Armadillos defeated in semifinals (9/24/09)

Ninth-inning rally falls short

Sept. 24, 2009

Whereas the Williston Armadillos played flawless baseball the week before to reach the semifinals of the Vermont Senior Baseball League state championship tournament, the Dillos’ defense was vulnerable on Sunday. Errors allowed Newport Columbia to score six unearned runs and defeat Williston 10-8.

The victory did not come easily, however, as the Dillos scored three times in the bottom of the ninth and had the bases loaded with one out before Newport was able to shut down the rally.

“We were one hit away from a miracle comeback,” player/manager Dennis Johnson said. “Today they were the better team as they repeatedly got key hits to score runners and did not make any errors in the field. Our inability to do those two things cost us the game.”

The Williston offense was led by third baseman Pookie Martin (3-4, run), outfielder/shortstop Reid Crosby (2-2, 3B, 2 BB, run) and shortstop/pitcher Greg Bolger (2-3, BB, RBI, run).

On the mound, Bill Supple threw the first five-and-one-third innings, giving up six runs (three earned) on eight hits and four walks, while striking out seven. Bolger took the loss while pitching the last three-and-two-thirds innings, as he surrendered four runs, only one of which was earned, while allowing five hits and walking none.

Although Supple struck out the side in the first inning, Newport jumped out to a two-run lead as their shortstop followed a walk with a home run over the Dillos’ right fielder.

The lead grew to 3-0 in the fourth. Newport scored an unearned run when they recorded a double, the runner moved to third on a fielder’ choice, and scored when second baseman Pete Picard misplayed a grounder on what should have been the third out.

The Dillos, however, scored two in the bottom of the frame. While Crosby tripled, he was thrown out at home trying to score on Supple’s (0-1, BB, run) grounder. Bolger and Martin followed with singles to load the bases. Second baseman Brent Tremblay brought home Supple with a sacrifice fly and Bolger scored on Picard’s single.

Newport bounced right back with two more unearned runs in the fifth on a misplayed bunt, a walk and two singles. The lead grew to 6-2 in the top of the sixth when Newport scored another run, this time on two singles and an infield out.

The Dillos answered with two in the bottom of the inning. Right fielder/catcher Darby Crum (1-3, BB) walked, but was forced at second on outfielder Billy Vegas Daw’s (0-3, run) grounder. Crosby and Bolger then singled, the latter bringing home Daw.

Once again, Newport struck back, this time for three runs in the top of the seventh, two of which were unearned, to make it 9-4. Newport hit four singles and Tom “Bambino” Fitzgerald dropped a throw at home on an attempted put out.

The Dillos cut the lead to 9-5 in the bottom of the inning when Picard (1-1, 3 BB, run, 2 RBIs) walked, took second on a ground out and scored on the Bambino’s single.

Again, Newport responded, scoring another unearned run in the eighth as Crum misplayed a fly, allowing the batter safe passage to second and the next batter singled him home.

Although the Dillos trailed 10-5 going into the ninth, they mounted a ferocious rally to put the game within reach. Bolger’s leadoff walk was followed by singles by Martin and Tremblay to load the bases. Picard and outfielder Ray Danis (0-3, BB, RBI) both walked to plate two. One out later, Johnson (0-2, 2 BB, run, RBI) walked to cut the lead to 10-8 and put the winning run at first. But Newport got first baseman Jesse Stein (0-4) to ground back to the pitcher, who threw the runner out at home. Crum then popped out to shortstop to end the rally.

With the loss, Williston’s final season record was 14-4.

“We had a great season, finishing with more wins than every team but one,” Bolger said. “But once you’ve won this league, you’re not satisfied unless you do it again. Next year, we’ll be better.”