Legion stays alive in race for playoff

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County American Legion baseball team rallied for a crucial victory in the final game of its four-game weekend homestand on Sunday, helping preserve the local nine’s Northern Division playoff hopes.
In the second half of Sunday’s doubleheader at the Middlebury College field, AC spotted the Colchester Cannons three first-inning runs, but came back to prevail, 7-4.
In the opener, the Cannons scored 10 runs in the final two innings to snap a 5-5 tie and take a 15-6 victory.
In Saturday’s doubleheader vs. visiting Montpelier, AC earned a 5-4 victory in the opener, but Montpelier roughed up AC’s pitching staff and got strong pitching to coast in the second game, 10-1.
AC had hoped to make more hay with the four home games, especially with eight of their final 10 Northern Division games on the road. But the split left them still in contention with a 4-7 mark.
Coach Mike Estey after the Sunday twin bill said he still likes his team’s chances. He said AC is playing hard and has the ability to compete with anyone, especially if the team plays like it did in dealing Colchester the second-game loss.
“We’ve got a talented bunch of kids here. They’ve got some speed, and they hit the ball. And they’re starting to make plays, and a lot of chemistry is starting to go on,” Estey said. “It’s a great, fun bunch to be around. But we’ve got to do all the little things, and we did the second game. We pitched well, we fielded the ball well, and we got some timely hitting.”
AC, 7-4
Wyatt Cameron’s pitching effort keyed Sunday’s weekend finale. The Cannons scored three runs, one earned, in the first on an error, a walk, and singles by Donovan Montgomery and Eben Provost; Provost’s drove in a pair and capped the rally.
But after that Cameron (six innings, one earned run, three hits, five walks on a tight strike zone, and four strikeouts) shut Colchester down as AC rallied off a pair of Cannon hurlers.
In the second AC tied the game with three runs off losing pitcher Tyler Daniels. Daniels plunked leadoff hitter George Bailey, and singles by Hale Hescock and Hunter O’Connor produced the first run. Nic Kauffman walked to load the bases, and Hescock scored on a Chris Wood groundout, with O’Connor trotting home soon afterward on a passed ball.
Four singles off Daniels scored two more runs in the third and gave AC a 5-3 lead. Devin Kimball and Bailey set the table, and Cooper O’Brien and O’Connor drove them in before Lucas McClanahan relieved Daniels and retired the side.
AC added single runs in the fourth of McClanahan, when Cameron doubled and scored on an infield error, and the sixth off reliever Tom Vesosky, when Jeffrey Stearns drew a walk, Dustin Whitcomb singled, and Hescock was hit by a pitch to load the bases before O’Connor drove in his third run of the game with an infield hit to make it 7-3. 
Colchester threatened off Wood in the seventh when Wood walked leadoff hitter Chase Carey on a close 3-2 pitch and Montgomery followed with a single. After a fly-ball out, a Provost single off the glove of a diving Cameron at shortstop scored Carey, but Cameron got the ball back in the outfield and nailed Montgomery at third base for the second out. A single brought the tying run to the plate, but Wood caught the batter looking with a breaking ball to nail down the win.
Estey praised his pitchers, starting with Cameron, who told his coach he started to feel comfortable in getting the final out in the first.
“What a nice job he did. Thirty-four pitches in the first inning, and then he fought through six,” Estey said. “And then Chris came in and did an awesome job.”
Estey also noted O’Connor’s strong defense in center field, not to mention the key at-bats, in the pivotal rally. 
“Hunter had three big hits,” Estey said. “It was a nice team win.”
As one AC parent put it, Sunday’s first game was five innings of good baseball for AC, and two innings of not-so-good baseball, as three AC relievers combined to walk four batters, hit three batters and allow seven hits, three for extra bases, in the sixth and seventh, when Colchester scored four and six runs, respectively.
Until then O’Connor had not been efficient on the mound, but kept AC in the game, walking five, striking out four and allowing five runs, four earned, through five innings of a 5-5 game. Meanwhile, AC scored five earned runs on nine hits off Cannon starter and winner Brody Stannard.
In the first Wood singled, move up on a grounder and scored on a Stearns single. In the third Whitcomb singled and scored on a Devin Kimball double. AC added another run in the third when Wood singled in Bailey, who had reached on a fielder’s choice after Hescock walked.
AC then scored twice in the fifth to knot the score at 5-5. Cameron singled and Stearns doubles, and Cameron scored on Adam Whitcomb’s groundout before Stearns came home on a wild pitch. After the wheels came off, AC added a final run in the seventh when Stearns walked, and courtesy runner Tucker Stearns moved up on two wild pitches before trotting home on an Adam Whitcomb sacrifice fly.
AC, 5-4
In Saturday’s opener Adam Whitcomb earned the win and Bailey earned a one-batter save with the tying and go-ahead runs on base as AC edged Montpelier, 5-4. Bailey induced a fly ball to right field to end the threat. Whitcomb allowed four runs, two earned, on eight hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Montpelier took a 3-0 lead with two runs in the second, with a Cameron Flinn single and Zach Campbell double and a key miscue figuring in the rally, and one in the third, on an error followed by singles from Carter Pelzel and Ryan Semprebon.
AC’S CHRIS WOOD lays down a bunt in the third inning of the Legion’s game vs. Montpelier on Saturday. The bunt advanced an AC runner, who eventually scored.
Independent photo/John S. McCright
AC tied the game with three runs in the third off losing pitcher Jake O’Brien. Pat Messenger singled to start things off, moved to third on a wild pitch and a Wood bunt, and scored on a Dustin Whitcomb sacrifice fly. Cameron then singled, Stearns reached on an error, and Devon Kimball singled them both home.
Two runs more in the fifth proved to be enough for the win. Wood and Cameron singled to set the table, and Stearns and Kimball singled them home.
Montpelier got a run back in the sixth on singles by Semprebon and Kyle Derosia and two wild pitches, and then AC hung on in the seventh. The leadoff hitter singled, but was later picked off for the second out. But a walk, a Pelzel single and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with two out before Bailey slammed the door.
Bailey was less fortunate as a starter in Saturday’s second game, when Montpelier reached him for one run in the first and five in the second. Four relievers followed, with Wood and Hescock probably the most effective.
Chase Reagan (three hits) and Pelzel (two) led the attack, while Semprebon (RBI triple) and Flinn (RBI double) also contributed. Flinn earned the pitching win, allowing seven hits and one run. That came in the fourth on singles by Cameron, Stearns and Kimball.

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