MIDDLEBURY — All the pre-season jitters are gone now that opening weekend is in the rearview mirror. The Addison County Legion baseball team kicked off the 2013 campaign with a shortened bench for many of the games, missing players for college orientations and Boys’ State, but still managed to pull a 2-1 record out of the gate.
A rally in the season opener fell short, as AC fell at home to S.D. Ireland, 4-2, in 10 innings on Thursday, before turning around on Saturday and completing a comeback in an 8-7 victory over Burlington in extra innings. On Sunday, AC knocked off the Vermont Jays 12-0, in a non-league game, showing how capable the lineup and defense can be when at full strength.
“We’ve talked about our depth as coaches,” head coach Mike Estey said. “Early signs are that we will be deep. We know we need to be deep, we’ve found that out the last couple years, it’s been a weakness. The kids need to be able to step up and play.”
Playing with a short bench on Thursday and Saturday, the newcomers and veterans proved that they were capable of pulling together when the moment asked, putting up a combined five runs in the last innings of the games to extend them into extra innings.
“We are confident in our pitching and our defense,” Estey said. “We need to improve our hitting approach so that we can continuously hit. Kids had good at bats though, moving kids up, but hitting is where we need to be the most consistent.”
On Thursday, Devin Hayes started for AC and lasted eight innings before Sawyer Kamman came in for the ninth and tenth. On Saturday, Kamman pitched five innings before yielding to Josiah Benoit, who fired the final five innings to earn his first career win at the Legion level.
On Sunday, AC used a plethora of pitchers while inserting players at multiple positions, once again showing the depth of the roster.
Estey said chemistry, as well as depth, appears to be coming together smoothly.
“The chemistry is good, and early signs are that that could be strong this year,” Estey said. “That has really hurt us in the past, so it’s important that we come together as a team.”
AC was set to play S.D. Ireland on Tuesday but that game was rained out. The make-up date has not been set yet. AC was set to host Essex on Wednesday after press time. On Thursday, AC will host Burlington once again before entertaining the OEC Kings on Sunday for two league games.
S.D. IRELAND, 4-2
In its season opener, AC fell at home to perennial playoff contender S.D. Ireland. AC fell behind in the second inning, when SDI began the second with a leadoff walk and a single that moved the runner to third before SDI plated the first run of the game on a wild pitch. Hayes settled down from there and retired the next 12 batters while keeping the game at 1-0 until the seventh.
In the seventh, SDI broke through again on an error, a single that moved the runner to third and a fielder’s choice.
Facing the final three outs of the game, AC got rolling. With one away, Dylan Raymond singled to start the rally. Tyler Delancey followed by working a walk before Marshall Hastings was walked to load the bases. Ian Shaw would walk to score the first AC run before a passed ball scored the second.
With runners on second and third and one out, Hayes flew out to left field for the second out. On the fly out, Hastings tagged to go home for the winning run, but the home plate umpire ruled he had left early, ending the AC inning.
With the score tied, Hayes worked around trouble in the eighth before departing after throwing eight solid innings, relinquishing two runs on six hits and walking two to go along with nine strikeouts.
In the AC eighth, Wade Steele started things with a single to center and Casey Covey walked, but AC could not push across the winning run.
Kamman came in to pitch the ninth for AC and put down SDI in order. In the bottom of the inning, AC once again threatened. With one away, Hastings singled to left field before stealing second base. After Shaw walked, SDI managed to retire the next batter, bringing up Steele with the winning run on second. Hastings stole third, but SDI managed to retire Steele to end AC threat.
In the 10th inning, SDI worked a walk before slugger Davis Mikell smashed a double off the right field fence, scoring the runner from first. Mikell would come around to score on a single to right, giving SDI the two-run cushion and the win.
Following the disappointing home opener, AC rebounded to rally past Burlington on Saturday while suiting up only 10 players. Missing Charlie Stapleford, Devin Hayes, Aaron Smith, and Tyler Delancey, AC fell into an early 4-0 hole after the opening frame. The first two Burlington batters reached on infield errors against AC starting pitcher Sawyer Kamman before Charlie Boardman singled home the first run of the game. A two-out double and single brought home three more runs.
AC managed to cut the lead to three in the bottom of the second. Kamman reached on an error with one man out before Dylan Raymond singled him to third. With one away, Chris Leach executed a perfect suicide squeeze, scoring Kamman.
In the fourth, Burlington once again went on the attack, scoring two runs on two hits, extending the lead to 6-1.
In the bottom of the fourth, Colton Aines, Casey Covey and Raymond walked, and Leach knocked in his second RBI of the game with a sac fly to left field, bringing AC to within four.
In the fifth, AC once again crept closer. Hastings led off with a walk before stealing second base. Shaw followed by lacing one down the right field line. The ball kicked off the end of the first baseman’s glove, squirting into shallow right field, scoring Hastings from second.
Josh Stearns walked, putting runners at first and second, and with two away, Covey singled to center, scoring Shaw and bringing AC to within 6-4.
Burlington plated one run in the sixth without managing a single hit, as Benoit walked two batters and an error helped Burlington’s cause.
The game stayed at 7-4 until the ninth, when AC put on yet another rally. Delancey started things off with a walk before advancing to second on a fielder’s choice. With one gone, Shaw walked. A passed ball moved Delancey to third before Benoit sent a sac fly to right. With two away, Wade Steele singled home Shaw, cutting the lead to just one before Burlington’s pitchers suddenly lost control of the zone.
The next two batters walked, loading the bases with two outs for Kamman. Kamman proceeded to bloop the ball just behind the pitcher’s mound. As the second baseman sprinted in to field the bounding ball, he lost his footing, allowing Kamman to reach and enabling AC to tie the game, forcing extra innings.
Benoit, who entered the game in the sixth, worked effortlessly through the heart of the Burlington lineup in the top half of the tenth.
With one away in the tenth, Hastings worked his third walk before Shaw clubbed his second hit, putting runners at first and second with one away. A wild pitch moved Hastings to third with Benoit at the plate. Once again, AC looked to the suicide squeeze for the game-winning run, as Benoit laid the ball down the first base line, scoring Hastings and giving AC its first win on the season.
AC capped off the weekend with a big victory over the Vermont Jays, an AAU team from the St. Albans area. For the first time all season, AC was at full strength, and it showed, as they jumped on the Jays early.
Hastings started things off with a first-inning walk before stealing second base and moving to third on a groundout. Stapleford singled Hastings in and stole second and third, Steele walked before Stearns laid down a successful safety squeeze, bringing home Stapleford. Kamman walked before a pitch hit Benoit, loading the bases for Smith, who singled to center, scoring Steele from third. Kamman would come around to score on a wild pitch, ending the scoring for AC at 4-0.
Stapleford threw two perfect innings for AC while striking out four, bringing the top of the AC lineup to the plate in the bottom of the second.
Hastings started things off by singling to left before stealing second and third, his sixth and seventh steals on the season. Shaw and Stapleford both walked to load the bases before Steele walked to plate Hastings. An error by the Jays with Stearns at the plate scored Shaw before Kamman reached on a defensive miscue, plating Stapleford. A pitch once again hit Benoit, scoring Raymond before Smith walked to bring Stearns home and extend the AC lead to 9-0.
Smith entered the game on the mound and pitched three innings of shutout ball while striking out three, walking one and surrendering three hits before yielding to Hastings who pitched the final two innings while giving up one hit.
AC added a run in the fifth when Raymond walked and came around to score on a Benoit single. AC pulled ahead by 12 in the fifth when Shaw and Stapleford both singled and later scored on an error and a single from Kamman.