July 15, 2010By Mal Boright Observer correspondent
S. D. Ireland American Legion baseball coach Jim Neidlinger might or might not have said, “(Houston) we have a problem” heading into the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday, with his slumping team trailing the Orleans-Essex-Caledonia Kings 3-0.
In any event, the Irelands got not one but two liftoffs in the closing two innings to score a walk-off 6-4 victory at the home Champlain Valley Union High field. The win kept alive their hopes for a state tournament appearance in late July at Castleton State College.
The satellite launches came from the bats of Nicky Elderton in the sixth — a two-run shot — and Drew Nick in the seventh, a three-run, game ending blast.
The victory lifted the Irelands’ North Division record to 5-8 and overall mark to 9-16. The team includes players from Williston.
With the rousing win as a possible propellant for a rocket-like surge through the remainder of the regular season, which ends Sunday, the Irelands were off to Montpelier Wednesday before returning home Thursday to meet the 5-7 Burlington Lynx at 5:30 p.m.
They then visit the Lynx Friday in Burlington. On Saturday, the Irelands will travel to South Burlington to tangle with the Knights of Columbus in a noontime encounter. A seven-inning contest that won’t count in the league standings will follow.
A trip to Lyndon State College and the OEC Kings on Sunday will finish the regular campaign.
To make the tournament, the Irelands likely need to win all of the remaining contests and could need help from others.
Comeback win in Hinesburg
Nick (2-for-4) punished a 1-2 pitch from OEC reliever Brandon Flood to break up Tuesday’s affair.
Down 4-2 after the Kings pushed over an unearned run in the top of the inning, the Irelands got the rally started when pinch hitter Lawrence Halvorson led off with a mighty double to right field. After a fly out, Shane deLaBreure rapped a rope single to right center off tiring OEC starter Matt Lyon, who was pulled in favor of Flood.
Collin Teator greeted Flood with a sharp single to left to drive in Halvorson and get the Irelands within 4-3.
Flood threw two dancing curves to Nick to get ahead 0 and 2. Nick took a ball and then uncorked the clout that cleared the bases.
“I was just trying to get a hit,” Nick said afterward.
He added that Elderton’s homer in the sixth was huge in turning the game around.
Going into the sixth, Lyon had limited the Irelands to three hits as he effectively mixed a variety of fastballs, curves and changeups. With one out, Sean Rugg worked a walk and Elderton, after getting deep into the count, launched a moon shot to the right of the 350-foot sign in center field. The ball went well over the fence, and Elderton’s blast put his team on the scoreboard and renewed life for the green and gold clads.
Dan French picked up the victory with four solid innings of relief, allowing only an unearned run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh. Starter Curt Echo allowed three runs — two earned — in three frames of work.
The important win took away some of the sourness of Monday’s 6-5 home loss to Franklin County, in which the visitors took advantage of Ireland miscues and assorted strange happenings for five unearned runs.
Equally vexing to the locals were 13 runners left stranded including three in the seventh and final frame. With two runs home and down by a single tally in the seventh, S.D. Ireland could not take advantage of a bases loaded, one out situation.
It was the second loss in two days to the Franklins, who popped the Irelands 16-8 Sunday in St. Albans as a leaky defense caused the Irelands to give up an early 5-1 lead.
The Irelands went 1-4 in the Coopers’ Cave Tournament last week in Saratoga, N.Y., winning the finale of a Thursday twin bill, 9-2 over West Brook, Maine. Elderton earned the victory with four frames of strong pitching. Nick drove in three runs with a pair of hits and Rugg clocked three hits. Andy Kent unleashed two hits and chased home two runs.
S.D IRELAND AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL SCHEDULE
Thursday: BURLINGTON LYNX, 5:30 p.m.
Friday: at Burlington Lynx, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: at Knights of Columbus, South Burlington (2 games), noon and 3 p.m.
Sunday: at OEC Kings (Lyndon State College), noon
HOME GAMES AT CVU, IN CAPS