Tiger baseball puts chill on Commodores
VERGENNES — In a cold and toward the end rainy high school baseball game on Friday, visiting Middlebury got a near no-hitter from junior Wyatt Cameron to get past Vergennes, 6-3, in an event in which the spring elements played a role.
Not only did the cold and wet conditions factor directly, but also the teams had barely been outside gymnasiums and hockey rinks to practice tracking fly balls and bouncing grounders before last week’s opening games.
Still, the Tigers dealt with the conditions better than the Commodores, thanks in part to Cameron, who struck out 11, walked three, all in the seventh, and allowed just one hit, senior Will Wormer’s seventh-inning RBI single.
Cameron got stronger after allowing an unearned run in the first inning: He retired 15 straight batters from the second through sixth innings.
“I was getting a little looser, and my arm started to warm up along the way,” Cameron said. “It was still pretty cold, but my arm loosened up, really.”
Coach Charlie Messenger came to the mound in the seventh after Cameron walked the leadoff hitters, Jeffrey Stearns and Casey Kimball, and tossed a wild pitch and made a throwing error on a pickoff, all of which put the runners on first and third. They worked a double steal to make it 6-2, and then Wormer singled home Kimball.
Messenger said Cameron still felt good after the two walks, but had another issue.
“When I went out his arm wasn’t tired. It was getting real muddy out there, so when his plant foot was landing it was slipping,” Messenger said. “So he was not happy.”
Cameron said at that point he just wanted to nail down a win, especially with the Tigers coming off a one-win season a year ago and an opening loss the day before.
“I was just telling myself I had to throw strikes. I couldn’t let the game slip away, because they’re still a good-hitting ballclub,” Cameron said.
MIDDLEBURY JUNIOR SEAN Deering slips under a tag by Vergennes catcher Jeffrey Stearns and scores on an error while Tiger sophomore Devon Kearns, who had just scored the go-ahead run, looks on. MUHS won the game, 6-3, on Friday. Photo by Steve James
He got help from catcher Brian Foote, who caught Wormer trying to steal second on a close play, and then after a walk got the last out on a ground ball.
It was all about getting the W, Cameron said.
“I have a lot of confidence in this team this season, so I’m glad we got a win,” he said.
Cameron outdueled VUHS junior starter Jake Gonyeau, who went 4.1 creditable innings. Gonyeau allowed five runs, three earned, on three hits and three walks while striking out five. Ethan Bissonette tossed the final 2.3 innings, allowing one unearned run on two hits, striking out one batter, hitting another and walking none.
VUHS Coach Dwight Burkett praised Gonyeau’s effort.
“Gonyeau had a little bit of a slow start, but he picked it up, got back in it,” Burkett said. “He had a good outing.”
MUHS scored in the first when Hale Hescock walked, stole second, moved to third on a grounder, and came home on a Cameron’s sacrifice fly.
VUHS tied the score in the bottom of the inning with an unearned run. Cooper O’Brien reached second base on an infield error, got to third on an infield out, and trotted home on a Stearns sacrifice fly.
Shaky defense cost VUHS in the fourth. Devon Kearns led off with a bloop single, and then three straight infield errors allowed Kearns and Sean Deering to round the bases and make it 3-1.
The Tigers added two more runs in the fifth. Cameron and Foote singled to lead off, and Cameron scored on the front end of a double steal with courtesy runner Nick Clark. Skyeler Devlin’s single off Bissonette made it 5-1.
Hescock led off the Tiger sixth and reached second base on another VUHS miscue, moved up on a groundout, and scored on Cameron’s RBI grounder to make it 6-1.
Then as the rain and wind picked up in the seventh the Commodores made a run at Cameron and MUHS, but the rally came up short.
MIDDLEBURY’S NICK CLARK hustles down the line in the top of the fifth inning to score a run for the Tigers at VUHS Friday. Photo by Steve James
Burkett, whose team lost at Rice the day before, 8-1, despite decent pitching by Wormer, said the spring weather has been especially challenging for his inexperienced team, but that he expects improvement.
“It’s been a screwy spring. The weather stinks. It’s cold out. We’re young. We’ve got stuff to work on,” he said. “We’re going to be better. We’ll be around come the end of the season,”
Messenger, whose team lost at Essex, 10-2, on Thursday, despite two hits apiece by Deering and Kearns, had a similar, but happier message.
“We have some things to work on,” he said. “We’ve got some signals to work on. We’ve got some execution to work on. But, again, we’re not outside yet. Every time we get outside it’s a game. But I’m pleased. I’m happy for them.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]
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