ADDISON COUNTY — The Addison County American Legion baseball team made an early-season statement by ripping off a four-game winning streak between Saturday and Monday, all against Northern Division foes.
AC improved to 4-3 overall, 4-2 in the league, good for a first-place tie. The team had been 0-3, 0-2 in the Northern Division, until sweeping three home games this past Saturday and Sunday and winning on the road on Monday.
On Monday, AC defeated host Essex, 2-0, behind the shutout pitching of Sawyer Kamman.
On Sunday at the team’s Middlebury College home field, Josiah Benoit tossed a gem as AC knocked off visiting Burlington, 7-0.
On Saturday, AC swept visiting South Burlington, 2-1 and 5-4 in extra innings, with Devin Hayes and Kamman picking up the pitching wins.
The only recent setback came in a non-league game on Wednesday, June 18, 7-1 at the hands of visiting Rutland. In that game, Coach Mike Estey went deep into his bench to give time to his younger players.
Estey said he was happy with his team’s pitching, defense and place in the standings, especially after the disappointing 0-3 start.
“We’ve really responded. We’ve started to play together as a team. There’s a lot of talk about being good teammates,” Estey said. “I think we’re really headed in the right direction, big-time.”
After playing five of its first seven games at home, AC will play five of its next seven on the road. The county nine’s next contest will be at Middlebury College on Saturday at 11 a.m. vs. Franklin, but then comes five straight sway games, beginning on Sunday at 10 a.m. at Colchester High School vs. the Colchester Cannons, who swept a June 15 doubleheader from AC.
On July 1, AC meets the OEC Kings at Lyndon State College; on July 3, South Burlington hosts AC at Dorset Park, and on July 5 Burlington hosts AC for a twin bill that is set to begin at noon. On Sunday, July 6, AC will return home to meet Essex at 11 a.m.
On Monday, Kamman tossed a complete-game shutout as AC blanked host Essex, 2-0. He struck out seven, walked one and allowed six hits in outdueling Essex hurler Davis Mikell, who fanned 11 batters as his team dropped to 2-2 in the Northern Division.
“Sawyer threw a great game,” Estey said, pointing especially to the fourth inning, when Kamman stranded a runner who reached third base with none out after an outfield error.
Hayes drilled an RBI double in the first inning to give AC the lead. That blow scored Kamman from first base. Kamman had reached on a catcher’s interference call. AC picked up an insurance run in the sixth. Wade Steele drew a walk, but was erased as Josh Stearns reached on a fielder’s choice. Stearns stole second and scored on Dylan Raymond’s second hit of the game.
Estey said AC made key defensive plays, especially Hayes at shortstop and catcher Chris Leach, who caught two runners stealing, one to end the first inning and one in the seventh after a leadoff single.
On Sunday, Benoit needed just 103 pitches to toss a nine-inning shutout vs. Burlington. Benoit allowed nine hits, walked none and struck out five. He benefitted from good defense by Stearns at third base, while Kamman at short and Hayes at second base turned two double plays, and Hunter O’Connor ended the game with a diving catch in center field.
AC got one run in the first on an Aaron Smith single, a wild pitch, and a Hayes RBI single. Hayes singled in two runs in the second after Sam Messenger and Smith singled and Kamman walked.
AC broke the game open with a four-run fourth. Walks to Leach and Smith and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases. Hayes and Steele singled in a run apiece, and Raymond capped the rally with a two-run single.
In Saturday’s opener vs. South Burlington, Hayes outdueled SB ace Will Hesslink. Hayes allowed one earned run on three hits and one walk while striking out five, while Hesslink (the winning pitcher for Rice in the Division I semifinal at Champlain Valley) allowed one earned run on three hits and two walks while whiffing six.
SB took the lead in the second on a Jake Levon double and Theo McDowell’s RBI single.
AC struck for both runs in the fourth. Hayes single, stole second, and reached third on a Steele groundout. He scored on a Stearns squeeze bunt, with Stearns reaching second base on a throwing error. Raymond then singled home Stearns with what proved to be the winning run.
In Saturday’s second game, AC rallied for the win in eight innings. AC took a 2-0 lead in the first on a single by Kamman, an RBI triple by Hayes, and Raymond’s sacrifice fly.
But SB took the lead by scoring four times off Smith, the AC starter, in the third, on four hits, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a hit batter. Smith threw 5.1 innings, allowing eight hits and two walks while striking out three. Kamman came on and threw 2.2 hitless innings, striking out four, to earn the win.
AC made it 4-3 in the fifth when Smith walked and eventually scored on Raymond’s two-out single. AC tied the game in the sixth, when Messenger reached on an error, moved to second on a Joe Hounchell sacrifice bunt and scored on a Kamman double.
AC scored in the eighth after loading the bases on singles by Steele and Smith and a walk to Hounchell. Kamman put the ball in play, and the SB catcher couldn’t handle a throw as the winning run came home.
The June 18 non-league game vs. Rutland was the only recent blemish on AC’s record. Rutland plated four unearned runs in the first inning off Raymond on two hits and four errors before adding two earned runs in the second and one more in the third. Stearns, Smith, O’Connor and Benoit followed with scoreless relief innings.
AC scored its run in the fifth on singles by Messenger and Benoit and walks to Smith and Devon Kimball.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]