By Dawn Schneiderman
Special to the Observer
Williston’s 11-12 year-old Little League All Star team advanced to the semi-final round of the New England Regional Little League tournament, after finishing the initial elimination round with a 2-2 record. The tournament, being held in Bristol, Conn., includes the state champions from each of the six New England states, with the winner earning a spot in the Little League World Series.
Observer photo by Jeff Schneiderman
Williston celebrates at home plate with manager Will Mikell after defeating Rhode Island.
“We’re so proud of the effort of these 12 young boys representing Williston and the state of Vermont,” said manager Will Mikell.
The Williston squad continued the pattern of dramatic comebacks it established during the District 1 and Vermont state tournaments last month. After losing its first game 11-1 to the squad representing Massachusetts, Williston faced the state champs from Rhode Island in game two.
Down 7-1 in the bottom of the sixth and final inning, Williston quickly loaded the bases on hits by Davis Mikell, Erik Bergkvist, and a walk by Jeffrey Martin. The Rhode Island pitcher, struggling in relief, issued another walk – this time to outfielder Chris Reiss – to bring Mikell home from third. Catcher Hayden Smith followed with another single, to drive in the second run of the inning.
Following a two-hour rain delay, Max Whitcomb came to bat with the bases still loaded, one out, and the score 7-3. He hit a 2-run single up the third base line to bring the Williston squad to within two runs. Tommy Fitzgerald and Connor Stankevich continued the string of base hits, with Fitzgerald driving in another run, and Stankevich re-loading the bases.
With two outs, Ryan Schneiderman hit a grounder to Rhode Island’s shortstop, who bobbled the ball and threw wide to first, allowing the tying and winning runs to score, ending the game.
Williston, playing its third game in as many days, faced a strong team and hometown crowd on Sunday, with the outcome a 10-0 loss to Connecticut.
With a 1-2 record going into the final game of the opening round, the team needed a win against the undefeated club from New Hampshire to help secure a spot in the tournament’s semi-finals. After falling behind 2-0, Hayden Smith hit a grand slam in the top of the fourth, vaulting the team into the lead, driving home Davis Mikell, Connor Stankevich and Peter Scrimgeour.
Mikell hit the team’s second home run of the game, a 300-foot bomb in the fifth, to give Williston a 6-2 advantage. Mikell, the game’s winning pitcher, turned the ball over to reliever Erik Bergkvist in the bottom of the fifth, who closed the game for a 6-4 victory.
Key defensive plays of the game were made by Tommy Fitzgerald in center field, who saved a run in the fifth, and Jeffrey Martin, in the sixth, who fielded consecutive, sharply hit ground balls at third base, to record the first two outs of the final inning.
“Even though they’re playing teams that are certainly more experienced and, in many cases, more skilled than our boys, they’ve played well and supported each other and that’s the mark of a really good, young baseball team,” said Mikell.
Williston will either play at 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. on Thursday. All semi-final games will be broadcast on New England Sports Network (NESN).
Tim Simard contributed to this story.