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Mount Abe baseball thumps Milton to reach .500

BRISTOL — The teams now at the top of the Vermont Division II baseball standings might want to heed the words of legendary pitcher Satchel Paige — “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”
With Thursday’s 15-5, five-inning dismantling of visiting Milton, the Mount Abraham Union High School baseball team wrapped up a 3-0 week, picked up its fourth win in five outings, and evened its record at 4-4.
And the Eagles have been competitive in their losses, with two by one run and another by two runs; unsuccessful suicide squeeze bunts played pivotal roles in two of those setbacks.
EAGLE PITCHER EBEN Clifford hurls one to the plate during Mount Abe’s home game against Milton on Thursday. Clifford was on the winning side of a 15-5 final score.
Independent photo/Steve James
“Today we scored a lot of runs, obviously, but every game we’ve played has been a competitive game,” said Coach Jeff Stetson. “We battled Colchester well. We battled Vergennes well. Mount Mansfield was a 3-2 game.”
What’s been a constant for the Eagles is the pitching. Earlier in the week brothers Ryan and Nolan Whitcomb tossed gems in 4-2 and 3-1 wins over Missisquoi and BFA-Fairfax, respectively, for example.
“We’re getting really good pitching, and that’s what I thought would be one of our strengths in the beginning of the season,” Stetson said.  
THE THROW ARRIVES too late for the Milton shortstop as Eagle junior Wyatt Thompson is safe at second base early in Thursday’s game in Bristol.
Independent photo/Steve James
The Eagles also maintained their poise both overall after their 0-3 start, and within close games, Stetson said.
“We’ve hung in and stayed in. And the pitchers have thrown strikes and we’ve made enough plays defensively. In three games in a row now we’ve turned nice double plays,” Stetson said. “And kids are starting to believe a little bit in themselves. It’s turning the corner. I think we could still do some things better, obviously, but attitudes have been great, and everybody is working hard.”
With contributions from everyone in the lineup on Thursday, the Eagles took charge early vs. Milton (0-6). A double play crisply turned by shortstop Ethan Bissonette and second baseman Wyatt Thompson helped winning pitcher Eben Clifford coast through the first inning.
WINNING PITCHER EBEN Clifford also had a productive day on offense vs. Milton this past Thursday. Here he gets a hit against the Yellow Jackets pitcher Jacob LaWare early in the game in Bristol.
Independent photo/Steve James
But Milton pitcher Jacob LaWare did not receive the same level of support, as the Eagles parlayed six hits, three errors and two walks into a seven-run first inning.
Thompson beat out an infield single, and Clifford reached on an error that allowed Thompson to race to third. Thompson scored on a throwing error when Clifford stole second, and Clifford scored on Parker Hines ground-ball single. Colby Lathrop dropped a single into the outfield to score Hines, and Nolan Whitcomb walked. Silas Burgess singled to left, and an outfield error allowed Lathrop to score, making it 4-0 and putting runners on second and third.
Jackson Gepfert’s single down the third-base line, the hardest-hit ball of the inning, scored both runners, and after Max Breault reached on a fielder’s choice Thompson doubled him home for the final run.
MOUNT ABE’S COLBY Lathrop can’t quite outrun the ball and is out at second during the Eagles’ game against Milton on Thursday.
Independent photo/Steve James
The Eagles went right back to work in the second, scoring four times off reliever Matt Brault. Lathrop singled, Brault hit Whitcomb with a pitch, and Burgess legged out an infield hit. Gepfert picked up his third RBI with a walk, Bissonette drove in a run with a groundout, and Breault drilled an opposite-field triple down the right-field line to plate two more runners and make it 11-0.
Milton got to Clifford in the third. Brault, who had three hits overall, singled. Milton tallied a walk and an RBI single by Zachary Fantini, Ian Jennings drove in two runs with a triple off the right-field fence. Jennings scored on a two-out error to make it 11-4. Milton added a run in the fourth on a Brault single, an outfield error, and an Andrew Harvey RBI single, and it was 11-5.
The Eagles picked up four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Bissonette walked and Breault singled, and with two out Hines walked to load the bases. Lathrop singled to make it 12-5, and then Whitcomb lined a bases-clearing double into right center to make it 15-5 and gave chilly fans hope the game could end after five innings by the 10-run mercy rule.
A MOUNT ABE player beats out the throw to first to reach safely in the Eagles’ game against Milton on Thursday.
Independent photo/Steve James
Clifford obliged with a 1-2-3 fifth, with help from Thompson, who made an outstanding backhand grab of a Fantini’s line-drive bid for a leadoff hit. Clifford retired the next two batters on a fly ball and strikeout. He finished by allowing three earned runs in five innings on six hits and two walks, while striking out five.
Starting with rematch on the road with the Commodores on Monday, Stetson believes his Eagles can continue to win their fair share.
“I think we can be competitive from every game here on out. We’ll see what happens,” he said. “As they say today, I like the way we’re trending.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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