BRISTOL — For five-and-a-half innings on Saturday, the host Mount Abraham and Middlebury union high school baseball teams battled on even terms in a crisp game that stood at 3-3.
Then, in the sixth, things started going wrong for a Tiger team that had been playing well enough to win three straight road games and enter the day at 3-1.
When the sixth-inning dust settled, the Eagles had parlayed six errors and five hits off junior, losing pitcher Tyler Provencher — including two doubles by senior Tommy Nelson — into eight runs and an 11-3 win.
“They scored eight runs on breakdowns that we haven’t had all year,” said MUHS Coach Doc Seubert. “So it’s the nature of the beast. Tyler got a little tired. They made some good contact in critical spots, and we didn’t make the plays we needed to make.”
Eagle coach Jeff Stetson, whose team improved to 3-1, said until then Provencher and sophomore winning pitcher Sawyer Kamman had thrown well.
“I thought the starting pitchers threw a lot of strikes and kept kids off-balance enough, and kids were making plays ... I thought heading into the sixth at 3-3 was a pretty appropriate score,” Stetson said. “Then, in the sixth, we were able to get a few hits and a few breaks.”
The Tigers scored a run in the first inning. Kamman hit senior first baseman Pat Foley with a pitch. Junior Peter Lindholm pinch-ran for Foley, reached second base on a walk to senior second baseman Marshall Hastings, reached third on a pitch in the dirt, and scored on junior left fielder David Burt’s grounder.
The Eagles scored three times in the bottom of the inning. Senior Ian Campbell singled and reached third on an errant pick-off throw. Nelson walked and stole second, and both runners scored on Kamman’s single. Junior Cody Alexander drilled a double to deep left to score Kamman.
Provencher settled down and allowed only two more baserunners until the sixth. He finished by allowing nine hits and three walks in 5.2 innings, striking out two and allowing four earned runs.
The Tigers picked up runs in the second and third innings. In the second, sophomore third baseman Josh Stearns singled to lead off, and senior outfielder Connor Kelley’s double put runners on second and third. Sophomore center fielder Aaron Smith’s infield hit scored Stearns, and Smith stole second to put runners on second and third with none out. But Kamman then retired the top of the Tiger order to limit the damage.
In the third, Burt singled, moved to third on an error, and scored on Kelley’s squeeze bunt. The Tigers hit line drives in the fourth and fifth and had nothing to show for it. Most painful was the fourth, when Smith lined out to center, Provencher reached on an infield hit, and Foley hit a rocket up the middle that somehow Kamman snagged and then doubled Provencher off first.
“We hit the ball at them, hit it pretty hard, and only got three runs to show for it,” Seubert said.
Between them, Kamman (six innings, six hits, two walks) and Provencher set down 13 straight batters before the bottom of the sixth. Nelson snapped that streak with a leadoff double and scored the go-ahead run when the Tigers committed two errors on a Campbell ground ball. Campbell reaching second on the play, and Kamman bunted Campbell to third.
Alexander, who had lined deep to center as well as doubled, was next, but even with first base open the Tigers elected to pitch to him. He ripped the first pitch for a run-scoring single, and it was 3-1.
Then, as Stetson put it, the floodgates opened. Two more singles, three more errors and Nelson’s second double ended Provencher’s day, and Burt got the final out.
“We played well today for six innings,” Seubert said.
Seubert believes the Tigers will bounce back.
“They’ve got a tremendous attitude,” he said. “They’ll get over this.”
Senior Erin Cassels-Brown tossed the final inning for the Eagles. Stetson said he is one of just three healthy pitchers for the Eagles after senior Tommy Shahan recently cut his pitching hand, although Stetson hopes Shahan can return in the next week or two.
Nelson is the ace, and Kamman has shown well in his first varsity year, Stetson said. The only major problem would come if more rainouts stack up too many games in a row.
“We’re a little thin on pitching, but the pitchers we have seem to throw strikes. If we don’t get too backed up I think we’re going to be fine,” he said.
Overall, Stetson is pleased with the Eagles’ start.
“They’re working hard. They seem to support each other well,” he said.
“I think we’re doing really good,” he said. “We’ve played some tough opponents the last couple days, and the chemistry is coming together well.”
‘Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.