Commodore baseball tops rival Tigers, 4-2

VERGENNES — Defense proved to be the difference on Saturday in a well-pitched baseball game at Vergennes Union High School in which the host Commodores edged visiting Middlebury, 4-2.
Miscues by the Tigers allowed the Commodores to take an early 2-0 lead, and two more unearned runs in the fifth inning snapped a 2-2 tie.
The Tigers’ tying run in the fourth was also unearned, but the Commodores also later made three crucial defensive plays, two by shortstop Tucker Stearns and one by rightfielder Ira White.
In the fifth inning, Stearns ranged far to his left in the Tiger fifth to nab a Sean Deering grounder and throw him out with the go-ahead run in scoring position; in the sixth, Stearns raced toward the left field line and dove to catch leadoff hitter Jordy Stearns’ windblown pop fly; and in the seventh White charged in and left his feet to snare Hale Hescock’s bid for a leadoff hit.
VERGENNES’ AIDEN GARDNER beats out an infield hit as Middlebury first baseman Nick Carrara is pulled off the bag by a high throw. The Commodores won Saturday’s game against their county rivals by 4-2.
Independent photos / Steve James
VUHS Coach Dwight Burkett had seen visiting Rice beat up his Commodores a bit in a 9-1 loss two days before in their home opener, and he was happy to see them respond on Saturday with a solid all-around effort.
“That was awesome catch he (Stearns) made out there, and that was an awesome catch Ira White made out in right field,” Burkett said. “Those are the kinds of things that pick you up and put you back in the game. Kudos to the guys. They kept their heads in it and played good enough to win.”
Sophomore Jarret Muzzy earned the pitching win, going 6.2 innings, striking out nine, walking three, and allowing seven hits. He kept the Tigers off-balance by hitting the corners with his fastball early, according to Commodore catcher Jeff Stearns, and then mixing in his off-speed pitches as the game wore on.
“At the beginning he was throwing hard and hitting his spots well, that was the big thing. He was hitting outside when we wanted outside. He was getting it up when we wanted it up. And then we held off on the other stuff, like his changeup and curveball until a little later, which helped keep them off-balance, too,” Stearns said. “He showed up really well today.”
Muzzy outdueled Tiger senior ace Wyatt Cameron, who allowed seven hits (three to VUHS center field Aiden Gardner), walked none and whiffed nine in six innings.
“We were soft defensively,” said MUHS Coach Charlie Messenger said. “Wyatt pitched well.”
Unlike the Commodores, the Tigers had not yet seen live pitching, nor had they spent any time outdoors after their Thursday home game vs. Essex was canceled due to their unplayable field. Messenger said the difference showed.
“First time out. We haven’t scrimmaged. We haven’t seen live. We need to get better,” Messenger said. “That was the first time we’ve seen anything live other than batting practice. That’s the way it goes. It’s early spring. Hopefully things will be different up in Milton Tuesday. We’ll take it out on them, hopefully.”
VERGENNES PITCHER JARRET Muzzy throws a pitch during the Commodores’ 4-2 victory over Middlebury on Saturday. Muzzy pitched 6.2 innings for the win and was pulled with just one out to go and replaced by Barret Barrows, who earned a save.
Independent photo/Steve James
But Messenger didn’t want to take anything away from the Commodores, either.
“Vergennes, they’re a good ballclub,” he said. “They didn’t hurt themselves.”
The Tigers hurt themselves in the first inning. Cameron got two quick outs, and then induced two routine grounders that led to infield throwing errors. VUHS sophomore third baseman Barret Barrows made the Tigers pay by lining a two-run double that scored both Tucker and Jeff Stearns.
The Tigers got a run back in the third, when first baseman Nick Carrara led off by poking a single up the middle. Third basemen Spencer Cadoret walked, and after a strikeout Hescock and Devon Kearns followed with back-to-back infield hits to plate Carrara and leave the bases loaded with one out. Muzzy then struck out the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the order to limit the damage.
Carrara scored the tying run in the fourth. After he reached second base on a two-out infield error, Cadoret plunked an RBI single into center field. Cadoret stole second and Simon Fischer walked, but a grounder to Stearns at short ended the threat. After Cameron doubled in the fifth, that inning ended the same way.
“We just hit ground balls to the wrong guy, the shortstop, every time,” Messenger said.
The Commodores’ winning rally in the sixth started when Cooper O’Brien reached on a one-out infield hit. O’Brien came around to score on a throwing error as he tried to take two bases on a passed ball. Second baseman Robbie Bicknell then reached on an error, and he scored when Jeff Stearns was credited with a double when the Tiger outfield could not track down his long, towering fly ball in the sun and wind. To be fair, it might have been a homer if the fence was up.
The Tigers made a two-out run at VUHS in the seventh. Cameron dropped a double down the right-field line, and Aaron Larocque worked a walk. With Muzzy at his pitch limit, Burkett waved Barrows to the mound. Deering followed with an infield hit to load the bases, and Jordy Stearns worked the count to 3-2 before Barrows whiffed him a tough pitch down and away to earn the save.
Burkett said the win should give a young Commodore team a lift.  
“I think it’s going to be a confidence builder. I think it’s going to make them believe in themselves,” Burkett said. “It’s one thing to say you do (have confidence), but to go out there and prove it under fire is a whole different ballgame.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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