Eagles stave off Tiger baseball

MUHS JUNIOR ALEX Sperry dives into third base safely as a throw bounces past Eagle freshman Abe Ready during the teams’ Tuesday game at Mount Abraham. Independent photo/Steve James

BRISTOL — In a Tuesday matchup with Division II postseason implications, the Mount Abraham baseball team survived a wild seventh-inning rally by visiting Middlebury to prevail, 10-9. 

The Eagles snapped the Tigers’ six-game winning streak, improved to 9-6, and locked in at least one home playoff game; they were in sixth place as of Wednesday. A victory over Vergennes on Thursday coupled with losses by U-32 and Hartford could move the Eagles up to the No. 4 seed. 

The Tigers dropped to 7-8 and find themselves in a battle for the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds with Harwood (6-7) and Otter Valley (8-8). MUHS Coach Tim Paquette had hoped a seventh straight win and a little luck could have put his Tigers in the Eagles’ shoes.

“We wanted to be 9-7 and maybe get two home games,” Paquette said afterward, but not before praising his team for scoring seven runs in the top of the seventh to almost pull off a miracle comeback. 

The Tigers can clinch a first-round home game with a home win over Milton on Thursday, not a bad situation after a 1-7 start. 

The Eagles, like the Tigers, had a tough early schedule that included D-I teams. They opened at 1-3. 

But Mount Abe Coach Jason Barnard does regret the challenges early on.

“They played really well in the beginning of the year, and it really helped them to play the better competition,” he said. 

EAGLE FRESHMAN PITCHER Cameron Castillo delivers a pitch during his team’s victory over MUHS on Tuesday. Castillo went six strong innings.
Independent photo/Steve James

In the beginning of Tuesday’s game the Eagles roughed up Tiger starter Tucker Morter, who had put together a string of solid outings. Mount Abe scored three in the first inning and four in the second. Eventually Paquette summoned freshman Ryan Brouillard to the mound, and the Eagles settled for one run in the third and two in the fourth the rest of the way. 

Meanwhile, through six innings Eagle freshman ace Cam Castillo limited the Tigers to two runs, one earned, on three hits while striking out nine. 

Offensively for Mount Abe, Brody Barnard finished with two hits, scored twice and drove in a run; Abe Ready doubled, singled, scored twice, and drove in a run; Stefan Johnson had three hits and scored three runs; Aricin Griffin had a hit, scored a run and picked up an RBI; and Evan Corrigan and Castillo each had a hit and an RBI. 

“We hit the ball well, scored a lot of runs, timely hitting, key bunts. We got great pitching out of Cam Castillo,” Barnard said.

TIGER SECOND BASEMAN Gabe Velez successfully applies the tag on sliding Eagle Stefan Johnson during the teams’ Tuesday game at Mount Abraham.
Independent photo/Steve James

With Castillo’s pitch count rising and an eight-run lead after six innings, Barnard turned to Griffin to close out the game in the seventh. Griffin has a live arm, but has struggled at times with his control this spring. 

He walked a handful of batters and threw a wild pitch, and with one out and the score 10-5, Barnard waved in Tyler White from center field to finish the job.  

“He (Griffin) has been up and down a little bit this year. When he’s on he’s really good. When he’s off, he’s not throwing a lot of strikes,” Barnard said. “Maybe I left him in a little too long, but I wanted to have him try to work through some stuff, because we do need him for playoffs.”

Tim Whitney greeted White with a line single, scoring two runs to make it 10-7. White struck out the next batter, but walked Brouillard to load the bases for Ethan Sweet. Sweet ripped a line shot into right center, plating two more runs, and suddenly it was 10-9. But White got the final out on a fly ball to center field, and the Eagles and their fans breathed sighs of relief. 

MOUNT ABE SENIOR Jamison Huizenga drops down a bunt single during the Eagle baseball team’s 10-9 win over visiting MUHS on Tuesday.
Independent photo/Steve James

 For the Tigers, Alex Sperry finished with a hit, a walk and three runs; Cole Warren, a hit, a run and an RBI; and Whitney and Sweet each had a hit and the two RBIs in the seventh. 

Barnard said both the Addison County teams could be factors in the postseason. 

“The way I see it, the Division II playoffs are wide open this year. I think we can make some noise,” he said. “And Middlebury could make some noise, too. Hats off to those guys, because they were down, 10-1, and they never gave up.”

Author’s note: An earlier version of this story used incorrect first names for Abe Ready and Brody Barnard; Apologies for the mix-ups.

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