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July 31, 2008
By Mal Boright
Armadillos' player/manager Dennis Johnson knew the team would face an uphill battle against 4-5 Chelsea in Sunday's Vermont Senior Baseball League game: Both Armadillos' pitchers, Bill Supple and Greg Bolger, were out for the week.
Hoping to pull a rabbit out of his hat, Johnson enlisted Jim Merrier, who had been the Armadillos' sole pitcher in its inaugural season, and Tim Kupiak, who had previously played as a utility player for the team, but since leaving had pitched several years ago in the other senior men's league, to take the mound. Although each gave gutsy performances, both were plagued by wildness.
Merrier rendered just four hits in three innings, but also walked 10 while giving up five runs. Kupiak, in four innings of work, gave up six hits and walked five, giving up eight runs. In all, the Dillos pitching staff rendered 17 walks and 10 hits. Contributing to the teams' woes, they committed three errors, each one leading to an unearned run.
Some key plays kept Williston in the game. Chelsea left the bases loaded in the first as Merrier recorded a key strikeout. With the bases loaded in second and one out, Merrier fielded a grounder, threw to Darby Crum at home for one, who then threw to Pat Martin at third for an inning ending double play. In the third, with the bases loaded and no outs, Martin fielded a grounder, touched third for one and threw home to Crum, who applied the tag for another double play. In the fourth, while Chelsea scored six times, Kupiak prevented further damage by retiring two with the bases loaded to end the inning. In all, Chelsea stranded 16 runners in eight innings of offense.
The Dillos' offense outhit Chelsea 14-10 and refused to roll over. Down by two after one inning, the Dillos came back with three in the second. Martin (3-5, 2B, 1 run) and Crum (1-4, 2 runs) singled. After left fielder Dann Van Der Vliet (0-4, 2 runs) forced Martin at third, right fielder Roberto Seals (2-4, 2B 2 runs, 2 RBI) doubled to score Crum. Johnson (2-3, BB, HR, 2 runs, 3 RBI) and Joel Klein (3-4, 2 2B, 1 run, 4 RBIs) followed with successive singles to score Van Der Vliet and Seals.
After Chelsea scored one in the third and six in the fourth to take a 10-3 lead, the Dillos came back with one in the fifth. Klein doubled, Merrier was hit by a pitch and Wark reached on an error to load the bases. Shortstop Brent Tremblay (1-4, BB, 1 run, 1 RBI) then launched a drive over the left fielder's head, bringing home Klein. Before Merrier could reach home from second, however, Wark was thrown out sliding into third.
The Dillos scored four in the sixth to make it a 10-8 game. Martin singled. After Crum reached on an error, Seals' single scored Martin. Johnson then walked to load the bases. Klein then hit his second double of the game, clearing the bases.
The Chelsea lead was cut to 10-9 in the seventh as Tremblay walked and scored on Martin's double. But in the bottom of the frame, Chelsea scored three as the team put together two walks, a single and a double. Still, the Dillos clawed back as Van Der Vliet reached base on an error in the eighth and 56-year-old Johnson followed with a two-run shot over the right center field fence to make it 13-11.
Although the first two Dillos to bat in the ninth reached base, Chelsea retired three in a row to end the game.
On Sunday, the 7-3 Dillos travel to Bradford to play the 5-5 Connecticut Valley Orioles.
July 31, 2008
By Mal Boright
The S.D. Ireland American Legion baseball team earned the second seed in this weekend's Northern Division Tournament and is slated to open play in the double elimination event Friday afternoon against Addison County at the Middlebury College field.
Observer photo by Ben Sarle
S.D. Ireland pitcher Nick Angstman fields a ground ball during Saturday’s American Legion game against South Burlington.
Game time is around 4 p.m.
The Green and Gold Irelands beat Addison, which finished 13-5, twice during the regular season.
Coach Jim Neidlinger's Irelands appeared to have the division title and tournament top seed in their back pockets until they dropped three of their last five regular season contests and two of their last three. In Tuesday's finale, played at the Irelands' home field at Champlain Valley Union High School, the Colchester Cannons beat the home team, 4-3. The win gave the Cannons a 15-3 mark, good enough to nudge the 14-4 Irelands out of first place.
“We have to do a better job of small ball and the little things,” Neidlinger told his team as he started preparing it for the tournament immediately after the contest with the Cannons.
Weighing heavily was a serious case of LOB (left on base) disease. The Irelands stranded 15 runners against the Cannons after leaving 12 on Saturday in a disheartening, 5-4, eight-inning defeat in South Burlington against the Knights of Columbus aggregation.
On Monday, Whit Mikell helped the Irelands to a 5-0 victory against Franklin County in St. Albans as he fired a two-hit masterpiece.
“It was Whit's best game of the season,” said assistant coach Onnie Matthews, adding that the veteran right hander was throwing in the 85-mile-per-hour range.
Sluggers for the Irelands in the victory were outfielder Jared Badger with three hits and second baseman Anthony DeToma, who had a pair of hits.
The win took some of the sour taste from Saturday's loss to South Burlington, in which the Irelands coughed up a 4-1 lead by giving up three runs in the bottom of the sixth. They then lost on a walk and three scratch ground ball hits in the bottom of the eight when the K of C snapped a 4-4 tie.
The Irelands had taken early command in the game as Shane Montani slugged a second inning solo homer and hot-hitting Nick Angstman blasted a double and three singles, driving in two runs.
Angstman, the starting pitcher, fired five innings of one-hit ball before weakening in the sixth when South Burlington tied the game on three singles and a pair of walks.
Battle for first place
On Tuesday, the Irelands took an early 2-0 lead on Colchester. Justin Raymond led off in the first with a double to right and later scored on an RBI grounder by starting pitcher Paul “Bear” Handy.
A bases-loaded walk to DeToma provided the second Ireland run in the bottom of the second frame.
The Cannons struck for four runs in the top of the third on three singles, an RBI double, a hit batter and four stolen bases. They never surrendered the lead.
It was Colchester's only offense of the game. Relief pitcher Connor Mellen came on with two out in the third and retired 10 of the next 11 batters in 3.1 innings of hitless chucking. Angstman worked a scoreless seventh.
Frustrating for the Irelands was the offensive side of the game. They left the bases loaded three times, including twice when they packed the sacks with just one out.
In the bottom of the second, when it looked as if the home team might break the game open, Angstman launched a one-out screaming drive to right, only to have Cannons right fielder Travis Dulude roll to his right and fall to the grass, arms extended, to grab the sinking liner for the second out. Shocked Ireland runners did not advance and were stranded when Colchester reliever Spencer Dauderand picked up a strikeout.
The Irelands loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth, only to have the next two batters retired on outfield fly balls.
Montani's RBI single drove in the Ireland's third run in the sixth, but Mikell's two-out fly to deep center with runners at second and third was hauled in by Colchester center fielder Zack Aubin after a long run.
A two-out, bases loaded situation in the seventh went by the boards when Colchester closer Dulude whiffed the game's final batter.
The Irelands collected five hits in the game but were beneficiaries of 11 walks and one hit batter while two reached on errors. That's 19 on base in seven frames, but only three touched home plate.
Hopes are high that starting Friday the line drives will find places the fielders are not located.
Colchester also opens the division tournament on Friday, with a game against fourth place Orleans-Essex County.
July 31, 2008
By Dawn Schneiderman
Special to the Observer
Contributed photo by Jeff Schneiderman
TOP : Davis Mikell is congratulated by his father and coach, Will Mikell, after hitting a home run in a state tournament game against Lyndonville.
2ND: Conner Stankevitch snags a line drive against Lyndonville.
3RD: Williston catcher Hayden Smith prepares to apply a tag at home plate against Connecticut Valley South.
BOTTOM: Davis Mikell (left) and Erik Bergkvist celebrate with rally caps after Tommy Fitzgerald drove in two runs in the bottom of the sixth and final inning to tie the score in the state championship game. Williston went on to win the game.
The Williston 11- and 12-year-old Little League All Star team is headed to Bristol, Conn. to represent Vermont in the New England Regional Little League tournament — the winner of which moves on to play in the Little League World Series.
“This has been a summer full of memories for 12 young men and the community,” said Coach Will Mikell. “It's an amazing thing for these young men, and they deserve it. It's been unbelievable.”
The trip to the New England Regional tourney is the prize for winning a hard fought state championship tournament in Brattleboro, held over the past week against teams from St. Albans, Lyndonville and Connecticut Valley, winners of their respective districts.
Williston went into a hole early, losing its first game in the double-elimination tournament in a rain soaked outing against St. Albans last Wednesday. The loss put Williston in a “win or go home” situation for each of its remaining games. But the boys' bats came alive for the next two games, as they defeated Lyndonville 9-3 and St. Albans 12-4.
The wins moved Williston into a showdown against undefeated Connecticut Valley. Williston needed two wins against the southern Vermont team to take the championship.
The first game was a classic pitcher's duel, and Williston came away with a 1-0 win. Jamie Pierson and Davis Mikell pitched a masterful game for the win. They were helped by a terrific defensive play in the sixth, when Tommy Fitzgerald threw out a Connecticut Valley player at home to preserve the win.
Williston scored its single run in the fourth inning, after Mikell smacked his team's only hit of the game. With Mikell on third and one out, Ryan Schneiderman put the ball in play, allowing Mikell to score on a fielding error by the Connecticut Valley second baseman.
Both teams made up for the lack of scoring in their first outing when they met for the championship game on Monday. Connecticut Valley came out strong, posting a 7-2 advantage at the end of the second inning. Connecticut Valley expanded its lead to 10-3 in the middle of the fourth.
But Williston started chipping away in the bottom of the inning, plating four runs on hits by Mikell, Connor Stankevich and Hayden Smith. The Willistonians added another in the fifth on a pair of singles by Tommy Fitzgerald and Schneiderman, cutting the lead to 10-8.
Williston continued to apply pressure in the sixth and final inning. With the bases loaded, game hero Fitzgerald cranked a line drive double to right field to drive in the tying runs.
There was more to come. Williston loaded the bases again, and with two outs and two strikes, the Connecticut Valley pitcher threw a wild pitch. Speedster Brendon “B.G.” Gannon, pinch running for Max Whitcomb, who had drawn a walk, raced home from third and beat the tag for an 11-10 Williston victory.
Fitzgerald and Mikell led the team with four hits each, while Stankevich pitched four clutch innings in relief to earn the win.
“We wouldn't be where we're at without the effort of all 12 of these boys. Every player has made a significant contribution to get to where we're at,” Coach Mikell said.
A schedule posted on the Little League Baseball Web site, www.littleleague.org, has Williston facing off against Massachusetts on Friday. The Vermont team is scheduled to play Rhode Island on Saturday, Connecticut on Sunday and New Hampshire on Tuesday. Maine also has a team in the tournament.
The top four teams move on to the semifinals, scheduled for Thursday. The regional championship is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 9.
“I'll make one prediction only. And that prediction is, these young men will represent their community with pride and distinction,” Will Mikell said. “We belong where we're at.”
Editor Greg Duggan contributed to this article.
July 31, 2008
By Tim Simard
Broken down by house, Williston's 2007 scores on the New England Common Assessment Program reveal differences between the teams, though District Principal Walter Nardelli said the information only demonstrates a part of what students are learning.
In the upper houses, average math scores ranged from 74 percent to 89 percent of students scoring proficient or higher; reading scores ranged from 71 percent to 84 percent proficiency or higher; and writing scores ranged from 48 percent to 71 percent proficiency or higher.
Lower house math scores of proficient or higher ranged from 64 percent to 96 percent; reading scores ranged from 66 percent to 83 percent.
Nardelli provided scores last week for each grade in each house in response to a Vermont Public Record request from the Observer. The numbers used in this story and accompanying graphs represent the average scores for all grades in an academic house.
NECAP averages by house
Percentage of students scoring proficient or higher
The information in these graphs represents the average scores for all grades in an academic house, based on grade-by-grade scores for each house provided by the Williston School District. The school district would not provide the actual names of houses.
Nardelli expressed apprehension over releasing the information, saying it was not meant for “public consumption” and fearing it would keep the town and schools in “further turmoil.”
In recent months, parents have at various community forums and School Board meetings voiced concerns about perceived inequity across the houses.
Nardelli cautioned the scores do not tell the whole truth regarding the equity of education within the houses, and was concerned parents would start requesting transfers of students in the middle of the summer without knowing all the facts.
“People are going to have assumptions that aren't true,” he said. “It is normal that you'll get differences between houses.”
Since 2005, NECAP tests have been administered to students in grades three through eight as a way to measure a school's adequate yearly progress, according to Michael Hock, director of educational assessment for the Vermont Department of Education. Grades five and eight are tested on writing. Adequate yearly progress must be measured under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Nardelli said the school receives the NECAP scores on a school, grade and individual student basis from the DOE. To get the house information, the district takes individual test scores and groups them according to the house a student attends.
But Nardelli said no one — including teachers, administrators and him — sees the names of the houses on the NECAP results. The name of the house isn't as important as the results, Nardelli said.
A Vermont Public Record request from the Observer for a key to identify each house with the scores was denied. Cindy Koenemann-Warren, human resources director for Chittenden South Supervisory Union, said in an e-mail to the Observer that no such record exists and would not be provided. She said CSSU consulted with its lawyer in reaching the decision.
“The School District is not required to provide the report in an alternate format nor is it required to create a report that does not currently exist,” Koenemann-Warren wrote.
While the percentage of students scoring proficient or higher in each subject varied by house, most houses were above the state average in the tested subjects. All houses exceed the state math average of 63 percent proficiency.
Only one lower house is below the state reading average of 70 percent proficiency, with another upper house matching the state average. In writing, one upper house matches the state's 48 percent score, while the rest are above the average.
Williston as a school district averaged 79 percent for math, 77 percent for reading, and 63 percent for writing.
Nardelli said the scores are meant to be analyzed at grade levels, not in a house system such as Williston's. He said he's more concerned about balance between grade levels than getting exact scores between houses.
The current house scores don't show student progression through the school system, he said. Nardelli said the best information NECAP testing provides is how a particular student is improving in math and reading through the school years.
Hock of the DOE agreed, stating the important issue is that students are meeting the state standards.
“If I was the principal, I would hope each house was scoring above the state averages,” Hock said, adding he believes Williston consistently has strong scores.
Nardelli said a number of factors could explain some of the variances in scores across the houses, including the distribution of special education and economically disadvantaged students. Statistically, neither group performs as well as its peers on the NECAP tests, Nardelli said, a problem the school is trying to fix. And while the administration strives to balance the number of special education students and economically disadvantaged students across the houses, it does not always work out equally.
Also, the movement of students in and out of town, or between houses, can affect the scores of a house each year. The chemistry between students in the houses, and between teachers and students, can also affect scoring.
“It's not black and it's not white,” Nardelli said. “It's a gray area.”
Asked if he believed the NECAP tests are the best way to measure a student's academic abilities, Nardelli shook his head and said, “No.” What's important is that students know how to learn in life, not how to learn to take a test, he said.
“The fact is Williston kids know how to learn,” Nardelli said.