By Mal Boright
In a campaign best described as “up and down,” the S. D. Ireland American Legion baseball team ended its season on Monday, watching from its Champlain Valley Union High dugout while a late afternoon storm washed out its already once-postponed season finale against the visiting Orleans-Essex-Caledonia (County) Kings.
A joint decision was made not to bring back the Kings for a makeup later in the week, since both teams failed to make the state tournament starting Thursday at Castleton State College.
Representing the North are the top-seeded Colchester Cannons, Essex, Addison County and South Burlington. The 7-8 (in league play) Irelands last faint chance at making it into the tournament went awry Saturday with a 12-8 loss at South Burlington.
The Clover Boys bounced back Sunday with a 13-4 bopping of the Kings in Newport, but the big dance partners were already set.
Coach Jim Neidlinger’s charges opened the final week of action at 5-7 and needing to win out while getting some help from others.
At their home CVU field Thursday, the Irelands laid a 19-9 smack on visiting Burlington.
In a 20-hit rap fest, leadoff swatter Will Conroy socked a triple and two singles to drive in two runs, Curt Echo and Rayne Supple lashed three hits each with Echo connecting for a double, Ryan Machavern crunched a double and two-run single and Larry Halvorson smashed a three-run homer when the Irelands unloaded a 13-run fourth inning.
The twins, Ben and Josh St. Clair, also punched the white sphere. Ben St. Clair clocked three singles and drove in three runs, and Josh St. Clair collected a two-bagger. As a result, the duo could be known as the Bruise Brothers.
Drew Nick pitched the first four innings and whiffed 11 with a cracking, moving fast ball. However, Ireland fielding miscues—six of them—and Charlie Boardman’s three-run homer in the fourth had Neidlinger call in Conroy and Curvin’ Calvin Benevento to finish.
Fielding woes, a season-long problem, came back to haunt the Irelands in Saturday’s contest at South Burlington, a team the Clovers had to handle to keep tournament hopes alive.
Down 2-0 and 4-2, the Irelands responded with five runs in the top of the sixth and another in the seventh for an 8-4 advantage. But the Irelands made three of their eight errors in the bottom of the eighth as South Burlington added five hits, two walks and a hit batter for eight unearned runs and the crucial victory.
In fairness, the hard infield produced more tricky and bad hops than a visitor to a frog pond would see in a week.
The Ireland bats were productive, with Conroy smashing a single and triple to drive in three runs, Josh St. Clair bopped a two-run double, Dillon Ritchie cranked an RBI double while Nick and Davis Mikell each rapped two hits.
Mikell worked the first five innings, allowing four runs, two of them earned, just four hits and striking out nine. He had a high (105) pitch count. Dylan Ireland and Supple worked the final frames.
Sunday at Newport, Conroy went all muscle with a homer and triple and three runs chased home. Mikell, Supple and Austin Purinton smashed three hits each. Kyle Stanley earned the pitching win with five innings of goose egg hurling.