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Local nine puts away Montpelier, 14-2

MIDDLEBURY — The Addison County American Legion baseball team finally played a home game on Sunday — their first of the season. It paid off with a 14-2 victory over Montpelier that snapped a five-game skid that included a 10-1 loss at South Burlington three days before. 
AC, now 2-5, will have a chance to play again at home this weekend, when the local nine hosts Barre at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and then South Burlington for a doubleheader on Saturday at 11 a.m. Next up will be two games vs. Colchester, on the road on Sunday at noon and at home on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
AC Coach Cameron Curler said Sunday’s five-inning win, fueled by an 11-run fourth-inning, should give his team a lift. 
“We needed that game. It helped that they were playing their fourth game in three days, but a lot of teams are going to find themselves in that situation at some point during the summer, ourselves included,” he said.
JEFFREY STEARNS RAISES his arms to tell teammate Nolan Whitcomb he can score standing up during the Addison County American Legion baseball team’s 11-run fourth inning on Sunday. AC defeated Montpelier, 14-2.
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Whitaker
Curler was particularly happy that the team took to heart some of the points he and the coaching staff emphasized in a practice the day before. 
“The things that we talked about at practice on Saturday and the things that we realized we needed to do to score runs we did some of those things, being more aggressive on the basepaths, stealing more bases, putting more pressure on the other team, that sort of thing,” he said. “Guys that can run, we’ve got to start running.”
The stats backed him up. Curler said in AC’s first six games the team managed only five extra-base hits and four stolen bases. With help from Montpelier’s depleted pitching staff, AC on Sunday cranked five extra-base hits, two doubles apiece from Tucker Stearns and Dustin Whitcomb and a Wyatt Cameron triple. And the team stole six bases.
“(Without extra-base hits) that means it takes three hits to score a guy just about every time, and we’re a decent hitting team, but it’s not easy to get three hits in an inning,” Curler said on Monday. “Good teams score runs with less than that, and that’s what we’ve got to figure out how to do, and that’s what we did yesterday.”
Montpelier took a 1-0 lead in the first inning off AC starter Jarret Muzzy on a walk and Hayden Roberge’s two out double.  
AC responded in the bottom of the inning when the first two batters, Tucker Stearns and Jeffrey Stearns, reached base on a walk and infield single, respectively, and scored. Tucker Stearns reached second on a passed ball and came around on an error on Jeffrey Stearns’ hit, and two wild pitches by Montpelier starter Nick Beavin and a catcher’s throwing error on the second one plated the second run. 
AC added another run in the second when Beavin hit Nolan Whitcomb with a pitch and Tucker Stearns dropped a ball into right field that went for a double when the outfielder dove for it and missed, allowing the ball to get past him. In the game, Whitcomb scored three runs after also walking twice. 
Beavin walked and came around to score in the third to make it 3-2. He stole second, moved to third on a fly ball and trotted home on a ground ball to second base. Muzzy threw a scoreless fourth and finished allowing four hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
And when he left the mound the score was still 3-2 entering the bottom of the fourth. In that frame, AC’s first six batters reached and scored. Nolan Whitcomb walked, and brother Ryan Whitcomb reached on a perfect bunt single down the third-base line. Tucker Stearns walked to load the bases, and Jeffrey Stearns followed by hitting the ball back up the middle. It went off Beavin’s glove far enough to score Nolan Whitcomb, and Ryan Whitcomb followed him home when Beavin threw the ball away. 
CATCHER JEFFREY STEARNS makes contact during Addison County American Legion baseball’s home game on Sunday. AC snapped a skid by thumping visiting Montpelier, 14-2.
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Whitaker
Cameron followed with a booming triple to left center, and suddenly it was 7-2. 
It got worse for Montpelier. 
Cooper O’Brien walked, but was erased when Hale Hescock hit into a fielder’s choice off a reliever. Then singles by Nicholas Kaufmann, another walk to Nolan Whitcomb, a Ryan Whitcomb single, a Tucker Stearns double that plated two runs, a Jeffrey Stearns RBI single and a Dustin Whitcomb RBI double completed the carnage and made it 14-2. 
After the long inning Dustin Whitcomb threw a 1-2-3 fifth with three groundouts to finish the five-inning win. 
Things were not so rosy the previous Wednesday, when AC managed just six hits in the 10-1 loss at South Burlington. Casey Kimball and Dustin Whitcomb had two hits apiece, and Kimball singled in O’Brien, who reached on a single and advanced on a wild pitch, for the AC run in the fifth.
By that point SB had taken a 9-0 lead with three runs in the first, two in the second and four in the fourth off starter Nolan Whitcomb. Whitcomb allowed eight runs on nine hits and five walks and fanned four in four innings, while AC made five errors behind him. SB added a run in the fifth off O’Brien, while Ryan Whitcomb tossed a scoreless sixth. 
Despite the 2-5 record, Coach Curler sees reason for optimism. In a couple of losses one bad inning has allowed opponents to pull away, for example. 
“We’ve fallen prey to giving up the big inning in some of those games,” he said. “Sometimes the score at the end of the game hasn’t shown that we’ve had a chance to beat them because we’ve given up that big inning and let it get away from us a little bit.”
Curler also noted that the team will have more home games coming up, Hale Hescock is ready to join the mound rotation, former Otter Valley standout Payson Williams has joined the team to bolster the pitching staff, and that the team remains upbeat. 
“It’s a good group of kids,” he said. “They’ll be all right.”

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