By ANDY KIRKALDY
BRISTOL — The top-seeded Mount Abraham Union High School baseball team hung on for an 8-6 win over visiting No. 4 Milton in a Division II semifinal on Tuesday. The Eagles will play for their second straight title at the University of Vermont’s Centennial Field on Monday at 6 p.m.
There, the 16-3 Eagles will face a familiar foe: undefeated No. 2 seed Lyndon (17-0). Last June, the Eagles were the No. 3 seed and upset then No. 1 Lyndon, 2-0, in the championship game, which featured a pitchers’ duel between Mount Abe’s Ben Orvis and the Vikings’ Buddy Lamothe.
Because of scheduling conflicts — Mount Abe holds graduation on Saturday and Eagle coach Jeff Stetson said the D-III title game is locked into Friday night — the D-II championship game will be played on Monday, meaning those two aces will be rested and ready to go again for the title game rematch.
Lamothe threw a complete-game two-hitter and struck out 13 as the Vikings defeated No. 3 Fair Haven in the other semifinal on Monday. Orvis won on Tuesday, going six innings, allowing five hits, two walks and one earned run while fanning 11.
The Yellowjackets made it a little close for comfort when Orvis left on Tuesday with the Eagles up, 8-3, after six innings. They rallied off reliever Kyle Kayhart for three runs off two walks, a Cory Hurley single and a Matt Goulet double, but Shawn Marcelle came on the mound for Mount Abe to strike out the final two batters and earn the save.
Mount Abe coach Jeff Stetson said it didn’t matter to him if the Eagles lost a few late style points against a Milton team that had scored six runs in the seventh inning to rally past Otter Valley, 13-12, in the quarterfinal round.
“We did what we needed to do to advance in the tournament. That’s the important thing,” Stetson said.
Still, he said the excitement of reaching the final and having a shot at the program’s fifth title of the decade didn’t immediately strike the Eagles after the nail-biting finish.
“The reality of it will set in more tomorrow,” he said after the game Tuesday evening. “By the end it was like, let out a deep breath and we made it. It was more, ‘Thank goodness,’ than elation.”
The Eagles jumped on top quickly with two runs in the first and three in the second. In the first, Nate McCormick walked, Kyle Kayhart singled, and, after a walk to Ben Orvis loaded the bases, Sam Lieberman delivered a two-out, two-run single.
In the second, Ben Capasso walked and McCormick singled to set the table. Capasso scored on Marcelle’s single, and Kayhart doubled both runners home.
Milton got its only earned run in the fourth. Goulet walked, and with two out Mike Mullins singled. Mullins allowed himself to be caught in a rundown, during which Goulet stole home.
The Eagles got the run back in the bottom of the inning on a Marcelle single, a walk to Kayhart, and Dean Butler’s RBI single.
Milton made it 6-3 in the fifth on two infield errors and singles by Alex Learned and Hurley, but Mount Abe got the run back in the bottom of the inning. Steve Patterson led off with a walk. After he was forced at second on Capasso’s sacrifice bunt attempt, Adam Pouliot singled, and Marcelle doubled both runners home.
After a scoreless sixth, the 12-7 Yellowjackets made things interesting in the seventh, but the Eagle offense had created enough of a cushion.
“We hit the ball well and put pressure on them,” Stetson said.
Regardless of Monday’s outcome, Stetson said his team, which returned only three starters from last year’s championship group, should be proud of what it has accomplished.
“We’ll talk about that the rest of the week. It’s been a great group of guys to work with,” he said. “I’m just glad they get to end their year at Centennial.”