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Vergennes baseball reaches D3 semifinals

VERGENNES — As Vergennes Union High School Baseball Coach Dwight Burkett said after watching his host No. 3 Commodores dispatch No. 6 Oxbow, 6-3, in a Saturday Division III quarterfinal, two down and two to go.
That victory followed a Wednesday first-round game in which the Commodores coasted past No. 14 Richford, 10-0, also at home.
Now the Commodores will have to hit the road: They are set to visit No. 2 Green Mountain (14-2) for 4:30 p.m. semifinal on Tuesday, with a date in the D-III final at the University of Vermont, probably on Saturday, at stake.
Burkett said he likes the 13-5 Commodores’ chances of advancing. 
“I have a lot of confidence in these guys,” he said. “This is a good bunch of guys.”
So does Saturday’s winning pitcher, sophomore Tucker Stearns, who survived a rocky seventh inning to throw a complete-game seven-hitter, walking two and striking out 10.
Stearns cited as evidence they can continue to succeed the Commodores’ 10-hit attack against Oxbow’s hard-throwing Jace Page, who walked four and struck out three in six innings.
 “That’s probably the best pitcher we’ll face, and we hit him pretty good. All his stuff was good. I’d say we’re pretty confident now,” Stearns said.
The Commodores will start sophomore Jarret Muzzy on Tuesday, and all Muzzy has done is toss complete-game shutouts in his past two outings, both against Richford.
Burkett praised both Stearns and Muzzy on Saturday.
“Our pitching has been really good this year. It’s a nice feeling to know you’ve got that trust and dependability out there,” he said.
On Wednesday Muzzy tossed a one-hitter, walking none and fanning 10. Offensively, Muzzy, Tucker Stearns and junior catcher Jeffrey Stearns each had multiple hits to spark the attack as the postseason opened.
On Saturday, the Commodores jumped on Oxbow’s Page early, taking advantage of his wildness to take a 3-0 first-inning lead. Muzzy reached on a one-out error, and after Page walked Tucker Stearns, he tossed a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third. Page then walked Jeffrey Stearns intentionally, loading the bases. Another wild pitch scored Muzzy, and with two outs both Barret Barrows and Robbie Bicknell laced RBI singles to score two more runs.
VUHS added two more runs in the third to make it 5-0. Tucker Stearns walked, and with one out Page hit Aiden Gardner with a pitch. Barrows singled in Stearns, and Gardner came home a batter later when the Oxbow catcher threw the ball away trying to nail him at third base as he advanced on a short passed ball.
Meanwhile, Tucker Stearns was mowing down batters, allowing only two hits and a walk through five innings. He struck out the side in the forth and fanned two hitters in the fifth, with a sharp curve ball especially effective.
“I had a lot of confidence in it. It hasn’t been very good lately, but I came out today and definitely showed it,” he said.
VUHS added its final run in the sixth. Jeffrey Stearns walked, and courtesy runner Jeremiah Moulton moved up on a Gardner single and scored on Barrows’ third straight RBI hit.
Oxbow got on the board in the sixth. Page led off with a double, and Seth Carson singled. Oxbow went for a double steal, and Page scored, but VUHS got the out when Jeffrey Stearns nailed Carson at second. That out proved to be big when two more Oxbow hitters singled, but two more Tucker Stearns strikeouts ended the threat.
Oxbow made another run at VUHS in the seventh. A walk and Cooper Simmons’ pinch-hit double put two runners on with one out and brought up Page, the top of the Oxbow order. Stearns hit Page with a pitch, and an infield error made it 6-2 and left the bases loaded. Hunter Locke’s fly ball scored a run to make it 6-3 and brought the tying run to the plate with two outs and Stearns tiring. But he got the next batter, Jackson Schramm, to pop up in foul ground to his brother and end the game.
Burkett said he was ready to call for Muzzy, but believed Stearns would get one more batter.
Just as he believes his team will continue to rise to the occasion.
“We’ve got to have guys stepping up, and we’re doing it,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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