Assistant Sports Editor
BENNINGTON -- Cody LaFlamme is not going anywhere near a frisbee this week.
After a broken collarbone sustained in a frisbee game limited him to all but a few innings of valiant, one-armed pitching relief in the final of last year's American Legion baseball state championship, who can blame him?
"It was horrific because baseball is my favorite thing to do and I couldn't do it. It was the state tournament and it was sad," said LaFlamme, a catcher and hard-throwing right-hander for Bennington Post 13. "I tried to keep the team up as much as I could mentally, but I wanted to play so bad."
A key piece of the puzzle again this summer, LaFlamme isn't taking any chances this time around as Post 13 carries the No. 1 seed from the south into the double-elimination state tournament today at Castleton State College.
Eager to reach a third consecutive championship game, Bennington (19-4 overall, 18-3 league) opens against the South Burlington Nationals, the No. 4 seed out of the north, today at 2 p.m.
LaFlamme is determined to be on that lineup card.
"I'm just trying to stay healthy, watching my step everywhere I go because I just want to play so bad this year and I want to get some wins out there and, ultimately, win the tournament," LaFlamme said Tuesday.
Post 13 doesn't sport the gaudy, dominant resume it did last season -- 16-0 entering the tournament after run-ruling teams in 10 games -- but once again shares the top-seed honors with the Colchester Cannons out of the north.
Colchester topped Bennington in a wild, two-game final last July. Post 13 got a walk-off grand slam to cap a spirited comeback in a 10-9 win that forced the second game but fell 13-9 in the decider.
Bennington has faced each southern tournament team -- No. 2 Rutland Post 31, No. 3 Brattleboro Post 5 and No. 4 Lakes Region -- three times this year.
The northern reps, which include second-seeded Addison County Post 19 and third-seeded Essex Post 91, were not on the schedule.
"Colchester's going to be Colchester -- they're tough," Bennington coach Walt Parmenter said. "South Burlington we don't know much about, Essex we've played in the past and Addison we played twice last year, beat them twice.
"We're sound, we've just got to go up there and be confident and play hard baseball," he said.
Where the injury to LaFlamme knocked an important arm out of the bullpen a year ago, Bennington has no such worries this time.
Seven different hurlers have had success this season, including Mount Anthony arms Tyler Kunzmann, Russell Krebs, Wade Green and Noah Carroll, Cambridge's Matt Parmenter, and Hoosick Falls standouts LaFlamme and Tanner Williams.
The one area Post 13 has been inconsistent -- hitting -- has seen improvement in the last two weeks.
"The kids are starting to hit the ball, which we hadn't done most of the season," Walt Parmenter said. "Granted, some of the teams made a few mistakes, but at least we're hitting the ball. That's a positive sign."
There is even a level of comfort in taking a few losses to the state tournament, unlike last year when Bennington's two losses came to Colchester in knock-out games at Castleton.
"It's good to get a few losses under your belt, just to know what it feels like and not go in with a big head thinking we're going to go blow people out," Matt Parmenter said. "It's good to know we have to play our best to beat teams."