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.