Spaulding tops VUHS baseball

VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School baseball team came into a Tuesday game having pulled out two dramatic wins late last week over top-eight Division II teams.

The D-III Commodores couldn’t make it three in a row against visiting Spaulding that afternoon, however: The 10-1 Crimson Tide knocked out 13 hits and scored in five out of seven innings to leave town with an 8-4 victory.

The Commodores dropped to 4-7, but are still in position for a D-III home playoff game thanks to their recent wins, the points they pick up for playing a strong schedule, and what Coach Dwight Burkett called a better frame of mind as well as improving defense after a slow start.

Last week’s walk-off win over 7-3 Enosburg, followed by Saturday’s one-run win at 7-6 Mount Abraham sparked by Tucker Stearns’s three-run, seventh-inning homer both provide evidence of and create increasing confidence, Burkett said.

“Things have definitely turned around in my opinion. I’m feeling much better about where the kids’ heads are at,” he said. “I think there’s a little more focus, and they got a little taste of how good it feels to win.”

The Commodores’ mission the rest of the way, Burkett said, is to maintain that edge and position in the D-III standings to give them a better shot when the postseason rolls around.

“We’ve got to win the games we can and keep that point index up,” he said. “We’ve been facing a lot of tough competition, and we’re going to go into the playoffs and start facing D-III teams. So I’m hoping to be ready for that and get a good enough seed to be seeded in the middle of the pack and do some damage from there.”

On Tuesday, the Commodores took a 1-0 first-inning lead after starting pitcher Barret Barrows wriggled out of a jam in the top of the inning. With two out in bottom of the inning, Jarret Muzzy walked, Stearns singled, and Muzzy scored on a Barrows single off Tide starter and winner Dylan Bachand.

But Barrows ran into trouble with the bottom of the Tide order in the visitors’ three-run second. A Trevor Arsenault double and singles by Dylan Estivill, Grady Chase, Cole McAllister and Danny Kiniry plated the runs. The damage could have been worse, but Stearns at first base threw out McAllister trying to reach third, and Barrows picked Kiniry off first to end the threat.

The Tide made it 4-1 in the third on a Kieran McNamara single, an outfield error, and Zack Wilson’s bloop double.

The Commodores got one run back in the bottom of the inning, when Muzzy drilled a Bachand offering over the left-field fence for a two-out homer.

Spaulding restored its three-run lead in the fourth on Estivill’s leadoff triple and McAllister’s sacrifice fly. The Tide made it 6-2 in the fifth, when Wilson singled, stole second, and came home on another Arsenault double.

Then the Commodores rallied in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, leadoff hitter Elijah Duprey singled. Next, Tim Ashley was safe on his sacrifice bunt attempt when the throw was wide, with Duprey, stealing on the pitch, wheeling around to third.

That play brought on reliever Hayden Kennedy, who tossed a wild pitch to score Duprey, with Ashley moving to second. Stearns singled to plate Ashley, and Barret followed with another hit. A double steal moved the tying runs into scoring position, but Kennedy got Jake Russell to drill a sharp groundball to short and end the threat.

Kennedy settled down from there, allowing only a leadoff single to Duprey in the seventh. The Tide added a pair of runs in the sixth on an Estivill single, a sac bunt, a McAllister RBI single followed by a stolen base, and Zach Stabell’s RBI hit.

Barrows went the distance, striking out five and walking none. Bachand allowed four hits, struck out five and walked two in 4.1 innings, while Kennedy allowed three hits, struck out one and walked none in 2.2 innings.

Burkett praised the Tide’s hitting and fielding, while also praising the Enosburg team the Commodores knocked off last week.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Spaulding or Enosburg in the finals in D-II. Enosburg is another really good team. That was a really good win,” Burkett said.

And he remains hopeful about his Commodores moving forward.

“We’ve just got to keep our eyes on the prize and keep improving. That’s what we stress, fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. It’s definitely coming around,” Burkett said.

“We’ll see. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

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