Sports

VUHS edges Eagle nine in 8

EAGLE SENIOR CHANCE Denecker is not making a fashion statement: Strong gusts of wind kept blowing his hat off as he delivered pitches during a game at VUHS last May, and this was his answer to the problem. Independent photo/Steve James

VERGENNES — On a Tuesday afternoon not fit for man nor beast, never mind baseball, an exciting game of the latter nevertheless broke out at Vergennes Union High School, when the host Commodores needed eight innings to get past rival Mount Abraham, 11-10.

Minutes before game time the sun shone, and the temperature stood around 70 degrees. Seemingly instantly, the mercury dropped 20 degrees. Then winds gusting up to 40 mph or more forced fans to huddle under blankets and put on winter parkas, players to hold onto their hats, and umpires to often halt play to let swirling infield dust settle.  

Meanwhile, the Commodores cruised to a 9-2 lead after four innings, but saw the Eagles — who had won an 11-10, 10-inning home game under better weather conditions three days earlier — rally for four runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings to take a 10-9 lead. 

COMMODORE ZEKE DUBOIS reaches for the base as Eagle first baseman Aricin Griffin checks to see if he has a play on this pickoff attempt during Tuesday’s baseball game at VUHS.
Independent photo/Steve James

But the Commodores, who have been playing better baseball recently, tied the game in the bottom of the seventh and then walked off with the win in the bottom of the eighth, when Elijah Duprey walked, moved to third on an Eyon Tembreull single, and then came home on a Gabe Scribner base hit.

VUHS won for the fourth time in six outings and improved to 5-7. Coach Andy O’Brien said his team is playing with more confidence, especially at the plate and often in crunch time. 

“They’re figuring out we have to produce more runs. They’ve been coming up clutch,” he said. “They’re figuring it out, and it’s been fun to see.”

EAGLE GUS HILL dives safely into second base as Commodore shortstop Zeke Dubois stretches for the throw during Tuesday’s baseball game in Vergennes.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Commodores are also coming together to support injured senior teammate Parker Kayhart, who was hurt a week before when he took an accidental knee to the head while stealing a base. Kayhart is recovering well and attended Tuesday’s game, but is unlikely to play again this season. 

“They’re fighting in the games for him,” O’Brien said. “It’s really nice to see them rally behind him.”

Mount Abe Coach Jason Barnard praised a gritty effort by senior pitcher Chance Denecker, who settled down after being hit hard through the first three innings and went the distance, in part because two other Eagle pitchers had combined to throw more than 200 pitches against Enosburg in Mount Abe’s extra-inning victory on Saturday. Denecker allowed 12 hits, walked four and struck out eight as the Eagles dropped to 2-10. 

VUHS SENIOR ELIJAH Duprey is safe at home on this play. He came around from second base as the second runner to score on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Eagles struck first, scoring once off VUHS starter Peyton Paquette in the opening inning. Denecker walked, stole second, and came home on a Tanner Castillo single.

The Commodores answered with three runs in their at-bat. Tyler Kimball walked, Duprey blooped a single into right field, and Tembreull doubled in the first run. A wild pitch and a Scribner RBI single made it 3-1. 

EAGLE COLT BAGNULO, squaring to bunt on the play, ducks away from a pitch that rode in high and inside during Tuesday’s baseball game in Vergennes.
Independent photo/Steve James

In the third inning, Duprey boomed a shot over the left-field fence to score Zeke Dubois, who had reached on an error, and Kimball, who had singled, and it was 7-1. Mount Abe got a run back in the third, when Evan Corrigan walked and Castillo doubled  him home.

The Commodores made it 9-2 in the fourth by combining a perfect suicide squeeze bunt with excellent baserunning. Kimball singled and Duprey doubled to put runners on second and third, and Scribner bunted with both runners going. Scribner was out at first, with Kimball scoring easily. Duprey never stopped running and beat the throw back to the plate. 

ONE OF MANY blasts of wind during Tuesday’s baseball game at VUHS knocks the cap off Commodore pitcher Peyton Paquette, and not for the only time.
Independent photo/Steve James

But Denecker held the fort until the seventh and the Eagles began to make noise. They scored four times in the fifth; Corrigan singled, and Denecker doubled off the center-field fence to score him. A Castillo double, a Gus Hill single, a Caleb Russell fly ball to advance the runner, and an error made it 9-6, with Scribner relieving mid-inning. Paquette was charged with five runs on six hits overall. 

The Eagles kept hitting in the sixth, knocking out Scribner with one out and scoring four more times. Jameson Huizenga singled, and Corrigan reached on a bunt to set the table. Denecker singled in one run, Aricin Griffin doubled in two to tie the game, and Hill doubled in Griffin to make it 10-9, Eagles. Tembreull relieved and got the final out and eventually earned the win with 2.1 innings of scoreless work.

EAGLE GUS HILL, front, and a teammate preventatively grab their hats during one of the many strong gusts of wind during Tuesday’s baseball game in Vergennes.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Commodores answered in the seventh with a double from DeBlois and an RBI single from Nate Muzzy to force extra innings. And then they earned the win in the eighth on the walk to Duprey, and the Tembreull and Scribner singles. 

Then the grateful fans and umpires headed to warm cars and homes. 

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