AC battles, but drops four of five contests

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County American Legion team won just once in five outings between June 30 and July 5, dropping AC to 3-8 and making a Northern Division playoff berth a long shot.
AC lost two home doubleheaders on June 30 and July 2 to Montpelier and Franklin County, respectively, before bouncing back on Tuesday to win big at Stowe.
Coach Mike Estey had hoped the home cooking last week might give his young team a chance to get back in the Northern Division race with three or four wins. But an improved Montpelier team won four- and six-run games, and Franklin earned a one-run victory before prevailing in an extra-inning contest.  
“I was hoping for three of them. Montpelier was strong. They were a much-improved ball club. And we’re just having trouble scoring runs,” Estey said. “We get things happening a little bit, and then with two outs we don’t do anything.”
Still, despite the disappointment, there are positives. AC has already assured itself of a better record than 2015, when a late win proved to be the team’s only one of the summer.
More importantly, Estey said, AC is playing better baseball. Games are closer: AC has five losses by one or two runs, whereas last summer many losses were blowouts.
“We’re way more competitive. We’ve got much better pitching, and we’re deeper,” Estey said. “We’re just better all-around. Better mindset, better everything.”
And while a few key players will age out of the Legion program after this summer, Estey notes most of the team’s players will retain their eligibility for at least another two years.
Therefore, a key this season is keeping an eye on the big picture, and Estey said AC is doing pretty well at that task.
“We’re plugging along. It seems everyone is staying positive and staying into it and moving forward,” he said.
But AC wants to pick up as many wins as possible along the way.
“We’re talking, let’s be spoilers. Let’s spoil their season, and maybe we can improve ours,” Estey said.
On June 30, Montpelier took a 7-0 lead with seven runs, five earned in the first 2.1 innings off AC starter Will Wormer. Bruce Wright relieved and tossed 3.2 innings of scoreless relief as AC cut the deficit to 7-4, but Montpelier tacked on two earned insurance runs in the seventh off reliever Payson Williams.
AC scored three times in the fourth off on an error on a ball hit by Adam Whitcomb, walks to Patrick Messenger and Calvin Desforges, an RBI single by Wyatt Cameron, and walks to Devon Kimball and Dustin Whitcomb that forced in runs.
AC made it 7-4 in the fifth on a walk to Dylan Raymond, a wild pitch and a Messenger single, and tacked on its final run in the seventh on singles by Hunter O’Connor, Greg Whitney and Williams.
In Thursday’s nightcap, Montpelier’s Cameron Flinn tossed a three-hit shutout and struck out six in the visitors’ 6-0 victory. Chris Leach and Wright singled and Brian Foote doubled for the AC hits. George Bailey took the pitching loss, allowing six runs — three earned — on nine hits in five innings. Dustin Whitcomb and Cameron each tossed a scoreless relief inning.
In Saturday’s opener, Franklin prevailed, 1-0, despite O’Connor’s fine pitching performance. O’Connor tossed a two-hitter, walking just one and striking out nine. “Today, Hunter threw us a gem,” Estey said.
Franklin scored in the fourth. Leadoff hitter Jake Hakey singled and reached second base on an error on the play. The next batter bunted, and Hakey scored on a throwing error.
Franklin’s Austin Howard tossed a four-hitter, walking four and striking out four. Twice AC loaded the bases and could not score. In the second, Desforges and Cameron singled and Kimball walked, all with two out, but Howard struck out the next hitter. In the sixth, Adam Whitcomb and Williams walked with one out and Foote walked with two out, but a fly ball to center field ended the threat. Kimball and Williams had the other AC hits.
In the nightcap, AC fell behind, 5-0, rallied to tie the game with three runs in the seventh, but lost in eight innings, 7-5.
AC scored five unearned runs off starting pitcher Adam Whitcomb in four innings. In the first, Hakey walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch. In the fourth, a walk, two errors, Colby Brouillette’s RBI grounder and Mark Connor’s two-run single made it 5-0.
Estey pulled Whitcomb after that inning, and Williams tossed two innings of scoreless relief. AC shortstop Chris Wood turned a line drive into a fifth-inning double play to help out. Dustin Whitcomb then tossed a scoreless seventh inning to allow AC to rally.
AC scored twice in the bottom of the fourth. Dustin Whitcomb and Messenger singled, and Foote scored Whitcomb by legging out an infield hit. Liam Smith then plated Messenger with a groundout.
In the seventh off reliever Rich Walker, Wright led off by reaching on an error. Leach singled to move Wright to third, and Kimball’s infield hit scored Wright. Cameron singled to load the bases, and Walker walked Dustin Whitcomb to score Leach. That brought Hakey in to pitch, and he retired the next two hitters, but one low pitch got past his catcher, allowing Kimball to trot home with the tying run.
But Franklin rallied off Whitcomb in the eighth. Cam Caforia walked (and became the third leadoff walk to score vs. AC in the game), Hakey blooped a single, and a bunt moved them to second and third. A Howard sacrifice fly and a Caleb Laroche single plated the decisive runs, and then Hakey tossed a 1-2-3 inning to earn the pitching win.
AC, 9-2
On Tuesday, AC won at Stowe, 9-2, as Dustin Whitcomb earned the complete-game pitching win. He allowed 12 hits, but walked just two while striking out five.
On the attack, AC scored in every inning except the third and sixth. Kimball homered, walked twice and scored twice; Smith went three-for-four, scored three times and drove in four runs; Desforges reached base and scored three times; Cameron and O’Connor each singled and scored; and Leach and Adam Whitcomb singled and drove in runs. 

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