Legion baseball teams battling in standings (7/16/09)

July 16, 2009

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent

The Northern Division of the Vermont American Legion baseball league entered its final week of the regular season Tuesday with a five-team struggle for first place, with the locals of the S.D. Ireland team engaged in the middle of the action.

Carrying a 7-4 league mark, the Irelands traveled to Lyndon State College on Tuesday for a contest with the 7-5 O.E.C. Kings of Orleans-Essex County. S.D. Ireland fell to the Kings, 9-2.

Going into Tuesday’s games, Addison led the standings with a 10-3 record, followed by the Colchester Cannons at 7-3 and Essex at 8-4. The Irelands and Kings were fourth and fifth.

Additional potentially momentous outings were on the docket this week for the Irelands. They were scheduled to take on Colchester Wednesday evening at Centennial Field. The two teams were set to finish a two-and-a-half inning scoreless tie — the game had been postponed by rain on June 30 at the Ireland’s home Champlain Valley Union High field — before the scheduled fixture.

Thursday and Friday the Irelands are on the road in Fairfax against Franklin County and then in Burlington against the Lynx. They get back onto the home field Saturday and Sunday for 1 p.m. games against the Kings and the Knights of Columbus, South Burlington.

Overall, coach Jim Neidlinger’s combine was 9-10-1 after Sunday’s humdinger of a 7-6 comeback home victory over Franklin County. It was a third win in two days, which did much to erase a road weary 11-6 loss last Friday at Essex.

The Essex game came on the heels of five games in the Cooper’s Cave Tournament in Glens Falls, N.Y. where the Irelands went 2-2-1 and, in the words of Neidlinger, “generally played quite well.”

The Irelands came into Sunday’s first home game in over a week feeling pretty good after sweeping both ends of a twin bill in Montpelier on Saturday, 9-0 and 6-2.

But Franklin County, despite a 3-9 league record, has some muscle and used it in busting out to a 6-0 lead. All the runs came from three homers off Irelands starter Sean Rugg, who allowed only three other hits in his six innings of toil.

Down 6-0 with two innings remaining — the game was cut from nine frames to seven because the Franklins had another contest that night — the Irelands struck late, getting three runs off righty starter Ben Rabidoux in the sixth and four more for the victory off reliever Tyler Pelletier in the seventh.

After being kept off stride and limited to four hits by Rabidoux through the first five stanzas, the Irelands got ripping in the bottom of the sixth when two of the rat-a-tat boys at the top of the lineup, Anthony DeToma (2-3, BB) and Drew Nick (3-3, BB), led with singles. Rugg’s ribbie ground out brought home DeToma and Andy Kent’s booming double scored Nick. With two out, Collin Teator singled home Kent and the Franklin lead was chopped in half.

If they say dudes cannot multi-task, don’t believe it, at least not about Shane Montani. The big lefty reliever went to the mound and polished off a one-two-three inning, the Irelands’ first of the day.

Then, in the critical bottom of the final frame, Montani blasted a monster double to the fence in right field to score Justin Raymond and Nick, who had walked. The big clutch blow brought the Irelands to within 6-5.

Kent then walked. Jordan Armstrong singled to right, bringing in Montani to tie it. After a second out, Jared Badger worked a walk on a 3-2 count. Nicky Elderton pinch hit and drew another walk on a 3-2 count to force home the winning run.

In Montpelier on Saturday, Raymond went the route for the complete game shutout in the opener, allowing three hits while whiffing five and walking eight. DeToma (3 RBIs), Badger and Teator had two hits each.

Nick earned the victory in the nightcap, slinging four shutout innings. Ryan Machavern unloaded three hits while Montani slugged a pair of singles.

S.D. Ireland schedule

Thursday: at Franklin County (at BFA Fairfax High School), 5:30 p.m.

Friday: at Burlington Lynx (at Burlington High School), 5:30 p.m.

Saturday: O.E.C. KINGS, 1 p.m.

Sunday: KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS, SOUTH BURLINGTON, 1 p.m.

Wednesday: CHAMPLAIN EDGE, 5:30 p.m.

HOME GAMES IN CAPS

(Played at Champlain Valley Union High School)