Brattleboro Post 5 was the best team in Vermont American Legion Baseball’s Southern Division this season, but they fell one game short of capturing a second state title.
The early games of the 2021 state Legion tournament were spread around the state, but whether the games were in Brattleboro or Rutland, Post 5 ably represented southern Vermont baseball. They defeated everyone until they faced the perennial northern Vermont baseball powerhouse, Essex Post 91.
Still, it was a good season for Post 5, especially when one considers there was no season last year due to COVID-19, as American Legion Baseball suspended the 2020 season nationwide. While a substitute Vermont league was formed to take Legion baseball’s place, everyone was happy to see a return to the real thing in 2021.
• Post 5’s tournament odyssey began with yet another rain-disrupted game against the Colchester Cannons, the Northern Division No. 4 seed, at Tenney Field, that Brattleboro won, 8-0.
The game began on July 27 and started out promising as Alex Bingham slammed a two-out, two-run home run in the first inning. But rain stopped the game at that point, and it was resumed the next afternoon.
Having to make two 153-mile trips to Brattleboro on consecutive days didn’t do any favors for Colchester. Neither did having to face Post 5’s ace pitcher, Zinabu McNeice.
Changing speeds and location at will, McNeice’s control and a wicked curve ball kept the Cannons from doing much of anything at the plate. He held them to just two hits with no walks over four innings. Brandon Weeks worked the fifth and sixth innings, and Jolie Glidden pitched the seventh, and they combined to set the Cannons down in order.
“No walks and no errors,” said Post 5 coach Eric Libardoni of his team’s pitching and defense. “That’s a good recipe for success in baseball.”
Meanwhile, Brattleboro kept piling up the runs. Turner Clews hit an RBI single in the resumption of the first inning to give Post 5 a 3-0 lead. Two more runs scored in the third inning, one off a squeeze bunt by Aaron Petrie that scored Clews, and the other with an RBI single by McNeice.
In the fourth, Brattleboro got two more runs when McNeice and Aiden Davis each drew bases-loaded walks. Jack Pattison scored the final run of the game in the sixth with a sacrifice fly.
• Unlike past tournaments, the first two games in the winner’s bracket were scheduled to be played at the top seed, so Brattleboro expected to face the No. 2 South Burlington Wildcats at Gouin Field in East Dummerston on July 29. The torrential rains that day postponed the game and forced it to be moved to St. Peter’s Field in Rutland.
While Post 5 lost home field advantage, they had a well-rested Bingham ready to take the mound on July 30, and he responded with a masterful 1-0 victory.
Bingham went the distance, holding South Burlington to four hits over seven innings with four walks and seven strikeouts.
Moore, the losing pitcher, was just as dominant, holding Post 5 to two hits over 5 2/3 innings with five walks and nine strikeouts. Clews scored the only run Brattleboro needed with an RBI single in the sixth inning.
• Brattleboro had little time to savor that win, as they were back in action for a 10 a.m. at St. Peter’s Field on July 31 to take on Essex Post 91 in the winner’s bracket final.
Essex, the Northern Division’s No. 1 seed, came out on top, 4-0. Post 91 starting pitcher Andrew Goodrich threw a complete-game three-hitter to pick up the win. Brandon Weeks was excellent in six innings of relief giving up no earned runs to keep Brattleboro in the game.
• With its first loss in the double-elimination tournament, Brattleboro took on South Burlington, which knocked out White River Junction earlier in the day in a wild 12-11 game.
South Burlington would find themselves in another slugfest in this afternoon game against Post 5, but it was Brattleboro that came out on top with a seventh-inning rally for a 12-11 victory.
Bingham was the hero in this game. After Brattleboro gave up a 5-1 lead after four innings, South Burlington had an 11-6 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. Post 5 didn’t relent, and Bingham’s two-out, two-run single gave Brattleboro the walkout win.
The man they call “Moose” had a 3-for-4 day at the plate with two doubles and a total of five RBIs. Pattison had a solo home run and Davis drove in two runs.
Post 5 starting pitcher Jackson Emery threw five innings of one-hit ball, and reliever Nick Gerard worked the seventh inning to earn the win.
• That set up the deciding games of the tournament on Aug. 1 — two games against undefeated top-seeded Essex to win a state title. In a match-up between the last two state Legion champions, Essex (the 2018 champs) defeated Post 5 (the 2019 champs), 10-2.
Essex took a 3-0 lead in the second inning, as Will Erickson drove in two runs, and Cory Giannelli also drove in a run. They added five more runs in the third inning and two more in the fifth inning. Erickson, Giannelli, and winning pitcher Ben Powell all had two RBI’s for Essex, and Goodrich went 3-4 with an RBI.
Bingham had a two-run single in the top of the fifth for Brattleboro, the only runs allowed by Essex.
Essex now advances to the Northeast Regionals, slated for Aug. 4-8 in Shrewsbury, Mass. Including non-league games, Brattleboro finished the season with an overall record of 21-8.
Shrine Game is this Saturday
• Seventy-two of the top high school football players from New Hampshire and Vermont are practicing this week at Castleton University for the 68th annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, which is set for this Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Castleton’s Dave Wolk Stadium.
The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled last year’s game. New Hampshire had a 21-9 win in 2019 and now has a 48-16-2 record over Vermont in the series.
Vermont head coach Chad Pacheco of Brattleboro and his staff have been leading the Green Mountain Boys through double sessions this week in preparation for Saturday’s game. On the Vermont squad are Henry Thurber and Elijah Isham of Brattleboro and Jack Burke and Jack Herrington of Bellows Falls.
The game is a fundraiser for the three Shrine hospitals in New England and Quebec. In a break with tradition due to the pandemic, the traditional trip by the players and coaches to the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass., to visit with patients was replaced with bringing Shrine Hospital patients to Castleton from around the region.
Another COVID-forced break with tradition is the absence of the pre-game parade. Since schools in both states were unable to have music programs this year, there is no all-star band and game organizers shelved the parade due to scheduling uncertainties caused by the pandemic.
This year will feature the popular 50-50 raffle with the winning ticket to be drawn at halftime. Also at halftime, there will be recognition of the 2020 players and coaches who weren’t able to play last year due to the pandemic. Several will be in attendance.
Advanced ticket sales are available online at www.eventbrite.com/e/shrine-maple-sugar-bowl-vermont-new-hampshire-all-star-football-game-tickets-153491147153 through Aug. 6. Online pre-order ticket cost is $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 6-17. Children age five and under get in free. Ticket prices purchased on the day of the game are $20 for adults, $15 for children ages 6-17 with age 5 and under remaining free.
Internet live streaming coverage of the game will again be available by Northeast Sports Network at www.nsnsports.net.
Senior bowling roundup
• Week 14 of the spring/summer season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League on July 29 at Brattleboro Bowl saw first place Team 2 (50–20) have a 5-0 week to take a five-game lead on second place Team 6 (45-25), which had a 4-1 week. Team 5 (35-35) moved into third place (33-32), followed by Team 4 (34.5-35.5), Team 7 (34-36), Team 3 (29-41), and Team 1 (27.5-43.5).
Debbie Kolpa had the women’s high handicap game (250) and series (677), while Jerry Dunham had the high handicap game (274) and series (722). Team 2 had the high team handicap game (867) and series (2,519).
In scratch scoring, Warren Corriveau Sr. led the men with a 592 series that featured games of 212 and 206. Dunham had a 590 series with games of 230 and 193. Robert Rigby rolled a 583 series, with a 206 game. Chuck Adams had a 196 game as part of his 520 series.
Nancy Dalzell had the high scratch game (181) and series (492) to lead the women. Kolpa rolled a 180 game.