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Tiger baseball dodges Bullets with walk-off single

MIDDLEBURY — Senior catcher Brian Foote’s two-out, eighth-inning walk-off single on Thursday capped off a strong all-around effort by the Middlebury Union High School baseball team and gave the Tigers a 2-1 victory over visiting BFA-Fairfax.
Foote’s sharp ground ball between the Bullet shortstop and third baseman scored junior Aaron LaRocque from second base. LaRocque reached with one out — sophomore leadoff hitter Hale Hescock had reached on an error, but was caught stealing — and stole second base.
Bullet ace Michael Roy — who struck out six, walked two and allowed just five hits in 7.2 innings — fanned junior shortstop Wyatt Cameron for the second out before Foote’s clutch hit.
Foote said he was just trying to make contact in that situation.
“I was just looking to put the ball in play, give him (LaRocque) a chance. That’s about it. In the moment you’re thinking so many things it’s all rushing through your head. I just knew we needed to score a run, and I need to do something for the team,” Foote said.
The Tigers got a complete-game pitching effort from junior Jordy Stearns, who allowed three hits and an earned run in the first and the settled in, surrendering seven hits and one walk in all while striking out eight.
“Jordy did a great job on the mound,” Foote said. “He worked into it. He’s a curveball pitcher. He had to work into it, but eventually he was able to hit his spots.”
The Tigers played nearly flawlessly on defense, with one error and one passed ball when Foote let a swinging third strike get past him. But Foote also caught a runner stealing and executed a key rundown with sophomore third baseman Devon Kearns in the fourth inning, and Cameron made a half-dozen plays, including ranging to the right side of the infield to scoop Bullet first baseman Justis Orton’s roller and throw him out to end the visitors’ half of the eighth inning. 
“It was a stellar game defensively for both clubs,” said MUHS Coach Charlie Messenger. “Both teams made the plays they needed to make, which took us down to the eighth inning.”
In the top of the first inning it looked like it might be a long day for the Tigers and a short outing for Stearns. Bullet leadoff hitter Ben Keogh singled and stole second, and the next two batters both hit the ball hard, but right at Tiger outfielders. Roy then singled in Keogh, and Orton singled to put two runners on. A wild pitch moved Roy to third before a grounder to Cameron ended the threat.
Hescock walked in the Tiger first, but Bullet catcher Avery Russin threw him out, a painful play for MUHS when LaRocque followed with the first of his two singles.
Kearns created a run for MUHS in the second. He ripped a leadoff double to left, and took off for third when a pitch bounced away from Russin. Russin’s throw to third sailed wide, and Kearns scored easily as the ball stopped quickly in the soggy turf in left field.
The Tigers put runners on second and third with one out on senior Jack Waterman’s single and an error on a long Stearns fly ball to right, but Roy wriggled out of the jam with a strikeout and a grounder sandwiched around another walk to Hescock.
Threats were few, but the Bullets twice got two runners on base. In the fourth Stearns walked Orton and Tyler Pigeon singled. They were bunted up to second and third, and Fairfax tried a suicide squeeze. But the Silas Biggie fanned on the bunt, and Foote ran the runner back to third before feeding Kearns for the tag. Stearns then fanned the batter to end the inning.
With two outs in the seventh Trevor Goudette singled and Keogh reached when he grounded to first and Stearns didn’t cover the bag. Hescock did well to get over to take senior first baseman Skyeler Devlin’s throw, but couldn’t get the footwork right to retire the batter.
Cameron took care of the two-out threat by snaring Orton’s roller, however, and then LaRocque and Foote teamed up in the bottom of the inning to trigger a celebration in what was the Tigers’ long-delayed home opener and only the second time they had been on their home field because of the uncooperative spring weather.
“It could have gone either way on one pitch,” Messenger said. “Fortunately it went these kids’ way. They deserve it.”
To put that celebration in perspective, the Tigers won one game a year ago, five games two years ago, and none in 2015.
This is Foote’s third year, and he sees a new attitude that he credits for the team’s better performance.
“It’s an awesome change to be over .500. I believe in this team a lot,” he said. “Last year we went into a game, and we didn’t want to get crushed. This year we’re going in thinking we have a chance in every one.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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