‘The future looks bright’
Brattleboro pitcher Alex Bingham was a member of the 19-and-under squad that finished its summer season with a 12-8 record.

‘The future looks bright’

Despite a season altered and shortened by the pandemic, Brattleboro’s youth baseball teams still got to the field

BRATTLEBORO — It took some doing, but there was youth baseball this summer here, albeit of a different sort because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The takeaway from this abbreviated season? The local baseball pipeline looks promising.

Could there be more state championships for Little League, Babe Ruth, and American Legion baseball in this decade?

Who knows? But Brattleboro is putting its best teams forward.

With statewide play halted by COVID-19, the Brattleboro Little League stayed on South Main Street Field this summer.

Seven teams played in the Brattleboro league this season, and 33 games were played before the league canceled the remainder of the regular season in mid-August after learning that one of the players and two of his family members tested positive for the virus.

Brattleboro Little League also canceled its plans for a fall baseball league on the South Main Street field.

* * *

There were no official Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball seasons in Vermont because of the pandemic, but there was still a baseball season this summer for players aged 13–19.

Brattleboro American Legion Post 5 head coach Eric Libardoni organized three teams: 14-and-under (Prep), 16-and-under (Junior Legion), and 19-and-under (American Legion).

The 14- and 16-and-under teams played in the Pioneer Valley Youth Baseball League (PVYBL) in western Massachusetts, while the 19-and-unders played in the Vermont Summer Baseball League, which was comprised of most of the Legion baseball programs in Vermont.

“We all just wanted to improve the experience for baseball players in our area,” Libardoni said. “We had seven coaches this season with no kids of their own, and six of them played beyond high school with varying levels of college and adult baseball.”

“Greg Short also assisted with our teams,” he continued. “He helped me on the field and assigned all the umpires as well.”

Libardoni added that he will continue with this new model for all kids ages 13 to 19 years old moving forward.

* * *

The Brattleboro 14-and-unders played in the PBYBL's Sandy Koufax Division. The Koufax Division was comprised of teams from Greenfield, Amherst, Frontier (South Deerfield and region), and Northampton.

Brattleboro finished the season with a 4–10 record.

Libardoni said that statistic does not reflect the team's effort. Undefeated Greenfield beat Brattleboro twice in the regular season by 10 runs. The two teams faced off a third time in the post season. Brattleboro led Greenfield throughout but lost 9–8 after giving up a walk-off hit-by-pitch.

According to Libardoni, the 14-and-under team improved the most.

“They were mostly Little Leaguers,” Libardoni said. “Half have never played on high school fields, but they were always close. The future looks bright.”

Kyle Henry and Devin Rhodes coached the 14-and-unders. On the team were Gabe Alexander, Thomas Bell, Sam Bogart, Landon Cartee, Harper Cutler, Alex Dick, Jett Emery, Jayke Glidden, Sam Madow, Alex McClelland, Will Miskovich, Riley Morse, Derek Sage, John Satterfield, Keegan Systo, John Winter, and Evan Wright.

* * *

The Brattleboro 16-and-unders played in the Mickey Mantle Division, comprised of teams from Frontier, Mohawk (Shelburne Falls and region), Hatfield, and Northampton.

Brattleboro got off to a rough start. Its players were winless in their first nine games, but they put together some wins at the end of the season, finishing with a record of 6–14.

“The team had older 14-year-olds and younger 15-year-olds, and they were playing against 16- and 17-year-olds,” Libardoni said. “They struck out at the plate a lot, but they caught up with the pitching and started winning.”

Their best win came in the playoffs against Mohawk. Brattleboro won, 5–3, and Brandon Weeks pitched a gem of a game. He went the distance, pitching seven innings and striking out five.

Brattleboro then went on to a play in a double-elimination championship series against first-place Frontier. The team played tough, but Frontier beat Brattleboro 8–6 and 7–3 to win the Mantle Division Championship.

Jamie Martell and Sam Kilelee coached the 16-and-under team. On the roster were Alex Bingham, Cameron Cruz, Aden Davis, Jackson Emery, Troy Forkin, Patrick Gagliardi, Nick Gerard, Jolie Glidden, Degan Gundry, Zinabu McNiece, Parker Richardson, Reed Sargent, Tucker Sargent, Thad Sawyer, Willem Thurber, and Brandon Weeks.

* * *

The 19-and-unders Post 5 team would have defended its state American Legion Baseball title had the league not canceled play. But it would have been a tall order for Post 5 to repeat as state champions in 2020.

Several players aged out of the league, and two key veterans, Tyler Millerick and Forrester Avard, did not play this season. The lone 19-year-old player was Adam Newton.

Still, this Brattleboro team finished the regular season with a 12–8 record.

Although there was no official Legion state championship, the Vermont Summer Baseball League organized a tournament at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction.

Brattleboro defeated Barre in the first round, 7–2, but then the team was eliminated by White River Junction in the second round, 3–2.

S.D. Ireland, the team Brattleboro defeated in last year's American Legion Championship, won the Vermont Summer Baseball League championship.

“We were younger this season,” Libardoni said. “We had five 16-year-olds in our lineup.”

“We have everyone coming back next year and Legion baseball will be back,” he said. “We'll play in more tournaments as well, such as Keene and Worcester, Mass.”

Libardoni and Brad Venice coached the 19-and-under team, which featured Alex Bingham, Shea Buckley, Turner Clews, Greg Fitzgerald, Chris Frost, Jeremy Graves, Alex Kendall, Alex Kurucz, Zinabu McNiece, Adam Newton, Jack Pattison, Aaron Petrie, and Dan Tetreault.

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