Aug. 6, 2009
The Williston 9- and 10-year-old All-Star baseball team’s season came to an end after losing to South Burlington in the District 1 All-Star tournament last week, 12-4. The boys finished with a 7-3 record in their quest for the District 1 championship.
Courtesy photo by Tim O’Brien
Williston Little League All-Star Christopher O’Brien takes off from second base while Zach Roy leaves first and first base coach Colton Layman watches a blast from Sam Mikell. The Williston team was playing Burlington American on July 25.
The Vermont District 1 tournament was made up of 11 teams, which were randomly selected to play in one of two pools. The top three teams of each pool advanced to the District 1, double elimination tournament.
Pool A had strong flavor of northern District 1 teams, including Burlington American (South End), Center City, Colchester, North Burlington, South Burlington and Williston. Pool B included the southern end of District 1: Middlebury/Champlain Valley, Mount Abraham, Richmond, Shelburne and Vergennes.
After nearly three weeks of “pool play,” Williston emerged as the number one seed, with a 4-1 record. Fine pitching from aces Jack Fitzgerald, Sam Mikell and Christopher O’Brien, caught by Thomas “T” Samuelson, helped Williston earn its record. Over the course of the entire tournament, the team’s remarkable pitching depth allowed for great outings by Braven Bose, Fitzgerald, Mikell, O’Brien and Zach Roy. Other pitchers included Tyler Donohue, Greg “Greggie” Bolger Jr. and Samuelson.
Additionally, a potent offense outscored opponents 41-23 in pool play. Throughout the tournament, Williston opponents had to pitch around an offensive “feared foursome” that included Fitzgerald, Mikell, O’Brien and Samuelson. Michael Chirgwin, Will Hubbard, Colton Layman and David Roy also provided key hits through the tournament.
Emerging from pool play, South Burlington nabbed the second seed. While South Burlington also had a 4-1 record, Williston had won the matchup between the teams, 11-8. Burlington American secured the third seed with a 3-2 record.
The top three teams in Pool B were Middlebury/Champlain Valley, with a 4-0 record, Richmond, with a 3-1 record, and Shelburne, with a 2-2 record.
Double elimination tournament
Double elimination was next for the all-stars. With the top seed, Williston had a first-round bye and awaited the winner of the Richmond vs. Burlington American game. Burlington American won 7-6 in a close fought contest.
In Williston’s game against Burlington American, O’Brien took the mound and also contributed Williston’s only run through regulation, firing a solo home run. He held Burlington American scoreless through the completion of his allotted pitch count, 75 pitches. Mikell came in with excellent relief pitching, but Burlington American squeezed one run in to tie the game after six innings.
A 1-1 game in 9- and 10-year-old baseball is a rarity. Williston kept fighting for the win, loading the bases a few times before Burlington American was able to get key outs to stop the rally.
In the end, Burlington American plated the winning run in the top of the ninth inning, taking a 2-1 lead. As the home team, Williston had one more chance push some runs across to secure the victory. But with one out and a runner on first, Burlington American turned a double play to end the rally and capture the win.
Having dropped to the loser’s bracket, Williston refocused in the second game and defeated Shelburne, 10-1. The offense rolled again in the third and fourth games, as Williston beat Middlebury 16-6 and avenged the earlier loss to Burlington American with a 15-0 win in the rematch.
In the fifth game Williston matched up against South Burlington, which had yet to lose in the double elimination tournament. That left Williston needing two wins to secure the District 1 championship.
Manager Greg Bolger and Coach Brad Chirgwin brought Mikell to the mound for the start. Mikell threw masterfully, allowing only two runs, while Williston came from behind to plate four runs and take a 4-2 lead.
Mikell left after reaching his maximum pitch count under Little League rules. Fitzgerald came on for a short stint in relief, followed by 9-year-old Zach Roy, who fooled batters with his “off-speed” pitch. But timely hits by South Burlington and a few rare errors from Williston enabled South Burlington to take the lead for good, 12-4. Williston had six outs remaining to tie or surge ahead, but came up just short.
The 12 players on Williston’s 9- and 10-year-old All-Star team were lauded by many teams for exhibiting great sportsmanship and tenacity. Though coming up short of its goal of winning the state championship, the team will return in two years with a similar makeup to pursue a second 11- and 12-year-old State Championship for Williston; last year’s 11- and 12-year-old All-Stars won the state title.