The district round of the Vermont Little League Baseball playoffs have begun as postseason baseball returned to South Main Street Field for the first time since the summer of 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Little League tournaments across the nation last year, including the Little League World Series. This year, the tournaments are back and another fun part of summer in Vermont is restored.
Once again, Brattleboro fields three all-star teams in the 10-U, 11-U, and 12-U age divisions. They are facing teams from Rutland and Bennington for their respective District 2 titles.
• 10-U: Brattleboro opened its series against Bennington on July 10 at South Main Street Field, and rallied from an 11-2 deficit to win 14-13 in an action-packed game with more than a few twists and turns.
Bennington began the game with a pair of runs in the first inning. Kullen O'Donnell singled and later scored with a steal of home, while Bentley Burnell walked and scored on a base hit by Landon Becker.
Brattleboro got one of the runs back in the bottom half of the inning when Spencer Jones walked and scored on a base hit by Nolan Domanski. Burnell hit an RBI single in the second inning to give Bennington a 3-1 lead, while Jones walked and scored on a Domanski fielders choice in the third inning to make it 3-2.
Then everything went wrong for Brattleboro in the fourth inning as Bennington sent 14 batters to the plate and scored eight runs. Brattleboro's pitchers in the inning - starter Elde Coplan and Bentley Sparks in relief - combined for eight walks. Aggressive baserunning played a role, as Bennington scored two runs off double steals and two more on passed balls. Pinch hitter Zion Johnson walked twice and scored twice, while pinch hitter Ambrose O'Connell and Cooper Andrick had RBI singles.
At this point, it looked like it was all over for Brattleboro. Instead, they gradually chipped away at the lead. Owen Elliot, Sparks, and Jones all drew walks to start the fourth inning, and all of them scored. Azyi Crews then got on with an infield hit, and later stole home to cut the lead down to 11-6.
Bennington got two more runs in the fifth inning, but Brattleboro completed the comeback with eight unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
In the fifth, Brattleboro sent 12 batters to the plate and scored six runs. Eli Dupue, Sparks, and Jones all drew walks and all scored. Crews hit an RBI single and later scored on his second successful steal of home. Domanski drove in a run with a groundout, Colin Bell and McKay both walked and scored, and Elliot's infield hit drove in another run.
Suddenly, the Bennington lead was down to 13-12. Sparks pitched a scoreless sixth, and then Brattleboro got the two runs they needed in the bottom half of the inning. Jones walked and scored the tying run with a steal of home. Crews singled, and stole second and third. He then raced in from third to score the winning run on a two-out infield hit by Bell that brought the curtain down on an exciting finish for the home team.
The next day, Bennington bounced back with a 14-12 win over visiting Brattleboro. This time, it was Bennington's turn to have an improbable comeback.
Bennington trailed 11-0 going into their half of the second inning, but scored five runs in that frame and six more in the third to tie the game at 11-all. Brattleboro scored one run in the fifth to take back the lead, but Bennington rallied for three runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead to stay.
Kullen O'Donnell led Bennington with four hits, and winning pitcher Landon Beck threw four innings of relief to get the victory. Game 3 of the best-of-five series is set to be played in Bennington on July 14.
• 11-U: In the opening game of the 11-U playoffs on July 6, host team Rutland beat Brattleboro, 4-3. Rutland took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI double by Carter Robilotto. In the second inning, Logan Waite and Shaun Emery both singled. Waite scored on a groundout to second by Kaden Cole and Emery scored on a double by Logan Casey.
Rutland got a pair of runs in the bottom of the third as Chase Boudreau singled and Robilotto walked, Both scored on passed balls for a 4-2 lead. Colby Robinson drove in Brattleboro's final run in the fourth inning with a groundout.
Ronan Duffy was the winning pitcher. He gave up four hits over 3 2/3 innings. Brattleboro pitchers Senji Kimura and Briar Cutting combined to hold Rutland to just five hits.
The Brattleboro 11s hosted Rutland at South Main Street Field on July 10, and while their game was not nearly as wild at the 10-U that preceded it, Brattleboro still had to rally to beat Rutland, 7-4.
Brattleboro took a 2-0 lead in the second inning as Cutting and Kason Gundry hit back-to-back singles. A routine groundout by Landon Zinn ended with Zinn colliding with Boudreau at first base and Cutting and Gundry racing in to score on the play.
Rutland got a run in the second when Carter Robilotto was hit by a pitch and later scored on an error, tied the game in the third when Robilotto singled and scored after a bases-loaded walk drawn by Will Constantino, and took a 4-2 lead in the fourth when Duffy and Boudreau both singled and scored.
Brattleboro then took back the lead for good with five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Logan Waite started the inning with a walk. Pinch hitters Logan Casey and Sebastian Garro singled and doubled, respectively, Cutting hit an RBI single, and Gundry drew a walk. All five players would score.
Once Waite, who took over for starting pitcher Gundry in the third inning, got the lead, he would not relinquish it and held Rutland scoreless over the final two innings to get the win.
Brattleboro followed that effort up a 4-2 win over Rutland on July 11. Brattleboro now needs one more win over Rutland to clinch the district title.
• 12-U: In the opening game of the playoffs in Rutland on July 5, Brattleboro pulled out a 3-2 win over Rutland. Brattleboro left-hander Halen Ranslow went five innings, striking out eight batters while allowing only three hits. Brady Sparks struck out three batters in the sixth inning to earn the save.
Sparks scored Brattleboro's first run on a wild pitch in the first inning. Brattleboro then turned a triple play in the third inning to erase a Rutland scoring threat.
Brattleboro got two more runs in the fourth when Lucas Lamorder reached on an error and Charlie O'Connell singled. Both moved into scoring position on a passed ball, and eventually came in to score on a ball put in play by Ranslow for a 3-0 lead.
Rutland scored a pair of runs in the fifth on a two-run single by Ryan Coolidge.
The following night at South Main Street Field, Brattleboro was steamrollered by Bennington, 14-0, in four innings. Bennington pitcher Brody Smith shut down the Brattleboro bats with four no-hit innings, with one walk and six strikeouts.
Brattleboro got pounded again by Bennington, 13-0, again in four innings, on July 11. The home team scored six runs in the second and third innings and pitchers Rowan Behan and Hudson Burnell combined for Bennington's fourth no-hitter in as many games.
With the win, Bennington firmly established themselves as the team to beat, going 4-0 and outscoring their opponents, 55-0, in the round-robin phase of the 12-U district tournament.
Bennington clinched the No. 1 seed in the final round. They will host the winner of the June 15 semifinal between Brattleboro and Rutland on June 16 at 5:30 p.m.
• There's only two weeks left of the American Legion Baseball regular season schedule, and the contending teams in the Southern Division are tightly bunched in the fight for the top three spots in the standings that would qualify them for the state tournament.
Rutland, as the host team for the tournament, gets an automatic berth for the South. That leaves five teams fighting for the other three spots.
Manchester Union Underground is in first place at 8-4. They played a doubleheader with second place Brattleboro Post 5 on July 10 at Tenney Field.
Post 5 won the first game, 10-3. Zinabu McNeice was the winning pitcher. He held Manchester to five hits over six innings and struck out six. He also helped his cause with three hits to lead the Brattleboro offense. Turner Clews, Jack Pattison, Aidan Davis, and Jeremy Graves all finished with two hits apiece.
In the second game, Post 5 lost to Manchester, 14-4. Brattleboro finished the weekend 6-3 in the league and 9-4 overall.
• Bellows Falls Post 37 finished the weekend in fourth place at 5-4 after a doubleheader sweep of Lakes Region on July 10.
In game one, Rex Hill struck ot 10 and held Lakes Region to just one hit in the 16-1 victory. Sam Presch went 3-for-4 and Grady Lockerby went 2-for-3. Elliott Graham was the winning pitcher in a 3-2 victory in the second game.
Cyclist rides 200 miles in one day, raises $4,000 for Deerfield Valley Lions
• Imagine bicycling 200 miles on Route 100 - the twisty, mountainous highway that stretches the entire length of Vermont from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts border - and doing it all in one day.
That's a grueling ride, but Andrew Joseph accomplished it in a fundraiser for the Deerfield Valley Lions Club.
Joseph, who has a second home in Wilmington, has been participating in the Deerfield Valley club's Hungry Lion Bike Tour (HLBT) for several years but, on June 26, he stepped up his commitment by turning his daylong ride into a fundraiser for HLBT.
Through the kindness of Andrew, his wife Barbara, and his colleagues, friends, and family, the HLBT will begin this year's ride with more than $4,000 toward the event's 10th anniversary goal of $50,000.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions on travel last year, Andrew was able to devote more time to cycling, logging more than 6,000 miles in 2020. He's already halfway to duplicating that feat this year, but decided to celebrate this milestone by riding for charity.
Andrew is a Mount Snow ski instructor and a previous HLBT rider, so he knows how the pandemic affected the Deerfield Valley, and how much help is needed. Andrew believed that cycling to help local needs would resonate with people he knew - and he was right.
He found sponsors for his miles, and donated the funds to HLBT, which is not only the Deerfield Valley's premier cycling event, but also a key provider of funds to assist local families and individuals experiencing hunger and food insecurity.
“We've been fortunate to be part of this community for over 20 years and are humbled that so many people were willing to help us give back,” he said in a news release. “We hope that this inspires others to support this worthy mission, and help more of our neighbors in need.”
Right now, Andrew is HLBT's top single-year fundraiser. Deerfield Valley Lions president Julie Muller said the club is “so grateful and, honestly, in awe of Andrew's and his supporters' generosity for our cause. Because of his efforts, we will provide much needed assistance to our community.”
For more information, or to register for this year's HLBT ride, visit hungrylionbiketour.com.
Senior bowling roundup
• Week 11 of the spring/summer season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League on July 8 at Brattleboro Bowl saw first place Team 2 (40–15) go 5-0 to widen its lead. They're now five games ahead of second place Team 6 (35-20). Team 7 remained in third place (29-26), followed by Team 3 (26-29), Team 5 and Team 1 (both 24-31), and Team 4 (23-32).
Debbie Kolpa had the women's high handicap game (227), while Sally Perry had the high handicap series (644). Warren Corriveau Sr, had the men's high handicap game (257), while Duane Schillemat had the high handicap series (667). Team 1 had the high team handicap game (905) and series (2,555).
In scratch scoring, Robert Rigby led the men with a 579 series that featured games of 204 and 216. Corriveau had the men's high scratch game of 237 as part of his 560 series. Schillemat had a 190 and a 186 as part of his 544 series, and Chuck Adams had a 200 game.
Shirley Aiken had a 178 game as part of her high scratch series of 498 to lead the women, while Gloski's 179 game was the women's high scratch score, which was part of her 488 series.