By MATTHEW DICKERSON
BRISTOL — At Mount Abraham Union High School on Wednesday, the Mount Abe Babe Ruth 14-to-15-year-old team completed a 12-0 season with a 21-5 romp over Essex in a game called in the bottom of the sixth inning because of darkness with Mount Abe still batting with two runners on.
Mount Abe fell behind early, 5-2, as Essex banged out a couple of big hits, and the home team made a couple of mistakes in the field. But Mount Abe pitcher Tommy Nelson struck out all six batters he faced in the third and fourth innings to slow Essex, and leadoff batter Erin Cassels-Brown sparked the Mount Abe offense by reaching base five times in five at-bats and scoring five runs.
Mount Abe, coached by Joe Nelson, excelled this season with solid defense behind starting pitchers Nelson, Tommy Shahan and Mark Dickerson and relievers Cassels-Brown and Ian Campbell. On offense, No. 2 hitter Ian Shaw has also reached base regularly, and clean-up batter Nick Ouellette showed power to spark the attack.
In other recent games leading up to Wednesday’s finale, Mount Abe posted a shutout win over Middlebury on June 17. Nelson took a no-hitter into the final inning that was broken up by Marshall Hastings. A defensive play by Dickerson at second preserved the shutout.
The next night, Dickerson tossed a two-hitter in a 6-2 win over Williston. In Mount Abe’s next contest, Dickerson and Campbell — thanks to third baseman Will Meyer, who in the first inning bare-handed a slow-rolling ground ball and fired to first for the out — combined to pitch a no-hitter in at rain-shortened five-inning win at Shelburne.
Then on June 28 Mount Abe took on a traveling team from the Dominican Republic in Bristol, with the DR squad allowed to be the home team. Mount Abe’s players expected the Dominican game to be fun, and also to be their biggest challenge of the year. They were not disappointed.
Mount Abe loaded the bases in the first and looked poised to score when Meyer drilled a shot to the gap in right. But the DR right fielder made a nice running catch.
The Dominican team in turn loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, but failed to score thanks to Ben Huizenga’s nice over-the-shoulder grab in left field.
Dickerson opened the top of the second with a single to left and was driven home by a Huizenga double. The DR answered in the bottom of the inning with a run off Shahan on a double steal.
Over their next two at-bats, Mount Abe built up a big lead, and it looked to be a blowout. But the Dominicans came roaring back in the fourth with a half-dozen runs off Nelson. Their scoring was highlighted by a 310-foot double off the left-field fence by their third baseman. When Mount Abe loaded the bases in the fifth, the Dominicans ended the threat turning a rare pitcher-to-catcher-to-first double play.
Cassels-Brown came on in relief and slowed down the DR bats. Mount Abe prevailed, 15-9.
Shahan paced the team with a four-for-four day at the plate, while Huizenga went three-for-three plus a walk, and leadoff batter Cassels-Brown got on base three times.
The DR team also took on the Vergennes squad afterward, but not before the three teams and their families and hosts enjoyed a barbecue together.
Organizers said it was a great experience for all involved. They added that it may have helped the local youths appreciate the game a bit more, realizing the sacrifice made by many of the Dominican families to enable their kids to play — the trip to the States cost many of them a month’s salary.
A number of Mount Abe players will next join with athletes from the Addison County 14-15-year-old teams in Middlebury and Vergennes to compete in Champlain Valley district all-star competition. With the talent available from the three teams, they are optimistic they can compete well in the district tournament and, with luck, the Vermont tournament that follows.