July 31, 2008
By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

Armadillos' player/manager Dennis Johnson knew the team would face an uphill battle against 4-5 Chelsea in Sunday's Vermont Senior Baseball League game: Both Armadillos' pitchers, Bill Supple and Greg Bolger, were out for the week.

Hoping to pull a rabbit out of his hat, Johnson enlisted Jim Merrier, who had been the Armadillos' sole pitcher in its inaugural season, and Tim Kupiak, who had previously played as a utility player for the team, but since leaving had pitched several years ago in the other senior men's league, to take the mound. Although each gave gutsy performances, both were plagued by wildness.

Merrier rendered just four hits in three innings, but also walked 10 while giving up five runs. Kupiak, in four innings of work, gave up six hits and walked five, giving up eight runs. In all, the Dillos pitching staff rendered 17 walks and 10 hits. Contributing to the teams' woes, they committed three errors, each one leading to an unearned run.

Some key plays kept Williston in the game. Chelsea left the bases loaded in the first as Merrier recorded a key strikeout. With the bases loaded in second and one out, Merrier fielded a grounder, threw to Darby Crum at home for one, who then threw to Pat Martin at third for an inning ending double play. In the third, with the bases loaded and no outs, Martin fielded a grounder, touched third for one and threw home to Crum, who applied the tag for another double play. In the fourth, while Chelsea scored six times, Kupiak prevented further damage by retiring two with the bases loaded to end the inning. In all, Chelsea stranded 16 runners in eight innings of offense.

The Dillos' offense outhit Chelsea 14-10 and refused to roll over. Down by two after one inning, the Dillos came back with three in the second. Martin (3-5, 2B, 1 run) and Crum (1-4, 2 runs) singled. After left fielder Dann Van Der Vliet (0-4, 2 runs) forced Martin at third, right fielder Roberto Seals (2-4, 2B 2 runs, 2 RBI) doubled to score Crum. Johnson (2-3, BB, HR, 2 runs, 3 RBI) and Joel Klein (3-4, 2 2B, 1 run, 4 RBIs) followed with successive singles to score Van Der Vliet and Seals.

After Chelsea scored one in the third and six in the fourth to take a 10-3 lead, the Dillos came back with one in the fifth. Klein doubled, Merrier was hit by a pitch and Wark reached on an error to load the bases. Shortstop Brent Tremblay (1-4, BB, 1 run, 1 RBI) then launched a drive over the left fielder's head, bringing home Klein. Before Merrier could reach home from second, however, Wark was thrown out sliding into third.

The Dillos scored four in the sixth to make it a 10-8 game. Martin singled. After Crum reached on an error, Seals' single scored Martin. Johnson then walked to load the bases. Klein then hit his second double of the game, clearing the bases.

The Chelsea lead was cut to 10-9 in the seventh as Tremblay walked and scored on Martin's double. But in the bottom of the frame, Chelsea scored three as the team put together two walks, a single and a double. Still, the Dillos clawed back as Van Der Vliet reached base on an error in the eighth and 56-year-old Johnson followed with a two-run shot over the right center field fence to make it 13-11.

Although the first two Dillos to bat in the ninth reached base, Chelsea retired three in a row to end the game.

On Sunday, the 7-3 Dillos travel to Bradford to play the 5-5 Connecticut Valley Orioles.