BRISTOL — It hasn’t been a typical spring for Mount Abraham Union High School baseball, which has won five Division II championships since 2001, including the 2010 title in dramatic, extra-inning fashion.
On Friday and Saturday, the Eagles dropped two home games, 7-5 to Colchester and 6-2 to Rice, respectively, and their record fell to 1-5.
Coach Jeff Stetson sees signs of improvement, but at the same time he is preaching patience. This year’s edition is also probably the youngest Stetson has fielded in the past decade, with only four seniors on the roster and one returning starter, senior center fielder Ethan Heffernan.
“We’re starting to grow up and become a better varsity team. Other than Ethan in center field, there’s not a guy in the other eight that started a game at the varsity level before this year,” Stetson said. “I’m still hopeful we’ll be OK and battle our way back to see what we can do.”
Signs of inexperience cropped up in Friday’s game, when Stetson said Eagle fielding miscues contributed to all seven Colchester runs. And then when the Eagles scored three times in the seventh to close the gap, they lost two runners to mistakes on the basepaths.
On Saturday, two second-inning throwing errors helped Rice score twice, but the Eagles — notably second baseman Ian Shaw and shortstop Tommy Nelson — also made some slick plays in the field.
“We’re getting better. We didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot quite as bad as we have in the past couple games,” Stetson said. “I saw some good things.”
On Friday vs. Colchester, knowing the Eagles will host Milton on Monday, play at Vergennes on Tuesday and have two games later in the week, Stetson went with a pitching-by-committee approach to keep pitch counts down.
Nelson started, went two innings and took the loss, Erin Cassels-Brown tossed three innings, and Ben Huizenga and Heffernan each threw one inning.
In the second, Heffernan doubled home Ian Campbell. In the sixth, the Eagles added a run when Heffernan walked, moved up on a passed ball and scored on a Huizenga single.
In the seventh, Cassels-Brown singled and scored on Shaw’s RBI double. Campbell singled, and Nelson doubled him home. Heffernan reached on a fielder’s choice, and Nick Ouellette doubled him in before the Lakers quelled the rally.
Vs. Rice on Saturday, senior Mark Dickerson started against Rice’s Tim Rensch, who tossed six innings to earn the win. Rensch struck out six, walked none and allowed four hits. Dickerson allowed three runs, two earned, and five hits in four innings, striking out two, walking one and hitting a batter.
That hit batsman was DH Connor Langlais leading off the second. Rensch doubled to put runners on second and third, and Will Conroy followed with a liner to third base. Tommy Shahan snared it, and his throw to second would have doubled Rensch off, but hit the runner, allowing Langlais to score. First baseman Campbell’s throwing error on a sacrifice bunt allowed a second run to come home.
No one touched the ball when scored in the third inning: Nicky Elderton’s towering shot landed about 40 feet past the right-field fence.
The Eagles threatened at times. Shaw singled and reached third in the first. In the third, Dickerson and Cassels-Brown reached on errors leading off, but Rice nailed Dickerson at third on a sac bunt and then turned a double play. Ouellette singled and reached second with two out in the third, but Rensch struck out the next hitter.
Shahan came on to pitch the final three innings and got off to a rocky start. After a single and a walk, clean-up hitter Christian McCormick homered to left center to make it 6-0. After that, Shahan allowed just one more hit and striking out three.
The Eagles scored in the sixth. Nelson legged out an infield hit with two out, and Heffernan scorched a line-drive homer to center. Pinch-hitter B.J. Haskins singled off Elderton to lead off the ninth, but Elderton retired the next three hitters.
Stetson pointed to the positive signs, and hopes that those and a couple of breaks, maybe early in a game or two, will help the Eagles pick up some wins.
“Shortstop and second played well, and I don’t remember misplaying anything in the outfield,” Stetson said. “And (our pitchers) threw strikes and made them put it in play. So it’s encouraging. But the bottom line is we’re still 1-5. So we’d like to see some of these encouraging signs turn into a win.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]