In Division I high school baseball, southern Vermont teams get looked down upon by the powerhouse programs in Chittenden County such as Essex, Colchester, Champlain Valley, and South Burlington.
For Brattleboro, from Little League to Babe Ruth to American Legion baseball, they have to battle the players from these programs to win state championships in the summer, and to win high school championships in the spring.
But this particular bunch of Brattleboro Colonels varsity baseball players knows what it is like to beat Chittenden County's best. In 2016, Brattleboro beat Colchester to win the Vermont Little League title and seven members of that team - Alex Bingham, Alex Carpenter, Turner Clews, Zinabu McNeice, Jack Pattison, Aaron Petrie, and Caden Wood - are on this year's Colonel varsity squad.
It wasn't quite a rematch of the 2016 Little League championship when the third-seeded Colonels hosted the sixth-seeded Colchester Lakers in a quarterfinal game at Tenney Field on June 4. But the Colonels had the same ace on the mound that the 2016 Little League champs had - McNeice - and he delivered a winning effort in a 3-2 victory over the Lakers.
Brattleboro coach Chris Groeger said McNeice “wasn't as sharp as usual and he fell behind in the count a lot, but he continually battled his way out.”
McNeice, who struck out two, walked four, and gave up six hits, just missed pitching a complete game. Bingham came in with two outs in the seventh to get the save.
The Colonels avoided disaster in the first inning when they got out of a bases-loaded jam with one out, thanks to an inning-ending double play turned by Bingham at shortstop. They weren't as fortunate in the third inning when Colchester's Jack Talbot drove in a pair of runs with a base hit for a 2-0 lead.
But that would be all the runs the Lakers would get. Brattleboro finally broke through in the fifth when Bingham doubled to left and McNeice singled to center. Pattison drew a walk to load the bases and Clews scored Bingham and McNeice with a single to left to tie the game at 2-2.
What proved to be the winning run came in the sixth inning. Alex Kurucz drew a walk, and Henry Thurber was brought in as a pinch-runner. Thurber then scored on a double hit to the deepest reaches of Tenney Field by Brandon Weeks.
The 11-1 Colonels were scheduled to play at No. 2 Essex (13-3) on June 8 in the semifinals, but got rained out. They'll try again on June 9.
• Fourth-seeded Bellows Falls took care of business in their first-round Division III playoff when they shut out 13th-seeded Northfield, 16-0, in five innings at Hadley Field on June 2.
All the elements that gave BF the high seed in the playoff were on display - lots of hitting (10 hits in all), alert and aggressive base running (six stolen bases), and solid pitching as winning pitcher Matt Hayes and reliever Elliot Graham combined for 14 consecutive outs, with 10 strikeouts and no walks between them.
“We did what we were supposed to against a 13th seed,” said BF coach Bob Lockerby. “The good news is that we did not take them lightly.”
Northfield starting pitcher Adam Gerdes gave up three runs in the first, five more runs in the second, and four runs in the third as the Terriers did not let up. Everyone contributed as Ethan Kelly had a pair of hits, Grady Lockerby hit a two-run double, Dom Kendal had a two-run single, and Jeb Monier and Jack Burke hit RBI singles. Jack Cravinho, Colton Baldisaro, Jamison Nystrom, and Graham each had a base hit.
The Terriers hosted fifth-seeded Hazen in a quarterfinal on June 4, and came up short, 4-2. Cravinho was the losing pitcher, He pitched a complete game with eight strikeouts and drove in both of BF's runs.
It wasn't quite enough, however, as Jadon Baker hit a two-out, two-run single in the top of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie and give Hazen the victory. BF finished the season with an 11-7 record.
• It's been a tough few weeks for the Leland & Gray squad as they have struggled with the death of their teammate, outfielder Dylan Landers, in a truck crash last month. But the ninth-seeded Rebels came close to getting a first-round Division III playoff win, only to fall short to eighth-seeded Windsor, 6-4, on June 1.
Losing pitcher Kristian Pierson went the distance for the Rebels and did his best to keep his team in the game. Trent Pagach and Jeremy Graves each had a pair of hits and Parker Richardson added an RBI double as Leland & Gray finished season with a 5-9 record.
• Seventh-seeded Brattleboro had an early exit from the Division I playoffs with a 6-3 loss to No. 10 North Country in a first-round game on June 1 at Sawyer Field.
North Country's CeCe Marquis was the heroine of this game with a pair of home runs. The first was a solo shot in the third inning and the other was two-run blast in the fifth inning. Teammate Hailey Pothier also hit a solo homer for the Falcons.
Brattleboro took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Brenna Beebe tripled, Leah Madore drew a two-walk, and Alex Kinley cleared the bases with a three-run homer to left field.
But that was all the scoring for the Colonels. The Falcons would tie the game in the third inning on a RBI single by Celeste Tanguay and the solo homers by Marquis and Pothier. The two-run homer by Marquis snapped the tie in the fifth inning, and Tanguay hit another RBI single in the sixth.
Madore was the losing pitcher. She struck out eight and walked only two batters, but gave up nine hits in the loss. Jenna Laramie was the winning pitcher. After her shaky start, she finished the game with 10 strikeouts and held the Colonels to just four hits. The Colonels finished the season at 9-5.
• Bellows Falls and Leland & Gray, two teams unexpectedly linked together this season as they dealt with the sudden loss of classmates, faced each other for the third time this season in a Division III first-round playoff game in Westminster on June 1.
Dylan Landers - whose sister and cousin are on the Rebels softball team - and Bellows Falls second baseman Jada Marie Spaulding Doyle each died in motor vehicle accidents during the spring season.
The Rebels and Terriers put aside their grief for a couple of hours, and the ninth-seeded Rebels fell behind 8-0 after two innings, then rallied back to beat the No. 8 Terriers, 19-11.
Mary Sanderson was the winning pitcher. She went the distance for the Rebels and plenty of offensive support. MaKaila Morse had three hits and five RBIs, Hannah Greenwood added two hits with a double and two RBIs, and Sanderson helped herself with a double and an RBI. Jenna Dolloph and Grace Wilkinson each had two hits to lead the Terriers.
The Rebels' reward for winning this game was a trip to the quarterfinals at top-seeded and undefeated White River Valley on June 4, losing 18-4 in five innings. The Rebels achieved a moral victory in the fourth inning, breaking up a no-hitter by winning pitcher Fiona Vaillancourt with hits by Makaila Morse, Ruth Wright, Ava LeCours, and Sanderson.
Sanderson took the loss, giving up seven walks and 11 hits to White River Valley. The Rebels finished a difficult season with a 7-10 record and displayed a great deal of strength and perseverance in the process.
Track & Field
• The Bellows Falls boys and girls placed second and seventh, respectively, in the Division II state championship meet on June 5 at South Burlington High School. Jack Burke won the 100 meters (11.35 seconds) and long jump (20 feet, 10.5 inches) for the BF boys, who finished 40 points behind first place U-32.
Burke also took second in the 200 (23.26) and was part of the victorious 4x100 relay team (45.48), along with Harrison Gleim, Luke Parker-Jennings and Tylar Stanley. Parker-Jennings (10 feet, 6 inches) and Stanley (10 feet) finished one-two in the pole vault. Stephanie Ager was second in the 3,000 (11 minutes, 5.69 seconds) for the BF girls, while Maya Waryas was second in the 100 hurdles (17.30).
• In the Division I meet at Burlington High School on June 5, the Brattleboro girls and boys finished 10th and 12th, respectively. Sylvie Normandeau turned in the best performance of the day for the Colonels, with a third in the girls' pole vault (8-5), while the 4x100 relay team of Caitlin Lonardo, Priya Kitzmiller, Alina Secrest, and Normandeau were fifth in the 4x100 relay (53.34). Ava Whitney was sixth in the high jump (4-7.75), seventh in the long jump (15-4.75), and eighth in the 400 (62.73) and 800 (2:31.63).
In the boys' meet, Magnus vonKrusenstiern was fourth in the high jump (5-8) and Alexander Shriver added a seventh in the 300 hurdles (45.25).
• The Division IV state meet was held June 4 at Knapp Field in Manchester. In the girls' meet, Green Mountain finished fourth overall. Grace Tyrell won the 400 meters (62.65) and was second in the 200 (28.61), Berkley Hutchins was second in the high jump (4-4) and fourth in the discus (71-10), Luna Burkland was third in the high jump (29-1.75), and Greta Bernier was fourth in the 3,000 (12:28.11).
The Leland & Gray girls were sixth. Emma O'Brien was second in the pole vault (6-6), while Kate Petty was third in the 300 hurdles (57.88) and fourth in the 100 hurdles (19.26). The 4x100 meter relay team of Emma Stover, Abbie Hazelton, Reena Sanderson, and Petty was third (63.10), while the 8x400 relay team of Sanderson, Hazelton, Stover, and O'Brien was fourth (14:40.4).
In the boys' meet, Green Mountain was fourth. Eben Mosher was first in the high jump (5-7.75), and second in the long jump (19-2) and javelin (126-07), while Mitchell Rounds was third in the 400 (46.77). Leland & Gray finished seventh. Hunter Fillion won the discus (108-7) and was third in the shot put (34-01), while Trevor Stillwagon was fourth in the long jump (18-4) and the 400 (57.43). Liam Towle was third in 110 hurdles (18.02), and fourth in the 300 hurdles (47.84) and triple jump (36-6.75).
The Rebels' 4x100 relay team of Christian Cannella, Alex Parker-Jennings, Peter Broussard, and Fillion was third (50.19), while the 4x400 team of Broussard, Parker-Jennings, Nick Petronic, and Stillwagon were third (4:22.17). Twin Valley's Robert Mola finished eighth in the 200, while Aaron Soskin was 10th in the 400.
• It was a quick exit for all the local tennis teams in their respective state tournaments on June 2, as all three were on the road and all three lost their first round matches, all by 7-0 scores.
• The No. 9 Brattleboro boys put up a good fight against No. 8 St. Johnsbury in their Division I contest. Four of the matches went to tiebreakers. In singles play, Elias Tussie defeated Brattleboro's Max Naylor 7-6 (6), 6-2, and Jack Jafif defeated Brattleboro's Mason Foard 6-4, 7-5.
In doubles, St. Johnsbury's Moises Zetune and Ivan Garza defeated Abe Moore Odell and Leo Bodett 6-4, 7-6 (5), and Riku Momozawa and James Piluso beat Elias Gradinger and Ben Berg 7-5, 6-3. Brattleboro's Nathan Kim, Ben Luna, and Ty Smith lost their singles matches in straight sets.
• No. 7 Spaulding defeated the 10th-seeded Brattleboro girls in a Division I playdown in Barre. In singles play, No. 1 Halle Pletzer defeated Brattleboro's Lydia Hazzard-Leal, 6-2, 6-1. No. 2 Camden Kelley was a 6-4, 6-0 winner over Brattleboro's Cearra O'Hara. Spaulding's No. 3 Ashley Boisvert outlasted Lauren Stockwell, 6-4, 6-4, and No. 5 Julia Fewer was a 6-2, 6-0 winner over Brattleboro's Caroline Naylor.
• No. 2 Burr & Burton beat the seventh-seeded Bellows Falls girls in a Division II quarterfinal in Manchester. In singles play, BF's Anika Larsen, Haley McAllister, Anya Taylor, Ariana Wunderle, and Emma Perkins lost in straight sets. The Terriers' doubles teams of Kathleen Dole and Grace Guild and Sapphire Joy and Rowan Perkins also lost in straight sets.
• In a first-round playoff game on June 1 in Townshend, fourth-seeded Leland & Gray defeated No. 13 Bellows Falls, 15-6. Liam Towle had three goals, seven assists, and five blocks to lead the Rebels. Warren Roberts added five goals.
On June 7, the 7-1 Rebels hosted a quarterfinal match against fourth-seeded Champlain Valley, and lost 15-4. Bellows Falls finished its season at 1-6.
• Sixth-seeded Colchester shut out the visiting 11th-seeded Brattleboro boys, 16-0, in a Division II first-round playoff on June 2. Mason Coburn had six goals and an assist and Austin Daigneault had four goals and four assists as the Lakers won their first playoff game in seven years.
Senior bowling roundup
• In Week 6 of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League on June 3 at Brattleboro Bowl, Team 2 had another 5-0 week to stay in first place at 21-9, three games ahead of second place Team 3 (18-12). Team 5 and Team 6 are tied for third (both 15-15), followed by Team 1 Team 4 (both 12-18).
Shirley Aiken had the women's high handicap game (262), while Pat Bentrup had the high handicap series (659). Wayne Randall had the men's high handicap game (275), while Pete Cross had the high handicap series (676). Team 2 had the high team handicap game (879) and series (2,579).
In scratch scoring, Robert Rigby led the men with a 583 series that featured a 244 game. Randall had a 235 game as part of his 537 series, and Cross had a 182 game as part of his 511 series.
Josie Rigby had a high scratch series of 486 to lead the women, while Aiken's 212 game was the women's high scratch score. Nancy Dalzell rolled a 181 as part of her 480 series, and Carole Frizzell had a 186 game.