By ANDY KIRKALDY
BARRE — Two close losses in this past weekend’s state championship tournament in Barre ended the Addison County American Legion baseball team’s hopes of repeating as Vermont champion.
AC entered the eight-team tournament as a co-favorite after winning the program’s first-ever Northern Division regular season title, but opened the tournament on Friday with a 5-4 upset at the hands of Southern Division No. 4 seed Bellows Falls.
AC eliminated Northern No. 3 Essex on Saturday, but Northern No. 2 Orleans-Essex-Caledonia (OEC) ousted AC on Sunday, 8-6.
AC had earned its regular season title with a 14-4 record, winning 11 straight after a 3-3 start to clinch the crown. Coach Mike Estey said he and the athletes were disappointed with the weekend, but still had a lot to be proud of this past summer, especially the league title.
“We had a super year. That’s another big accomplishment for Addison County baseball,” he said.
Estey said on Tuesday some observers told him over the weekend that AC might have had the best talent at the tournament, even if headed into Tuesday’s action Bellows Falls, OEC and Colchester were the three teams still standing.
“A lot of people thought we were the best team there. I also thought we were,” Estey said. “But they’re still playing.”
BELLOWS FALL, 5-4
On Friday, Bellows Falls (12-6 league) scored two unearned runs in the second and three earned runs in the fifth off losing pitcher Greg Lutton to take the win. Lutton went nine innings, allowing eight hits, hitting four batters and striking out six.
AC scored in the first on Chad Estey’s triple and Dean Butler’s single. BF took the lead in the second on two errors, a sacrifice bunt, and winning pitcher Justin Spaulding’s two-out, two-run single.
AC got a run back in the third on singles by Shawn Marcelle and Estey and grounders by Butler and Kyle Kayhart. BF struck for three in the fifth on a hit batter, a single, a sac bunt, a two-run single by Justin Beebe and a double by Zach Whitcomb.
AC got a run in the fifth on singles by Marcelle, Butler and Kayhart, and another in the seventh when Seth Delorme (three hits, two stolen bases) singled, stole second, and came around on a Corey Haight single and a wild pitch.
But despite 11 hits, AC could not take the lead, leaving 10 men on base. Spaulding went 8.2 innings, and Quentin Young got the final out for the save.
On Saturday, AC took a 7-1 lead behind Haight’s pitching and held on for the 8-6 win, with Cam Curler earning a save in 1.2 innings of relief. Haight tossed seven innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on six hits and six walks; he fanned nine. Jackson Downey-Teachout got one out in the eighth, but allowed a hit and two walks and two runs before Curler shut the door.
AC got a run in the first when Delorme singled, stole second, reached third on an error and on Curler’s sacrifice fly. AC added a pair in the third on singles by Jackson Alexander and Butler and a Lutton double.
A four-run sixth made it 7-1. Delorme and Curler doubled, and Alexander was hit by a pitch. Estey hit a RBI single, and Butler added a two-run double. In the seventh, Delorme singled, stole second, moved up on a grounder, and scored on a Ben Orvis squeeze bunt.
AC’s season ended on Sunday despite a solid effort on the mound from Orvis, who allowed two earned runs on nine hits in 6.2 innings, but left with AC behind, 5-4. OEC added three runs off Curler in the eighth, and AC’s two-run rally in the ninth off OEC ace Buddy Lamothe fell short.
OEC scored once in the first, but AC scored twice in the top of the fourth to take the lead. After Delorme singled and stole second, Curler singled him in and took second on the throw home. Alexander then singled Curler home.
Two errors contributed to OEC’s three-run fourth as AC fell behind, 4-1. AC made it 4-3 in the fifth on an error and singles by Kayhart and Delorme.
AC tied it at 4-4 in the seventh, when hits by Lutton, Delorme and Curler loaded the bases and brought Lamothe to the mound. A wild pitch scored Lutton, but a missed squeeze bunt helped OEC escape further damage.
OEC scored a run and knocked out Orvis in the bottom of the seventh, and then made it 8-4 in the eighth. In ninth, singles by Curler and Logan Williams and a walk to Alexander loaded the bases, and Lamothe hit Estey with a pitch and walked Butler to plate two runs before he worked out of further trouble to send AC home.