Little Leaguers join forces; county-wide all-stars fare well

ADDISON COUNTY — The effort to unite Little League Baseball play across Addison County continued during July’s all-star season, when three teams made up of players from around the county held their own against their Chittenden County counterparts.
The joint all-star teams — formed from players still technically under the Mount Abraham, Vergennes and Middlebury league umbrellas — followed up a regular season of countywide play at all Little League levels — Farm, Minors and Majors — among the leagues’ teams.
That season culminated on June 18, when Lincoln defeated Starksboro for the first-ever Majors Addison County Little League Baseball championship.
In July, wearing brand-new gold jerseys, Addison County 11-and-12-year-old, 9-10 and 10-11 all-star teams took on Chittenden teams, some of them also newly united.
The AC 11/12 team earned the No. 2 seed for the four-team double-elimination round with a 4-2 round robin record, but two upset losses to No. 3 Shelburne, sandwiched around a win over No. 4 Williston, ended its run.
Organizer and 11/12 team manager Tommie Thompson said the team surprised its opponents, easily could have prevailed, and impressed observers along the way.
“Everybody around the tournament couldn’t believe how competitive it was,” Thompson said. “Three or four teams could have won that thing. The Williston coach came up to me the last night and said, ‘I thought it was you guys.’”
The 9/10 team qualified for the double-elimination phase with a 1-3 record among four teams, and then lost to champion South Burlington. Thompson said only the South Burlington games weren’t close.
“They were competitive. South Burlington was just a whole other league from everybody, and those were the only games they weren’t competitive,” he said.
Thompson said the very existence of the 10-11 team showed the value of drawing all-stars from the Bristol, Vergennes and Middlebury areas.
A few years back, he said, Middlebury had stopped sending all-star teams to compete in the Burlington district tournament, and Vergennes had found it increasingly harder to compete. Middlebury and Bristol combined for all-star teams last year, and this summer Vergennes, in the late going, threw its hat in the united ring, too.
The result was dozens of kids trying out for 9-10 and 11-12 teams, and the unexpected addition of a 10-11 team — 10-11 teams are composed of players who do not make the other two teams, and play fewer games. Thompson said traditionally the individual town leagues have not fielded a 10-11 team because of lack of numbers.
The new gold uniforms were hastily ordered.
“They (Vergennes) said they were in. I said, ‘Let’s seize the moment here and get new colors. Let’s make us a team,’” Thompson said.
About 40 players ended up on one of the three teams, almost double 2015’s total of 23 on two teams.
“We had not anticipated a 10-11 team, and it was 40 kids, and oh my gosh, maybe we can do a third team here,” Thompson said. “The kids were like, oh, yeah, and a lot of smiling faces and all those competitive games.”
The 10-11 team played three games that could have gone either way, and finished 1-2.
“They were in it right until the last inning of the third game,” Thompson said.
Vergennes Area Little League president Carrie Barrows agreed players and parents from that area enjoyed the joint effort.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Barrows said. 
Without the merger, Thompson is not sure individual Addison County leagues could have hung in with the Chittenden County teams, who were also uniting. For example, all the Burlington leagues for the first time fielded one all-star team, while Shelburne, Charlotte and Hinesburg combined into one squad.
“Everybody is consolidating,” he said. “Not only did we need to do it for numbers and do it to reenergize Addison County baseball, but we needed to do it to stay competitive.”
Consolidation could go further, but for now the three county Little League organizations remain intact, although Thompson said the Mount Abe group essentially managed the all-star effort, with coaches drawn from each area.
Thompson said he and Barrows have talked about one countywide organization, but there have been no formal discussions among all parties.
Still, the events of the past two months could plant the seed, he said.
“I think we’re certainly moving in that direction, playing together as a league and crowning the first-ever Addison County champion, and then having three all-star teams,” he said. “Having 50 kids playing, how great was that?”
Those kids and their families also made a good impression in their tournaments over and above the quality of their play, Thompson said.
 “We got tons of favorable comments. The word that kept coming up, and it was an interesting word for me, was “classy.” In fact, they announced it at the end, ‘What a classy bunch of kids,’ over the loudspeaker when they were giving us our final pins,” he said. “The whole Addison effort got noticed for just being a great bunch of people.”
The members of the AC 9-10 team were Nolan Wilson, Elijah Jackson, Milo Rees, Owen Thomas, Eyon Tembreull, Parker Kayhart, Timothy Whitney, Carter Paquette, Jacob Kemp, Chance Denecker, Owen Frizzell, Ian Funke, Gus Hill and Jack Wallace. Tim Paquette and Tim Whitney coached the team, and Ben Wilson was the manager.
The members of the AC 10-11 team were Riley Disorda, Bradley Wells, Reese Paquette, Nate Muzzy, Tyler Kimball, Elijah Duprey, Spencer White, Peighton Paquette, Zak Hoisington, Willem Ringer, Abram Francis and Oakley Francis. Anthony Duprey, Heath Paquette and George Ringer coached the team.
The members of the AC 11-12 team were Eli Burgess, Cameron Sprigg, Barrett Barrows, Adam Mansfield, Carter Monks, Creed Stilwell, Tanner Harris, Joe Graziadei, Tucker Stearns, Ethan Thompson, Neil Guy and Norman Benoit. The team was coached by Dan Guy, Lincoln and Scott Mansfield and managed by Thompson. 

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