BY JASON STARR
Williston’s 8-10-year-old baseball all stars are competing for a Little League state championship this weekend in St. Johnsbury.
The team won a district title last week, beating its rival from Shelburne 5-1 in a redemption win after losing to Shelburne earlier in the district tournament.
The state tournament culminates a Little League season that started in April with three Williston teams, which are pared down to one group of all-stars for postseason play. Since early June, 12 all-stars have been practicing and playing nearly every day. Their district win was a highlight of the season, no matter what happens this weekend in St. Johnsbury, coach Tony D’Amato said. Williston outlasted teams from Burlington, South Burlington, Shelburne and Colchester to reach the state tournament.
“It was a really proud and exciting moment to win districts,” D’Amato said. “Even if we don’t win another game, it’s been a really great season for the Williston team.”
Williston is one of four teams in the state tournament, including Lamoille County, St. Johnsbury and Bennington. Last Saturday they began a double-elimination, round robin tournament, with Williston losing to Lamoille County 9-1, then beating St. Johnsbury 6-4.
Williston returns to St. Johnsbury this Friday to play Bennington.
A loss would end its season. With a win, Williston would advance to a Saturday game against Lamoille County. It would have to beat Lamoille twice to win the state title.
“We’re all thrilled to have the opportunity to be playing in the state tournament and getting to have more nights at the field with the kids,” D’Amato said. “We’ll see what we can do this weekend.” Older Little League teams (ages 11-12) have the opportunity to advance to regionals and potentially to the nationally televised Little League World Series, but for the 8-10-year-olds, the state tournament is the pinnacle. Williston’s 11-12-year-old team was eliminated in the district semifinals.