In boys baseball: Falcons finish season with best record since 2007

Featured

The Rice Memorial Green Knights displayed their aggressive base running all day as this spectacular collision with Falcon catcher Andrew Gonyaw (left) shows.  Coming in to score is Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald, who recorded seven stolen bases on the day as teammate Timmy Shea (number 11) looks on. Photos by Richard Creaser

The Rice Memorial Green Knights displayed their aggressive base running all day as this spectacular collision with Falcon catcher Andrew Gonyaw (left) shows. Coming in to score is Green Knight Tommy Fitzgerald, who recorded seven stolen bases on the day as teammate Timmy Shea (number 11) looks on.  Photos by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle June 4, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — While the Falcons were unable to match a 20-year-old record, they did equal their best record since 2007, finishing the season at 8-8 on Saturday. Had the North Country baseball team won one or both games over the weekend, they could have matched a more than 20-year-old record, Assistant Coach Jared Gonyaw said.

“They’ve put together a great season, and this is without a junior varsity program,” Coach Gonyaw said. “We had three underclassmen pitch today, and they held heir own.”

Finishing with a .500 record is an especially significant feat given the peculiar nature of the 2014 spring sports season. The Falcons played nine regular season games in the last two weeks and only seven games in the first three weeks of the season.

Continue reading

Share

Memorial Day weekend

Hannah Roberts, 13, of Newport Center opened Sunday's tractor pull at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on her 1950 Allis-Chalmers C tractor.  Hannah, who is a seventh-grader at North Country Union Junior High School, is pictured here in a pull-off for the 2,750-pound stock class, in which she took second place with 312 feet, 3.24 inches.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Hannah Roberts, 13, of Newport Center opened Sunday’s tractor pull at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on her 1950 Allis-Chalmers C tractor. Hannah, who is a seventh-grader at North Country Union Junior High School, is pictured here in a pull-off for the 2,750-pound stock class, in which she took second place with 312 feet, 3.24 inches. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Tyler Young of Irasburg smacks the ball in the Cal Ripken League at the Lake Region Youth Baseball five-team tournament held at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on Sunday.  The Irasburg Angels played the Brownington Indians in the co-ed league for eight- to ten-year-olds.  Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Tyler Young of Irasburg smacks the ball in the Cal Ripken League at the Lake Region Youth Baseball five-team tournament held at Roaring Brook Park in Barton on Sunday. The Irasburg Angels played the Brownington Indians in the co-ed league for eight- to ten-year-olds. Photo by Natalie Hormilla

Memorial Day ceremonies in downtown Island Pond Monday included a speech from Representative Vicki Strong of Albany.  Two students from Brighton Elementary School, who won second place in a recent contest sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society, took turns reading the names of 42 Vermonters who were killed from 2003-2011 in either Afghanistan or Iraq.  Cooper Densmore is pictured behind the podium, while classmate Joshua Rivers is standing to his right.   Photo by Paul Lefebvre

Memorial Day ceremonies in downtown Island Pond Monday included a speech from Representative Vicki Strong of Albany. Two students from Brighton Elementary School, who won second place in a recent contest sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society, took turns reading the names of 42 Vermonters who were killed from 2003-2011 in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Cooper Densmore is pictured behind the podium, while classmate Joshua Rivers is standing to his right. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

An enthusiastic group of musicians from Newport City Elementary School marches down Main Street on Memorial Day.  Pictured is Victoria Young playing a cowbell.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

An enthusiastic group of musicians from Newport City Elementary School marches down Main Street on Memorial Day. Pictured is Victoria Young playing a cowbell. Photo by Joseph Gresser

Gage (in yellow) and Joey Prue atop a van in the Memorial Day parade in North Troy Monday.  Pam Prue and Pat Pyne of Paddie’s Snack Bar were their chauffeurs.   Photo by Tena Starr

Gage (in yellow) and Joey Prue atop a van in the Memorial Day parade in North Troy Monday. Pam Prue and Pat Pyne of Paddie’s Snack Bar were their chauffeurs. Photo by Tena Starr

Suki wears this patriotic outfit every Memorial Day and Fourth of July, said her owner, Linda Lyons.  Ms. Lyons and Suki were among those who didn’t mind getting a little wet in order to watch the Memorial Day parade in North Troy on Monday.  Photo by Tena Starr

Suki wears this patriotic outfit every Memorial Day and Fourth of July, said her owner, Linda Lyons. Ms. Lyons and Suki were among those who didn’t mind getting a little wet in order to watch the Memorial Day parade in North Troy on Monday. Photo by Tena Starr

This bell from the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department's 1938 International was chimed in memory of the Vermont soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country in the War on Terror.  Fire department member Justin Peart rang the bell after each name was read aloud by members of American Legion Orleans Post #23 at Monday's Memorial Day observances.  Photo by Richard Creaser

This bell from the Orleans Volunteer Fire Department’s 1938 International was chimed in memory of the Vermont soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country in the War on Terror. Fire department member Justin Peart rang the bell after each name was read aloud by members of American Legion Orleans Post #23 at Monday’s Memorial Day observances. Photo by Richard Creaser

American Legion Orleans Post #23 veteran Maurice "Joe" Blair, accompanied by Mark Wright, takes a place of honor during Monday's Memorial Day observances in Orleans.  Ann Parenteau (second row from left), Mary Ellen Orcutt, Donna Smith, and Dawn Wilcox of the Orleans American Legion Women's Auxiliary follow close behind.  Photo by Richard Creaser

American Legion Orleans Post #23 veteran Maurice “Joe” Blair, accompanied by Mark Wright, takes a place of honor during Monday’s Memorial Day observances in Orleans. Ann Parenteau (second row from left), Mary Ellen Orcutt, Donna Smith, and Dawn Wilcox of the Orleans American Legion Women’s Auxiliary follow close behind. Photo by Richard Creaser

Girl Scout Daisies Eva Thompson (left) and Bianca Davis of Barton Troop #30813 lent a festive air to Barton's annual Memorial Day parade on Monday.  Like their namesake flowers, the Daisies provided a welcome burst of color amidst the rain showers.  The Daisies marched alongside their fellow Girl Scouts from Barton Troop #30053.    Photo by Richard Creaser

Girl Scout Daisies Eva Thompson (left) and Bianca Davis of Barton Troop #30813 lent a festive air to Barton’s annual Memorial Day parade on Monday. Like their namesake flowers, the Daisies provided a welcome burst of color amidst the rain showers. The Daisies marched alongside their fellow Girl Scouts from Barton Troop #30053. Photo by Richard Creaser

For more photos, pick up a copy of our May 28, 2014 edition, or subscribe to our online edition.

Share

In boys baseball: LR Ranger Messier delivers perfect game

Featured

Matt Messier delivered a perfect game victory to the host Lake Region Rangers on Wednesday.  Messier would strike out the side three times among his 12 total Ks on the day as the Rangers went on to win 4-0 and improve to 8-5 in boys DII play.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Matt Messier delivered a perfect game victory to the host Lake Region Rangers on Wednesday. Messier would strike out the side three times among his 12 total Ks on the day as the Rangers went on to win 4-0 and improve to 8-5 in boys DII play. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

ORLEANS — Lake Region’s Matt Messier performed a rare feat on Wednesday afternoon, retiring all 21 Peoples Academy Wolves in order, including 12 strikeouts.  His perfect game came with more than a little help from his teammates.

“I’ve been around baseball for 28 years, and I’ve never been part of a perfect game,” Lake Region Coach Eric Degre said after the game.  “It’s just incredible to be around this…this aura.”

While credit goes to the pitcher, without the help of his teammates, that perfect game would not have resulted in a win for the Rangers.  Clutch hitting and spectacular fielding all contributed to the historic moment, Coach Degre said.

Continue reading

Share

In boys baseball: Falcons come out on wrong end of pitching duel

Featured

by Richard Creaser

NCbasevEsx Gonyaw

Sophomore catcher Andrew Gonyaw rips a shot to third base during Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the visiting Essex Hornets. Photo by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle April 30, 2014

NEWPORT — The purported game time temperature was 46 degrees, but it certainly didn’t feel that way Thursday as the North Country Falcons hosted the Essex Hornets for the first game of the 2014 season at Falcon Field. A strong, frigid wind out of the northwest played a pivotal role in the game.

“We made a lot of good contact,” Falcons pitcher Wyatt Prue said after the game. “We just couldn’t find the holes. If not for the wind, we might have had at least a couple fewer outs.”

Prue and Essex pitcher Nathan Baez matched up well in the contest. Though Baez would pitch seven scoreless, Prue finished his complete game effort, yielding only a single earned run in the Falcons’ 2-0 loss. Continue reading

Share

Young pitchers and catchers take up yoga

copyright the Chronicle February 12, 2014

by Richard Creaser

NEWPORT — Jay Gonyaw has operated a clinic through the Junior Legion Baseball Program for area pitchers and catchers for the past eight years, first at IROC and now at North Country Union High School.  His coaching experience, however, goes back even further.  Mr. Gonyaw is also the coach of the North Country Falcons junior varsity squad.

“I coached my first time when I was 18 years old,” Mr. Gonyaw told the Chronicle on Tuesday.  “So I’ve been around baseball and coaching baseball a long time.”

What Mr. Gonyaw has noticed lately is that his young athletes often aren’t quite in the condition they should be.  To remedy that, he’s introduced an unlikely new element to his coaching regimen — yoga.

A number of factors contribute to the fact that  kids aren’t as limber as they once were.  They range from the widespread use of technology to a more stringent focus on single or double sport athletic training.

“You see it when a kid transitions from playing in one sport season and switching over to a different one in the next season,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “They have to be in great shape to play at a high level in one sport, but when they switch they end up sore.  They’re going from working one group of muscles to a completely different group of muscles, and their bodies just aren’t ready for that.”

The ability to adapt from one sport to the next has also declined as varsity athletes begin to focus more on a single sport instead of the two or three sports that athletes of his generation played, Mr. Gonyaw said.  Working on the muscle groups that are used most ignores the benefits that a more complete workout experience delivers to those muscle groups you use less frequently.

Back in the day when outdoor activities formed a major part of a child’s life, multiple muscle groups were always being tested.  Kids rode bikes through town, played soccer in the park, or swam at the local beach.  As “free-play” activities have diminished, so has exposure to different kinds of body workouts.  And that has affected the ability of athletes to meet the physical demands of their sports, Mr. Gonyaw said.

“I see a lot of kids coming into my clinic or at the start of the season and they are pretty stiff,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “It got me to thinking that the traditional stretching routine maybe isn’t working as well as it used to.  So I started to think outside the box.”

So Mr. Gonyaw and his fellow trainer Eric LeBlanc arranged for yoga instructor Rebecca Marcotte of Barton to come in and work with his players.  The first 30 minutes of each weekly session are dedicated to yoga stretching and the final 60 minutes to pitching and catching.

“We’ve been at it for five weeks of our seven-week clinic and we’re already seeing a big difference,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “I’ve had kids ask me why we didn’t do this sooner, so they’re really buying into it.  They’re seeing the value of what we’re doing.”

While the clinic focuses on pitchers and catchers, the benefits of yoga would apply equally across the diamond and the outfield, Mr. Gonyaw said.  Pitchers and catchers are the only players with direct interaction with every pitch but that doesn’t mean that the position players, or batters for that matter, wouldn’t benefit as well.

“A centerfielder or a left fielder might go a couple of innings without needing to do anything,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “But then they need to be ready to run at full speed and make the catch or make a throw right away.  That puts a lot of strain on the body.”

Not only will yoga help players perform at a higher level of readiness, but it should also help to avoid some of the more common injuries that occur during the season.  As short as the high school baseball season is in Vermont, by the time an injury has healed the season is effectively over for that player.

“I think we will see some early results when we start the daily practices in the spring,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “The real test will come at the end of the season when we see how many injuries we have or how many sore arms we have.  I really think that this is going to make a huge difference.”

Mr. Gonyaw intends to bring back yoga for his clinic in future years, and he also hopes to incorporate a ten- to 15-minute yoga routine in his daily practices and pre-game regimen.  As the student athletes become more comfortable with the yoga routines, he expects that players may also start to recognize the meditative benefits of yoga as well.

“I know of yoga mostly as a good way to stretch out your muscles and joints,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “But I can see a time when a batter or pitcher can step back and refocus for the next at-bat.  The mental part will come.”

Mr. Gonyaw’s annual pitching and catching clinic is open to a wide range of ages from 12 years old to 17 years old and to kids from all over.  This year’s group includes four catchers and 13 pitchers who work with Mr. Gonyaw and Mr. LeBlanc, a former pro baseball player.

“Eric really has an amazing understanding of what it takes to pitch at all levels,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “He understands the mechanics of each pitch and the benefits of a good stretching routine.  That really enhances the experience for everyone.”

The positive feedback from players so far indicates that Mr. Gonyaw’s unorthodox yoga regimen has hit a home run.  How well the yoga stretching philosophy extends beyond the kids in his clinic is yet to be seen.

“I definitely think there’s something here that would benefit all players in all sports,” Mr. Gonyaw said.  “If it helps them perform better and avoid injuries, it’s been totally worthwhile.”

 contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For more free stories like this one, please see our Sports pages.

Share

Orleans County All Stars runners-up in district tournament

The Orleans County All-Stars were runners-up after losing a tight 5-4 championship game against district champions St. Johnsbury.  The OC All-Stars are, back row from left to right: Coach Allan Wright, Denver Bodette, Ben Myrick, Devin Royer, Ethan Willey, Caleb Derbyshire, John Stafford, Coach Denis Houle and Manager Mark Royer.  Front row from left to right: Robbie Diaz, Zachary Royer, Phoenix Malanga, Brennan Perkins, Ryland Brown and Caleb Sweeney.  Photo courtesy of Mark Royer

The Orleans County All-Stars were runners-up after losing a tight 5-4 championship game against district champions St. Johnsbury. The OC All-Stars are, back row from left to right: Coach Allan Wright, Denver Bodette, Ben Myrick, Devin Royer, Ethan Willey, Caleb Derbyshire, John Stafford, Coach Denis Houle and Manager Mark Royer. Front row from left to right: Robbie Diaz, Zachary Royer, Phoenix Malanga, Brennan Perkins, Ryland Brown and Caleb Sweeney. Photo courtesy of Mark Royer

by Richard Creaser

LYNDONVILLE — The Orleans County All-Stars, composed of players from two Lake Region and one North Country squads, earned runners-up honors at the 13-to-15-year-old Babe Ruth district tournament held in Lyndonville over the weekend.  Team manager Mark Royer had nothing but praise for his team.

“I told the boys after the game, we came here with pride, we played with pride and we left the field with pride,” Mr. Royer said on Monday.  “It was an honor to coach them.”

The caliber of sportsmanship displayed by the Orleans County team was such that even the umpires took note, Mr. Royer said.  The umpires admired the way the players remained composed and respectful, even at their worst moments.

The district tournament pitted the Orleans County squad against all-star teams from Lyndon and St. Johnsbury.  The double elimination tournament took place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with St. Johnsbury emerging as the district champs following Sunday afternoon’s match-up against Orleans County.

The tournament started out well for Orleans County as they defeated Lyndon on Friday night.  Orleans County faced St. Johnsbury in the first game of the day Saturday morning and lost 10-0 with the game called in the fifth inning by the ten-run mercy rule.

“Even though we lost 10-0, St. Johnsbury was only ahead 5-0 coming into the bottom of the fifth,” Mr. Royer said.  “If we could have caught a few breaks it might have been a completely different game.  We played well, but just couldn’t cash in those runs.”

Orleans County finished off Lyndon in the nightcap to set up a rematch with St. Johnsbury on Sunday afternoon.  Because of the double-elimination format, the St. Johnsbury squad was playing for the championship while Orleans County played to force a second and deciding match.

Ethan Willey of Glover slides into base during the game on July 12 versus the Lyndon All-Stars.  Minding the base is Levi Daniels.  Photo by Walter Earle

Ethan Willey of Glover slides into base during the game on July 12 versus the Lyndon All-Stars. Minding the base is Levi Daniels. Photo by Walter Earle

The rematch proved the capabilities of the Orleans County squad as they managed to carry a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning.  Unlike in the first meeting, Orleans County generated some offense by finding holes in an otherwise tight St. Johnsbury defense.

“We definitely hit the ball better,” Mr. Royer said.  “The ball found the grass.  That’s what we would say in the dugout, ‘Make the ball find the grass.’”

St. Johnsbury plated two runs in their half of the sixth inning and carried it over into Orleans County’s final at bats.  St. Johnsbury would hang on to the lead and with the win, clinch the district title.

“We pitched really well and played solid defensively,” Mr. Royer said of the championship game.  “After they shut us down ten to nothing on Saturday there was no head-hanging.  We knew we had something to show them and we showed it on Sunday.”

Mr. Royer admired the way his team handled their loss in what may have been the biggest game of the season.  Baseball is just a game, he said, but the way you handle the outcome speaks volumes for the depth of a person’s character and that carries over to life off the diamond.

“Even when you try your best you won’t always get the result you want,” Mr. Royer said.  “Your effort and your attitude are the only things in life you can control.  It’s how you handle adversity and how you get back up and try again that really matters.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For a story on the Babe Ruth district three 13-year-old title win by the Lake Region All Stars, click here.

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Sports pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

Share

Lake Region wins Babe Ruth 13-year-old district title

Featured

The Lake Region Babe Ruth 13-year-old All Stars were crowned district champs following a 19-9 win over Lyndonville at Lake Region Union High on Sunday.  With the win, the LR all-stars head to Brattleboro on July 19 to compete in the state tournament.  The members of the district champion squad are, back row, from left to right:  Coach Shawn Santaw, Mitchell Gonyaw, Kaleb Gibson, Liam Kennedy, Cole Azur, Hunter Marsh, Coach Greg Marsh, and Coach Jason Kennedy.  In the front, from left to right, are:  Brady Perron, Ryan Descheneau, Caleb Lanoue, Tanner Amyot, T.J. Santaw, and Noah Royer. Photo courtesy of Jason Kennedy

The Lake Region Babe Ruth 13-year-old All Stars were crowned district champs following a 19-9 win over Lyndonville at Lake Region Union High on Sunday. With the win, the LR all-stars head to Brattleboro on July 19 to compete in the state tournament. The members of the district champion squad are, back row, from left to right: Coach Shawn Santaw, Mitchell Gonyaw, Kaleb Gibson, Liam Kennedy, Cole Azur, Hunter Marsh, Coach Greg Marsh, and Coach Jason Kennedy. In the front, from left to right, are: Brady Perron, Ryan Descheneau, Caleb Lanoue, Tanner Amyot, T.J. Santaw, and Noah Royer.
Photo courtesy of Jason Kennedy

by Richard Creaser

ORLEANS — The tournament may have been small, but the competition wasn’t.  However, the Lake Region squad defeated Lyndonville to earn the Babe Ruth district three 13-year-old title over the weekend.  The two teams squared off at Lake Region Union High on Saturday and Sunday to determine the winner under scorching conditions.

“I’m not sure I could have gone out in that heat and played three games with that level of intensity,” Coach Jason Kennedy said Tuesday.  “I think they’re just a great group of young guys who really love the game of baseball.”

Even though there were only two teams vying for the title — the Lake Region team being composed of players from both the Lake Region and North Country Union High School areas — the competition still followed the double elimination tournament rules.  As such, the tournament played out more like a major league divisional series than a one and done playoff game.

The Lake Region squad struck first, taking the first game of the tournament 6-4.  That first game, it would later seem, was merely an effort to gauge each team’s strengths and weaknesses.  Lyndonville rebounded with a decisive 19-12 victory in game two, setting up a tense and exciting championship match on Sunday afternoon.
Lake Region would break out the big bats to post a five-inning, 19-9 victory to capture the district title and advance to Friday’s state tournament in Brattleboro.  Though the score may have seemed lopsided, taken as a whole both teams put up a tremendous effort, Coach Kennedy said.

“Our bats really came alive on Sunday,” he said.  “Both teams really hit the ball well all weekend.  We had to earn that win.”

Although the Lake Region squad is composed of players from different teams, finding that team chemistry wasn’t a big problem, Coach Kennedy said.  Many of the players had played against one another at different levels of baseball throughout their young careers.

“They may not have played together, but it’s not like they were meeting each other for the first time,” Coach Kennedy said.  “They all wanted to be there and to play baseball.  They have a drive and a desire to do well.”

The state tournament kicks off with Lake Region playing against host Brattleboro at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, July 19, at Brattleboro High.  The winner of the state tournament will move on to compete at the New England Regional Tournament in Manchester, New Hampshire, starting on July 26.

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For a story on the 13-to-15-year-old Babe Ruth district tournament, click here.

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Sports pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

Share

Hartford wins Cal Ripken baseball championship

Hartford’s Cal Ripken All-Stars won the state championship in baseball for players age 12 and under at Barton Sunday, according to an account from Coach Jethro Hayman of the Lake Region All-Stars.

Mr. Hayman said the Lake Region team gave the Hartford team a great challenge, but it was an uphill battle as the Hartford team was big and intimidating and had a pitcher who could pitch 70 miles an hour.  He said the Hartford team has a good chance to win at the New England level.

“We earned their respect,” Coach Hayman said.  He said the other team’s coaches told the local team they were extremely impressed with the level of play from the challengers.

The final score of the championship game was 9-2.  Mr. Hayman said some of the other teams were not able to score against the Hartford team.  Some games were called off after the stronger team got ten runs ahead, through what is known as a mercy rule.  Not so with Lake Region’s team, which Mr. Hayman said never gave up.

The runs were earned by Parker Perron and Asom Hayman-Jones, on a bunt by Josh Royer.  Mr. Hayman said the other team was not expecting a bunt, and it was well executed and it worked.

He also was proud of his team for throwing against the Hartford runners each time they tried to steal.  He said they did not let them get away with anything without an effort, catching them twice in attempted steals.

“They never quit,” he said.

Mr. Hayman said the game on Saturday night between Lake Region and North Country was the best game of the series, in his opinion.  There were eight lead changes in the game, and Lake Region won it finally, eight to seven.  The game didn’t end until after 10 p.m., which means the Lake Region players were up late both nights before their state championship game on Sunday.

“It was a great event.”

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Sports pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

Share

Cal Ripken tournament: Celebrating America’s pastime between weather delays

Featured

Lake Region All-Star Dylan Gagnon sets for the play as Lake Region takes on Central Valley under the lights at the Barton Recreational Field on Friday night.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Lake Region All-Star Dylan Gagnon sets for the play as Lake Region takes on Central Valley under the lights at the Barton Recreational Field on Friday night. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

BARTON —  By any objective measure, the greater the number of delays, the harder it is for pitchers to stay warmed up.  Friday night, opening night of the Vermont U12 Cal Ripken Baseball tournament, was just such a night.  Fans and players alike sought what shelter they could find as the umpires cleared the playing field behind the Pierce Block in Barton Village.  Overhead menacing skies threatened, but so far, had failed to surrender anything more than loud noises.

Twice the game would be called for thunder delay, a mandatory period of 20 minutes to allow any danger of lightning strikes to pass.  Given the fact that tall light poles and chain link dugouts constituted the bulk of structures closest to the field, the precautions seemed justified.

No sooner had the second thunder delay come to an end when a light rain began to fall.  The players, coaches and umpires gamely took to the field, playing half an inning before the intensity of the rain increased and even the most die-hard of parents and fans scrambled to their cars, under the trees or, through forethought and good planning, popped open their umbrellas.  Game one of the tournament was off to a rather poor start.

Coming out of the third delay in as many innings, the field now given a good drenching, the quality of play suffered somewhat.  Pitchers struggled to control sopping wet baseballs from atop a greasy mound.  The ring of aluminum bat on plastic cleats became a familiar sound as the players took breaks to remove the accumulated muck from their spikes.

“I got a lot of dirt stuck in my cleats,” Hartford reliever Chris Nulty acknowledged.  “I was having a hard time staying on the mound.  I would throw and then start to slip.”

Nulty was the second pitcher to take the mound for Hartford, Hunter Perkins having been pulled after an accumulated hour-long delay.  Though Nulty struggled, loading the bases and allowing North Country to tie up the game, he was far from defeated.  Nulty went on to record a three-run inside the park home run to begin Hartford’s rally from a long, painful inning.

North Country All-Star Aiden Gariepy takes to the mound against the Hartford All-Stars as second baseman Derrick Breault looks on.  A series of thunder and rain delays extended the opening round of the tournament on Friday night.  Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country All-Star Aiden Gariepy takes to the mound against the Hartford All-Stars as second baseman Derrick Breault looks on. A series of thunder and rain delays extended the opening round of the tournament on Friday night. Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country’s Aiden Gariepy, though subjected to the same routine dashing delays as his Hartford counterpart, would likewise struggle to recover his form.  Fastballs adopted unexpected movement, jinking and juking like knuckleballs, rising or dropping unexpectedly.  The role of the catcher became one less of calling pitches and catching strikes than one of simply arresting the ball’s forward momentum and hoping to keep it out in front.

Hartford moved on to the winner’s bracket, ousting North Country 15-5 in five innings.  Despite the ten-run mercy-ruled game, an hour of delays pushed back the start of game two.

The slick conditions persisted into the evening portion of the tournament as the Lake Region All-Stars took on Central Valley.  The lights, coupled with a persistent haze, gave the outfield a rather Field of Dreams quality.  However, what came out of the shrubbery on this night was not Shoeless Joe Jackson but, rather, a determined and ravenous horde of mosquitoes.

Despite the weather and the little miseries that accompanied them — or perhaps because of an ample supply of popcorn and hot dogs provided by the Barton Academy and Graded School’s eighth grade class — the players returned to the field and the fans got up and stretched, tried to dry out a bit, and went back to the business of baseball.

It was a sentiment shared by the players.  The night game has a certain mystique about it, recalling the major leagues and all those golden heroes of the diamond.  Maybe it’s just a function of the background being lost behind the lights, but everyone seems to stand a little taller.  There are no network TV cameras, but the dim glow of shaky handy cams and  the luminescent sparkle of camera phone flashes fills the night.

“This is my second one,” Lake Region catcher Parker Perron says of night games.  “You don’t really do anything different.  You just don’t want to look right at the lights.”

Lake Region All-Star Parker Perron (right) takes a short lead as Central Valley All-Star first baseman Chris Frost and base umpire Mike Wise prepare for the next play during Friday night's action.  Photo by Richard Creaser

Lake Region All-Star Parker Perron (right) takes a short lead as Central Valley All-Star first baseman Chris Frost and base umpire Mike Wise prepare for the next play during Friday night’s action. Photo by Richard Creaser

Tracking pop-ups and running down baseballs in the outfield are probably the hardest parts of night baseball, he said.  The lights tend to be off to the sides and pose little problem for the catcher, he added.

The night game also holds the power to magically ward off bedtime, a fact not lost on the players.  Rian Hayman-Jones marveled at the hour when his walk-off three-run inside the park home run allowed the Lake Region team put away Central Valley 11-0.

“It’s pretty fun to be out playing baseball at 11 o’clock at night,” Hayman-Jones said afterward.

Adding to the fun was a strong sense of teamwork that enabled Lake Region to advance to the winners bracket.  A loss to North Country in the district playoffs spurred the Lake Region squad to do better, Hayman-Jones said.

“Losing that game made us work harder as a team,” Hayman-Jones said.  “We just had to work harder and play better.”

Despite being made up of players from Glover, Barton and Irasburg, the Lake Region All-Stars played as if they had spent the entire season together.  Indeed, this U12 team is largely composed of the same players who came within one out of being the U10 state champions two years earlier, Coach Jethro Hayman said.

North Country All-Star Briley Carter sheds water during a rain-delayed third inning on Friday night.  North Country would fall 15-5 in the opening round of the U12 Cal Ripken state tournament.  Photo by Richard Creaser

North Country All-Star Briley Carter sheds water during a rain-delayed third inning on Friday night. North Country would fall 15-5 in the opening round of the U12 Cal Ripken state tournament. Photo by Richard Creaser

“Some kids have gone and others come in, but this is basically the same team,” Mr. Hayman said.  “They’re very close.  They’re like brothers, and it shows.”

Like brothers, some of their dugout chatter spoke of their fellowship.  Parker Perron admired a bat and asked Parker Brown, the bat’s owner, if he could use it in his next at-bat.

“You don’t have to ask,” Brown replied.  “Unless you’re gonna use it to hit rocks or something.”

That good-natured rivalry and the spirit of fellowship that is the game of baseball would prevail.  Bernie Gonyaw, the state commissioner for Vermont Cal Ripken Baseball summed it up best.

“What better way to spend a Friday night than to spend it watching baseball under the lights?” Mr. Gonyaw mused.  “It’s the only place to be.”

contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

For an article on the tournament champions, click here.

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Sports pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

Share

In baseball playoffs: Hot-hitting Rangers double up Highlanders

Lake Region's Josh Locke laid down a perfect bunt and beat out the throw to set the stage for the Rangers' four-run first inning on Tuesday.  Lake Region took on visiting Harwood Highlanders in boys Division II playdowns and advanced to Friday's quarterfinals with an 8-4 win over Harwood.  Photos by Richard Creaser

Lake Region’s Josh Locke laid down a perfect bunt and beat out the throw to set the stage for the Rangers’ four-run first inning on Tuesday. Lake Region took on visiting Harwood Highlanders in boys Division II playdowns and advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals with an 8-4 win over Harwood. Photos by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle June 5, 2013

ORLEANS — The Lake Region Rangers (11-5) hot-hitting ways continued Tuesday as they faced the visiting Harwood Highlanders (8-7) in the first round of Division II baseball playdowns.  The Rangers rapped out ten hits against three Highlander pitchers en route to a convincing 8-4 win.

“I feel like that was our best hitting game this year,” Rangers freshman second baseman Kolby George said after the game.  “I really liked batting today — lots of nice, straight pitches.”

George’s early at bats may have contributed to the early departure of Highlander starter Ty Delphia.  George battled his way through 11 pitches in the first at bat for the home team before launching a double deep against the centerfield wall.

“I knew our guys were going to hit it,” Coach Eric Degre said after the game.  “We’ve been really dialed in at the plate.  Today we worked the pitch count and took advantage of our opportunities.”

Coach Degre took a chance using his number two starter, Dustin Bathalon, opting to save flame throwing starter Matt Messier’s arm for later in the playoffs.  It was a good call, as Bathalon pitched six innings surrendering four runs, only three of them earned.

“Dustin was pretty awesome,” Coach Degre said.  “He’s been pitching pretty well all year.”

Though Lake Region has played a primarily Division III schedule and Harwood a Division II schedule, Coach Degre was confident that his team was up to the challenge.  Tuesday’s game was the first match-up between Harwood and Lake Region this year.

“I don’t care who you play,” Coach Degre said.  “You still have to catch, pitch, throw and hit to win the game.  We knew what we needed to do to win, and we did it.”

Solid defense and hot hitting have been key elements in Lake Region's late season surge.  Here Ranger Sam Barbeau snags the throw as Harwood Highlander Matthew Fischer charges down the first base path.

Solid defense and hot hitting have been key elements in Lake Region’s late season surge. Here Ranger Sam Barbeau snags the throw as Harwood Highlander Matthew Fischer charges down the first base path.

Despite never having faced Harwood before and fielding a relatively young team, the Rangers were not in the least intimidated by their opponents, George said.

“I knew they would be a similar sort of team,” George said.  “They would play a lot like us.  We knew this was a playoff game and I figured we’d step it up.”

The Highlanders got on the board early as Lucas Russell came around to score on Dylan MacIsaac’s RBI single in the top of the first.  The Rangers would respond by bringing around four batters to jump out to an early 4-1 lead.

The Rangers endured some costly defensive lapses that allowed Harwood to tie the game at four apiece in the second inning.  Despite those costly errors, the Rangers rallied back.

“I always talk to the guys about dealing with adversity,” Coach Degre said.  “They know how to handle it.  They’re very supportive of each other.”

Lake Region reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the third after Logan Harper reached on a single and advanced to third on a pair of brilliantly executed stolen bases.  With the bases loaded and one out, Highlander Coach Mitch Casey made a pitching change and brought in Dominic Moreno to relieve Dephia.  Though Moreno retired the first batter he faced, he plunked Alex Beauregard to bring in the go-ahead run before inducing a groundball out to end the inning.

Lake Region plated two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to cement their lead, and add their eighth and final run in the bottom of the sixth.  Bathalon continued to pitch into the top of the seventh before a single and an error put men on the corners.  Coach Degre let Messier take the mound.

Messier struck out all three batters he faced to secure the win and help the Rangers advance to the quarter-final round.  With the win the Rangers will face either number two seed Otter Valley or number 15 Montpelier High on Friday, June 7.

“To advance to the quarter finals with such a young team really feels wonderful,” Coach Degre said.  “They’re young but their learning.”

Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

 For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Sports pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

 

Share