Sports

Mt. Abe baseball looks to make noise in D-II

THE EAGLE BASEBALL dugout emptied on Saturday to greet freshman Cameron Castillo (No. 15, center), after he launched a second-inning homer to give Mount Abe the lead over visiting Milton. Independent photo/Steve James

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School baseball team just might be ready to make a move up in the Division II standings. 

The Eagles split two recent outings to stand at 4-4, and one loss was to D-II’s second-place team Missisquoi in a close game. 

After the May 9 setback to Missisquoi,  the Eagles breezed vs. Milton on Saturday, 9-2, and then led in the fourth inning vs. Enosburg on Tuesday, 6-4, when bad weather forced the game to be suspended. Plans call for the rest of the game to be played on Friday. 

Time will tell, but the Eagles’ record might be misleading. As well as the tough loss to Missisquoi, Mount Abe’s other setbacks have come to a seven-win Otter Valley club on the road and against two strong D-I outfits, Champlain Valley and Rutland. 

EAGLE FRESHMAN STEFAN Johnson earned the pitching win vs. visiting Milton on Saturday, tossing seven innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits while striking out eight.
Independent photo/Steve James

Coach Jason Barnard said the Eagles were competitive in those D-I games, a 2-1 loss vs. Rutland and a more one-sided result vs. CVU, in which the D-I’s first-place team led by one run through five innings before pulling away late.

“These guys can hang with anybody,” Barnard said of his team. 

Saturday’s game in Bristol showcased the Eagles’ positives. In their six at-bats off two Milton pitchers, they knocked out eight hits, including freshman Cameron Castillo’s homer, junior Aricin Griffin’s triple, and freshman Abe Ready’s double. They also drew four walks as they were patient at the plate. 

“From the bottom to the top we have a very deep lineup. We work the count. We have a lot of quality at-bats,” Barnard said. “We’ve got two guys in the middle, Abe Ready and Cam Castillo, who hit the ball hard, and we try to set the table for those buys and put some runs on the board,”

Meanwhile, freshman starting pitcher Stefan Johnson allowed one earned run on four hits in 6.1 innings, striking out eight. Castillo is the ace, but Barnard said Johnson has emerged to give the Eagles a strong top of the rotation.

“He was going to be one of our swing guys, going back and forth between JV and varsity, and he came up and claimed the number two spot in the rotation, and he’s never looked back,” Barnard said. “He pitched dynamite today.”

MOUNT ABE FRESHMAN Cameron Castillo lines a second-inning homer over the left-field fence to give his team the early lead on Saturday over visiting Milton.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Eagles committed two errors vs. Milton, but also made sparkling plays, most notably sophomore shortstop Even Corrigan’s running, leaping grab of Yellowjacket Gavin Murray’s liner up the middle in  the second inning. Johnson also helped himself in the sixth by spearing Davis Cederholm’s one-hop bullet up the middle to start a double play in the sixth, with Corrigan making the relay. 

Barnard said the Eagles don’t get down on themselves, even during rare lapses.

“There were a couple little errors. You’ll have that with high school baseball,” he said. “But the one thing that I really like about this group is that if they make a mistake, the pick each other up in the dugout, and they don’t let it get to them. They move on. Short memory. They bounce back and get right after it.”

Castillo’s homer was a line shot over the left-field fence. It led off the second inning and was the game’s first run, and the Eagles added two more that inning. Griffin followed with a standup triple that two-hopped the fence in right center. He scored on a Corrigan ground ball, with Corrigan reaching on an error on the play. Johnson bunted him to second, and Corrigan came around to make it 3-0 when freshman catcher Clark Crary grounded a single up the middle. 

MOUNT ABE JUNIOR Evan Corrigan steals second base easily on Saturday during the Eagle baseball’s team’s 9-2 victory over visiting Milton.
Independent photo/Steve James

Johnson got into a jam in the third with a walk and a two-out infield hit, followed by a wild pitch to put the runners in scoring position. But he got Milton No. 3 hitter Cederholm to loft a routine fly ball to end the threat. 

Mount Abe then added two runs in the bottom of the inning. Ready and Castillo both singled, and they moved up to second and third on a Griffin ground out. With two out, both scored on a Corrigan single. 

The Eagles made it 6-0 in the fourth. Crary led off with an infield single that ricocheted off losing pitcher Aidan Greenfield, and reached second on an error on the play. He moved to third on junior Connor Peck’s infield hit and scored on a wild pitch. 

The Eagles tacked on two more runs in the fifth off reliever Kenyon Burke. Johnson, Peck and Crary walked, and Burke hit junior Riley Coffey with a pitch to force in a run. An errant pickoff throw allowed the second run to score. In the sixth, the Eagles made it 9-0 when Ready doubled, moved up on a wild pitch and trotted home on a Castillo sacrifice fly. 

EAGLE JUNIOR TYLER White slides in safely with a stolen base against Milton on Saturday as the throw sails high.
Independent photo/Steve James

Milton broke through for its two runs in the ninth. Logan Grimes reached on an error, and with one out, Johnson walked Murray. Junior Gavin Conrad then came to the mound to get the final two outs, but was greeted by a single that loaded the bases. With two outs, Colin Eaton singled in Grimes and Murray. The game ended when Greenfield followed with an infield hit, and Aricin, the first baseman, easily threw out the runner unwisely trying to score from second base on the play. 

T-BIRDS, 5-3

On May 9, visiting Missisquoi, now 7-1, picked up a 5-3 victory over the Eagles. The T-Birds scored twice in the seventh to snap a 3-3 tie and make a complete-game pitching winner of Parker Hakey, who allowed nine hits and two walks while striking out five. Hakey also had a hit and scored three of the T-Bird runs, while Gavin Nichols had three hits and an RBI. 

Castillo went six innings for the Eagles, allowing three runs, two earned, striking out five. Leading the Mount Abe attack were Griffin (three hits), Ready (single and double), and Barnard (two hits, two RBIs).

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