Local Little Leaguers ready for state final

ST. JOHNSBURY — The Middlebury 10- and 11-year-old Little League all-star baseball team won twice this past weekend in St. Johnsbury — once in dramatic, extra-inning fashion — to advance to the championship game of the Vermont tournament.

District I champion Middlebury will play next on Friday at 6 p.m., again in St. Johnsbury, against the winner of the Wednesday evening losers’ bracket final between St. Johnsbury and Brattleboro.

If the losers’ bracket winner prevails on Friday night, a winner-take-all game will be played on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Middlebury — consisting of players from Middlebury, Weybridge, Cornwall, Shoreham, Leicester and Bridport — advanced to the final with a 12-1 win over Brattleboro on Saturday and an 8-6 victory on Sunday over St. Johnsbury decided on an extra-inning walk-off home run.

“They stepped up. It was a good weekend, a lot of fun,” said Coach Charlie Messenger.

Saturday’s game was shortened to four innings by the 10-run mercy rule. James Lincoln earned the pitching win, going the distance. Steddy Amory sparked the attack with an early three-run homer, while Patrick Messenger went three-for-three.

Coach Messenger said there were many other offensive contributors.

“A lot of guys got RBIs, just came through with hits at the right time,” he said.

On Sunday, a talented St. Johnsbury took a 3-0 lead against starting pitcher Jack Hounchell, who tossed the first two innings. Middlebury bounced back to tie the game at 3-3 after two innings. St. Johnsbury scored three off Amory in the third, but he shut the door and allowed no more runs through the sixth, and Middlebury tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the third.

Andrew Gleason threw the seventh and eighth innings and earned the pitching victory. Middlebury thought it had the game won in the seventh when Ben Francouer led off with a double and Chris Grier followed with a gap shot to the fence. But instead, it turned into a double play when the umpires ruled Francouer missed third base and Greer left the baseline when he joined the celebration of Middlebury’s apparent victory.

Any debate about the calls proved to be moot after the bottom of the eighth. Messenger doubled with one out, and Pierson Beatty pinch-ran. Hounchell followed with a two-run shot to end the game.

“And they all touched the bases, and we got to drive home,” Coach Messenger said. “It was very dramatic, and very exciting.”

The members of the Middlebury 11-year-old all-star team are Amory, Beatty, Francouer, Gleason, Oakley Gordon, Grier, Hounchell, Therran Leggett, Lincoln, Messenger, Liam Smith and Andrew Trombley.

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