By ANDY KIRKALDY
BRISTOL — Before his baseball team played at Mount Abraham on Saturday, Vergennes Union High School senior shortstop and pitcher Cam Curler had a question for Coach George Ringer.
Sure, Curler asked, the Commodores had stunned the Eagles in the 2007 Division II final, the only time in the past three years Mount Abe has not won the D-II title, but when was the last time VUHS beat Mount Abe in the regular season?
Ringer recalled that conversation after Curler’s sixth-inning grand slam and three innings of one-run relief helped give the 2-1 Commodores their first win over the Eagles in recent memory, 9-4. Ringer said he can’t pin down when it last it happened.
“Cameron before the game came over to me and said, ‘Coach, have we ever beaten Mount Abraham in a regular season game?’” said Ringer. “And I got to thinking maybe not in the last three years or so.”
Given the one-sided history of the rivalry, Curler said Saturday’s victory would give the Commodores a lift.
“I was asking George if he remembered the last time we beat Mount Abe ... He was like, we beat them when you were back in middle school or elementary school,” Curler said. “It was a big win, because they’re supposed to be a powerhouse.”
The Commodores also had to overcome a tremendous pitching performance by Eagle senior Ben Orvis. Orvis, the winning pitcher in the 2008 D-II final, struck out 13 and allowed five hits and one earned run in five innings, after which the 1-1 Eagles led, 3-2.
Eagle coach Jeff Stetson credited Orvis with a fine performance, and the Commodores with hanging in and rallying to win.
“Ben Orvis pitched very well, but he’d thrown enough by the end of the fifth inning for today, so that was that,” Stetson said. “And they jumped on our relievers and beat us, simple as that.”
VUHS took a 1-0 lead in the first. Leadoff hitter Jackson Alexander laced Orvis’s first pitch on a line to left, and the wind helped it go for a double. Curler singled Alexander home.
VUHS starter Adam Flynn struggled with his control, and the Eagles quickly tied the game. Flynn issued five walks in the bottom of the first, with one to Steve Patterson forcing a run home. If Flynn had not picked off a baserunner, the damage could have been worse.
In the Eagle third, Kyle Kayhart reached on an error, and Dean Butler followed with a towering, opposite-field homer to left field, and it was 3-1.
In the fourth, VUHS catcher Logan Williams threw out pinchrunner Nate McCormick trying to steal, allowing Flynn to work around two more walks. In all, Flynn issued eight walks, but only two hits, and VUHS played sound defense behind him.
“He battled the whole way. He had some trouble finding the strike zone ... but he kept us in the game,” Williams said.
VUHS added an unearned run off Orvis in the fifth. Collin Curler, who played well at both second and third base, reached on an error and scored on a throwing error on Cam Curler’s infield hit.
Cam Curler then took over on the mound. He threw three innings, using two different fastballs and three offspeed pitches to fan four while walking two and allowing one hit and an unearned run.
In the top of the sixth, Stetson summoned Shawn Marcelle to the mound from center field. Marcelle had a perfect day at the plate with three walks and the only hit off Curler, but struggled on the mound.
Hans Westenfeld singled, and Kameron Brooks bunted him to second. With two out, rightfielder J.C. Dugan singled in Westenfeld to tie the game. Collin Curler walked, and Marcelle hit Alexander to load the bases for Williams, who bounced a single to left to make it 4-3.
Williams talked about the inning and what happened next — Curler drilled a high breaking ball over the fence in left center, and it was 8-3.
“We were just trying to manufacture runs, and one thing led to another. We got some walks and a couple key hits, and I came up looking to get a fastball to hit ... and I guess I got lucky and found a hole,” he said. “And then when I saw Cam’s ball I knew it was gone.”
Mount Abe got a run back in the bottom of the inning. McCormick walked and raced home on a bobble of Marcelle’s long single. With Kayhart on the mound, VUHS answered in the seventh on a walk to Brooks and singles by Jon Kauffman and Dugan to create the final score of a rare VUHS win over the Eagles.
“Anytime you can hang with Mount Abraham ... that’s a good thing,” Ringer said. “They’re a good baseball school.”
Stetson believes his Eagles will do well this spring, but not if they take things for granted.
“We’ll bounce back. We’ll be fine,” he said. “But hopefully this will serve as a bit of a wakeup call for the boys that they better come ready to play every day and not just show up.”