BRISTOL — The Middlebury Union High School baseball team on Tuesday picked up both a rare win over rival Mount Abraham and a boost heading into next week’s Division II playoffs, 8-7 in Bristol.
The Tigers are just 3-11. But junior co-captain Marshall Hastings — a three-year starter at second base who drilled a two-run double, scored three runs and made a key defensive play — made a couple points about that record.
The three wins triple the Tigers’ total during a tough 2010 campaign, Hastings said, and all have come against D-II foes, against whom the Tigers — who play almost all their games against D-I teams — now have a winning record.
They will approach the postseason with a positive attitude, Hastings said.
“We’re 3-1 now against Division II teams,” he said. “We’re playing really well against D-II teams. So going in I think we’re confident.”
MUHS coach Doc Seubert said a win against Eagle coach Jeff Stetson’s defending D-II champion Eagles (4-8) will also give his team a lift.
“You know that there’s no quit in Mount Abe, and anything can happen on any given day, so we’re pleased,” Seubert said. “We needed to sort of right the ship a little bit, and coming up here with a quality program like Stets has got was a good way for us to say, yes, let’s play good baseball.”
Stetson was happy how his team fought back from an early 6-0 deficit, if not with the final result.
“We did battle back. We were one clutch hit, or maybe beating one out, away,” he said.
Stetson was happy with his defense, too (shortstop B.J. Haskins especially had a good day, and losing pitcher Tommy Nelson once he moved to third base and center fielder Ethan Heffernan made nice plays). Ultimately, he said, the Tigers earned their win.
“Middlebury deserved to beat us today. They outhit us, basically,” he said.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the first. Brendan Burrell doubled off the fence in right center to lead off, and first basemen Pat Foley followed with the first of his three hits to drive in Burrell. Hastings then reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, and scored on a two-out error.
Winning pitcher Tyler Provencher (four-plus innings, four runs, three earned, four walks) walked two in the first, but worked out of the jam with his only strikeout.
In the third, the Tigers scored four times after Nelson walked Justin Buzzell and Burrell to lead off the inning. Foley doubled in one run, and then Hastings doubled in two more. Provencher then singled in Hastings with the second of his three hits, and it was 6-0.
The Eagles got to Provencher in the fourth. He hit Nick Ouellette with one out, and then two runs scored with singles from the 6-through-9 hitters in the order — Haskins, Kyle Dacres, Dan Cox and Tom Shahan. The rally fizzled when MUHS catcher Casey Covey picked a runner off first base and Provencher got the final batter to hit a soft liner to third, and it was 6-2.
The Tigers picked up one insurance run in the fifth off Shahan, who entered in the fourth and pitched well in relief, allowing two runs in four innings on five hits and one walk, fanning three. Hastings walked, stole second and scored on a Provencher single. Heffernan doubled Provencher off first to end the fifth.
In the sixth, Seubert called in Burrell from shortstop to relieve Provencher after Provencher walked Ian Campbell and Nelson to lead off the inning; Provencher moved to short. Heffernan greeted Burrell with an RBI single, and Burrell allowed two more runs to score with an errant pickoff throw and a balk, and it was 7-5. But Burrell settled in to retire three straight hitters and preserve the lead.
MUHS made it 8-5 in the seventh. With two out, rightfielder Dylan Lanpher singled, stole second, and scored on Burrell’s single.
That run proved crucial when the Eagles rallied in the seventh. Nelson doubled and Heffernan walked to put two on with none out. Hastings then ranged far to his left to snag an Ouellette ground ball and nip him at first base with a throw from the outfield grass. The runners moved to second and third on the play.
Haskins plated Nelson with a sacrifice fly, and then Provencher booted Dacres’s slow roller, allowing Heffernan to score. After pinchrunner Ben Huizenga stole second, Provencher made a strong throw from the hole to get Cox at first for the final out.
Hastings and other Tigers play Legion or Babe Ruth ball with many Eagles, and he is happy for once to have some bragging rights.
“Especially with last season being a frustrating season with only one win, to get the third (win) here is good, especially against Mount Abe, where you’re going to see them in the summer,” Hastings said. “It feels good to finally come out on top. I’m tired of seeing them celebrate.”
Stetson continues to see some signs of improvement that he hopes will translate into success next week.
“We’re getting a little better, I hope. We made some more fundamental plays, and didn’t kick it around quite as much as we have, so those are positives,” he said. “I’d like those positives to show up in the win column, but we’ll see.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]