VERGENNES — In 2007, the Vergennes Union High School baseball team defeated both Otter Valley and Mount Abraham on the way to the Division II title.
This spring, the Commodores are hoping history will repeat itself.
In a Friday quarterfinal, No. 2 VUHS hung on for a 3-2 win over the No. 10 Eagles that ended when Mount Abe stranded the go-ahead runs in scoring position.
And next up for the 13-5 Commodores are the No. 6 Otters, also 13-5, in a Tuesday semifinal in Vergennes. The Otters knocked off No. 3 Lamoille on Friday, 8-3. The University of Vermont will host the final at a time to be announced once the semifinal round is complete: No. 13 Missisquoi is set to visit No. 8 Fair Haven on Tuesday.
But first VUHS had to get past its familiar county rival, never an easy task, especially given the two seventh-inning miscues — Friday’s only Commodore errors — that almost helped the Eagles rally.
“It was a typical Vergennes-Mount Abraham game right there. It’s never over until it’s over, like Yogi says,” said Commodore coach George Ringer. “But we held our ground. I feel very lucky right now to have that win. I think we played pretty well that whole game except for that last inning.”
Eagle Coach Jeff Stetson saw his 8-10 team make two crucial fourth-inning errors to surrender a 1-0 lead, but respond by turning a key double play to help limit the damage.
“The guys played great ... When they scored a couple runs to go ahead, we could have let the wheels come off. We came right back and got a double play and got out of it. There was good defense on both sides today,” Stetson said. “It was good baseball. Somebody gets to win, and somebody gets to go home.”
VUHS senior shortstop Collin Curler, who scored one run and doubled home another, said the Commodores believe the Eagles are as good as anyone in the tournament.
“I thought this was a big win for us,” he said. “Mount Abe always gives us good games, and I feel like that might give us a little boost and we might be closer to the driver’s seat now.”
The game offered a pitchers’ duel between VUHS junior Devin Hayes (six hits, two walks, four strikeouts, one earned run) and Eagle sophomore Sawyer Kamman (seven hits, two walks, four Ks, one earned run.)
Both walks Hayes issued came in the first, but he escaped trouble with a pickoff. The Eagles flashed leather in the first, as second baseman Jared Danyow and shortstop B.J. Haskins turned a double play.
The Eagles drew first blood in the third inning. Hayes hit Haskins and Erin Cassels-Brown bunted him to second. Haskins moved to third on the first of center fielder Ian Shaw’s three hits, and Ian Campbell’s two-strike squeeze bunt scored him.
One bad play cost the Eagles in the fourth. Curler and Hayes singled, and catcher Charlie Stapleford beat out a bunt to load the bases with none out. Kamman induced a grounder to the mound, but bounced the throw past home plate to allow Curler to score. Then the throw back to him went astray, and Hayes alertly raced home to make it 2-1.
Then VUHS tried the suicide squeeze, but first baseman Wade Steele popped it up. Kamman caught it and made a strong throw to double the runner off third and then got the next hitter to foul out to catcher Nick Ouellette.
The Eagles threatened in the fifth, but this time the Commodores turned the double play, second baseman Nick Richer to Curler to Steele.
In the bottom of the fifth, VUHS made it 3-1 when Curler doubled after an infield hit by left fielder Colin Babcock and a walk to Richer.
That score stood until the Eagle seventh, when pinch-hitter Tommy Shahan led off with a single. Haskins then lofted a fly to right center. When the outfielders collided going after it, the ball popped loose, and runners were on first and third.
With one out, Shaw hit a slow roller to Richer that the second baseman gloved, but his throw was late and in the dirt. Shaw’s third hit drove in a run, and the miscue put runners on second and third. And brought up Campbell, the Eagles No. 2 hitter, who had already successfully bunted twice.
But with No. 3 hitter Tommy Nelson on deck, Stetson did not want to risk what happened to VUHS earlier — a pop-up into a twin killing.
“I’m looking at Tommy on deck and thinking no sense in bunting into a double play,” Stetson said. “I’ve got Tommy coming, let’s see if two guys can drive them in.”
In the end, they didn’t. After a grounder to the drawn-in Steele and a dramatic game-ending strikeout, the Commodores advanced to host OV.
“Mount Abe came with a lot of intensity,” Ringer said. “The kids were off the bench all the time, and ours were, too. It was a great Vergennes-Mount Abraham game.”
Curler said VUHS will be confident.
“I’m feeling really good. It’s a good bunch of guys,” Curler said. “We all have the same goal in mind.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]