked out 15 hits — four from Wood, three each from Bailey and Bonvouloir, and two from Robideau — and got some help from four Bellows Falls errors in scoring their 11 runs.
Adam Whitcomb was the Eagles’ star of a game, though he had a great supporting cast. The Eagle hurler had three runs batted in and held the Terriers to just two singles, while striking out five — including the final two batters of the game.
“It was just another game, but with a lot more pressure,” a smiling Whitcomb said after earning his third postseason victory.
He conceded that he never thought the Eagles would make the championship game after their slow start to the season. He chalked it up to teamwork.
“With this team, we don’t have just one star; we have a whole bunch of them,” Whitcomb said. “If we don’t play as a team, we’re not winning.”
Stetson was coaching his last game in the dual role as coach/Mount Abe co-athletic director. He will continue as the Eagles coach, but got a heck of a send-off as co-athletic director.
“I thought we played great on defense, Adam threw a tremendous game on the mound, and we just hit the crap out of the ball,” Stetson said. “We had great at-bats all day long, up and down the lineup. Everybody was hitting. It was nice. This whole playoff run, our defense was great.”
He said his team showed great character in turning around its season.
“We had a rocky 0-6 start and then met as a team for an hour and a half to hash out what we needed to do to make things better, and looked at how we needed to work and how we needed to behave and what we needed to do to get things going in the right direction,” Stetson said. “The bottom line is that they wanted to be remembered as a team that turned it around, and I certainly think they have done that.”
The Eagles will return all of their starters next year except for Robideau, their catcher.
“We should be just as strong, if not stronger, next year,” Whitcomb said.

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