July 17, 2008
By Mal Boright
There is no question that league games agree with the S.D. Ireland American Legion baseball team.
After closing out a 9-0 first half with a 10-3 victory over highly regarded (8-4) Orleans-Essex County on Tuesday in Hinesburg, the Irelands opened the second half of their league campaign on Wednesday, after press deadline, with a home fixture against Addison County.
The local boys — S.D. Ireland players hail from Charlotte, Hinesburg, Huntington, Shelburne and Williston — were 9-0 in league play and 13-9 overall.
Observer photo by Ben Sarle
Paul Handy of S.D. Ireland watches a pitch during Tuesday’s American Legion baseball game against Orleans-Essex County.The Irelands head to Montpelier on Thursday afternoon before returning home to the Champlain Valley Union High field Friday for a home makeup game against Waterbury at 5:30 p.m.
Starting on Sunday, the Irelands return to the road with a game at St. Albans (Franklin County), followed Monday at Waterbury and Tuesday against O.E.C. at Lyndon. The two Waterbury games are rescheduled from Sunday’s doubleheader rainout in Waterbury.
In cranking out the victory over O.E.C., a team that upset the Irelands twice in state tournament play last August, the locals found their batting stroke late against O.E.C. lefty Adam Farrar. The Ireland offense supported the three-hit, eight strikeout pitching of southpaw Paul “Bear” Handy.
Two of the three runs against Handy were unearned and two of the hits were scratch infield rollers. He walked just one batter and was never in any serious difficulty, requiring 90 pitches for the seven-inning complete game.
But early on it was Farrar who was making smoke rise at the plate. The O.E.C. veteran retired the first 10 Ireland batters, seven via the whiff route. Farrar was providing heat on an already warm afternoon and the fanning Irelands were manufacturing some breezes.
But with one out in the bottom of the fourth, and down 1-0, the Irelands got to Farrar for a five spot. The lefty started missing the plate and surrendered four walks, one of them to Connor Mellen with the bases loaded. Jordan Armstrong laced a two-run single and Whitney Mikell’s blue darter to center for a single also produced a run.
“When he (Farrar) started missing the plate he stayed with his fast- ball,” said Ireland catcher Nick Angstman, who slammed three hits and drove in three runs after striking out in the first inning.
Mikell and leadoff batter Justin Raymond each socked two hits for the victors, who added two runs in the fifth and three in the seventh.
The Irelands’ lone extra base hit was the fifth inning double by second baseman Anthony DeToma, who was robbed of at least another double in the sixth when O.E.C. right fielder Matt Major made a back-to-the-plate, leaping grab of DeToma’s long belt in deep right center.
On Saturday, the Irelands won their eighth straight league game and second over Essex with an 8-2 thumping of the Junction club in the weekend regulation nine innings.
Once again, coach Jim Neidlinger got solid starting pitching, this time from Justin Raymond, who worked seven frames and allowed just three hits while walking two and striking out eight.
Raymond’s only slight problem was with an occasionally independent curve ball, with which he hit four batters (all from the right side of the plate).
“It just didn’t break and was in on the batters,” Raymond said after the game. His curve is more of the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. variety in that it breaks wide rather than straight down. It nevertheless can be a first rate knee buckler for the poor swinger, as eight strikeouts would show.
>Evan Roeser worked the final two innings, allowing a pair of singles and a run.
Angstman led the plate attack with three hits while Mikell, Armstrong, Handy and Pat Ittleman each had two. Ittleman and DeToma clouted doubles.
It was the Irelands’ second victory over Essex, one of the challengers for the regular season crown.