Brattleboro Post 5 fielded a solid team this year with plenty of good pitching, a steady defense, and timely hitting. Their goal was to win the Vermont American Legion Baseball tournament, and they had all the pieces needed to succeed.
Unfortunately, Essex Post 91 also possesses all those ingredients and once again stood in the way of Brattleboro's quest for its first state title since 2019.
Post 5 did their best, but Essex would not be denied as Post 91 won their third straight state Legion title last week in Castleton.
• Brattleboro got trounced in their first meeting with Essex, a 16-0 win in five innings on July 24. But Post 5 stayed focused and earned the right to face Post 91 for the title with a 10-7 victory over Lakes Region on July 25.
After giving up three runs in the top of the second inning, Post 5 responded with seven runs in the bottom of the second, with Aidan Davis hitting a two-run double as one of Brattleboro's five hits in the frame.
Lakes Region scored another run off Post 5 starting pitcher Jackson Emery before Brattleboro coach Eric Libardoni turned to Davis to close out the game. A three-run double by Lakes Region's Kyle James whittled the Post 5 lead to 8-7, but Davis held them scoreless the rest of the way.
However, Brattleboro did have to survive one last scare. Lakes Region loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Alex Bingham, who was being saved for the next game against Essex, came in to get out of the jam with a strikeout and a pick off of a baserunner at first to end the game.
• As planned, Bingham got the start on the mound for the July 26 game against Essex. Post 5 was faced with having to beat Essex twice in the same day to dethrone the reigning champs, and Bingham gave Brattleboro a chance by holding Post 91 to seven hits over five innings.
Unfortunately, Essex had its ace pitcher Andrew Goodrich rested and ready to take on Brattleboro. Goodrich, the tournament MVP in 2021 and 2022, struck out the first five batters he faced and finished with a total of 13 strikeouts.
It wasn't until the sixth inning that Brattleboro finally had some success at the plate against Goodrich. Zinabu McNeice singled, Davis hit a double, and Turner Clews got them both home with a single to cut the Essex lead to 5-2. Brattleboro would get no closer, and the 5-2 victory gave Post 91 the state title and a trip to this week's Northeast Regional Tournament at Fitton Field in Worcester, Massachusetts.
• Brattleboro players selected for the All-Tournament Team were Turner Clews at catcher, Alex Bingham at shortstop, and Aidan Davis and Harper Cutler as outfielders.
This is the last season for Clews, Bingham, and McNeice, as they have aged out of Legion ball. Losing these three players is tough, but the 2024 season looks bright for Post 5.
Half of this season's team was 16 years old, so they have two more seasons of eligibility if they choose to continue with Post 5. Davis, the regular season MVP in the Southern Division, has one more year of eligibility and should pick up valuable experience playing for Keene State College, while Emery and Jolie and Jayke Glidden should be the core of a strong pitching staff.
By contrast, Essex will be replacing as many as eight players in 2024, but the youth baseball program in that town seems to produce a steady stream of great players - such as the Little Leaguers you'll read about shortly. There is little doubt Essex will be vying for a fourth straight Legion championship next year, and is there is little doubt that Brattleboro will be there waiting for them.
Little League roundup
• First, I'll start by correcting a mistake from last week's roundup, where my misinterpretation of the Little League 12-U state tournament schedule still had Brattleboro alive in the tournament after losing to St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County in the first weekend of play.
Unfortunately, those two losses in the double-elimination tournament ended the playoff run for Brattleboro in the first weekend of play. The District 2 champs deserved a better fate, but they delivered a lot of good memories for their fans in the District tournament and you'll likely be seeing many of these players' names popping up in this space in the years to come.
• While the 12-U team had an early exit from their tournament, the 10-U team reached the state final with a 12-2 win in five innings over Barre Red on July 28 in Foster Road Park in Essex.
Faced with a win-or-go-home game in this double-elimination tournament, Brattleboro emphatically won this game by pounding out 21 hits. Gavin Carpenter had four hits, while Zealand Wentworth, Dawson Newton, and Cole Systo all had three hits, and Cooper Deyo, Owen Malouin, and Braysen George all had two hits. Simon Potter was the winning pitcher, with Jack Bennett finishing up in relief.
That set up the championship game against undefeated Essex on July 29, and Essex won the title with a 3-0 win over Brattleboro. In contrast to the fireworks at the plate against Barre, Brattleboro managed only two hits - by Newton and Malouin - and four walks.
Essex starting pitcher Joe Taylor-Marsh gave up both hits; he threw 4 2/3 innings before giving way to relievers Dylan Markey and David Bent, who got the final four outs to preserve the win. Brattleboro's best chance to score came in the fifth inning, when they loaded the bases with two outs. Markey came in and got the final out on a called third strike to end the inning.
Essex got its three runs in the third inning against Newton, Brattleboro's starting pitcher. He scattered nine hits over 4 2/3 innings of work. Bennett finished up and held Essex scoreless through his stint on the mound.
It was the second straight year that Essex has won the 10-U state championship, and the bulk of this year's team played as 9-year-olds for last year's champions. Essex now advances to the East Region tournament in Cranston, Rhode Island.
• The Brattleboro 11-U team was sort of under the radar this season. Since they got an automatic berth in the state tournament for District 2, they never had a playoff game at South Main Street Field.
In the state tournament in Northfield, Brattleboro opened with a 12-1 win over Granite Valley. Bentley Sparks was the winning pitcher, while Eli Depue finished up in relief. Sparks and Elide Coplan each had three hits, while Owen Houghton and Depue had two hits each.
Game 2 was an 8-5 loss to Champlain Valley, as Brattleboro saw an early 4-0 lead vanish with a strong comeback by the victors. Coplan took the loss for Brattleboro.
Brattleboro again faced Champlain Valley in the elimination game, and fell short, 3-2, in seven innings. Vinny Doell and Sparks split the pitching duties; Doell struck out 10 batters over 4 1/3 innings, while Sparks finished up. A throwing error in the bottom of the seventh would provide the margin of victory for Champlain Valley.
• It's a great achievement to have all three Brattleboro Little League All-Star teams play in their respective state tournaments. They held their own against some of the best youth baseball programs in the state, and while all three fell short of their championships, these teams upheld the tradition of Brattleboro as one of the great baseball towns of Vermont.
Shrine game is this weekend
• This year's Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl will be held at the Dave Wolk Stadium at Vermont State University-Castleton on Saturday, Aug. 5. Kickoff is slated for 11:30 a.m.
Training camp opened up earlier this week for the top high school football players from Vermont and New Hampshire who will be playing in this game, a fundraiser for the Shriner's Children's Hospitals in Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts and Montreal, Quebec.
Four Bellows Falls players and one Brattleboro player will be on this year's Vermont squad. Bellows Falls is sending running back Caden Haskell, center Jake Moore, quarterback Jamison Nystrom, and guard Dillon Perry, while Brattleboro is sending wide receiver Tristan Evans.
Windsor's Greg Balch will be coaching the Vermont team. It's his second stint as a Shrine coach; the first came in 2018 when he led Vermont to a 24-13 win. For more information about the game and where to get your tickets, visit shrinemaplesugarbowl.com.
High water cancels Riverfest
• The West and Connecticut rivers are not particularly safe for boaters, as both high water and higher than normal contamination caused by runoff from the July 9-10 floods remain a problem.
That, along with some planned repairs to the flashboards on the Bellows Falls Dam that further affected water levels, led the Connecticut River Conservancy (CRC) to pull the plug on its second annual Riverfest, which would have been held this past weekend.
The murky river water still looks like an iced coffee with a couple of shots of half-and-half, and it will likely remain that way until we get a long stretch of dry weather. The CRC was wise to wait until next year to have its celebration of the Connecticut River and the recreational opportunities it provides.
Senior bowling roundup
• Week 13 of the spring/summer season of the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League at Brattleboro Bowl on July 27 saw Five Pins (45-20) have another 5-0 week to remain in first place. Slo Movers (43-22) went 4-1 to move into second place, followed by No Splits (41.5-23.5), Turkeys (39-21), Skippers (36.5-28.5), Stayin' Alive (31.5-33.5), The Bowlers (30-35), High Rollers (27-38), and Wrecking Crew (24.5-40.5).
Shirley Aiken had the women's high handicap game (270) and series (731). Ron Cargill had the men's high handicap game (268), while Warren Corriveau Sr. had the high handicap series (691). Wrecking Crew had the high team handicap game (899), while Five Pins had the high team handicap series (2,546).
Chuck Adams led the men's scratch scoring with a 640 series that featured games of 221, 212, and 207, while Corriveau had a 628 series with games of 221, 216, and 191. Robert Rigby had a 528 series with a 215 game, John Walker had a 508 series with a 180 game, and Duane Schillemat had a 504 series. Bob Uccello had a 198 game, Fred Ashworth had a 184 game, and Wayne Randall had a 180 game.
Aiken had the women's high scratch game (210) and series (551). She also had games of 174 and 167, while Carol Gloski rolled a 186.
Randolph T. Holhut, deputy editor of this newspaper, has written this column since 2010 and has covered sports in Windham County since the 1980s. Readers can send him sports information at [email protected].
This Sports column by Randolph T. Holhut was written for The Commons.