Assistant Sports Editor
CASTLETON -- So, what do you do when your opponent scores 15 runs in a knock-out game?
If you're Bennington Post 13, well, you score 16.
Season on the line and hitless in his first five trips to the plate against the Colchester Cannons, Bennington's Tyler Kunzmann belted a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to cap a dizzying, 16-15 comeback win on Sunday in the American Legion baseball state tournament.
"You can't teach it, home runs and comebacks like that. It's right here," Post 13 coach Walt Parmenter said, pounding his chest above his heart.
In turn, Post 13 (22-5) erased deficits of seven and four runs, conjuring a nine-run fourth inning and three home runs -- in a tournament that had seen none until Sunday.
The reward is a trip to the final today against Essex Post 91, unbeaten in the double-elimination tournament after an 11-1 win against Addison County on Sunday.
Post 13 must win a 1 p.m. game to force a winner-take-all contest at 4 p.m.
"That nine-run inning for us was big, we knew we weren't out," Kunzmann said. "We just came back and scored more and more -- but so didn't they, so we just had to keep going with them."
The teams combined for 31 runs, 30 hits, 14 walks and six lead changes.
And it was the second year in a row that Bennington pulled off a stunning, walk-off rally to top Colchester. However, last July's classic was the first leg of a two-game state final in which the Cannons ultimately triumphed. This time, the loss ends their season at 20-13-1.
"It was so similar to the first game of our doubleheader for the championship last year: We go up big, give it up and just ride the roller-coaster," Colchester coach Jeff Mongeon said. "We came out on the losing end of it, but it was just a wild ride the whole way."
Kunzmann, Bennington's starter, endured a dreary day at the plate and a rocky outing on the mound before turning up as the hero. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, yielding 13 runs on 13 hits and walking seven.
Reliever Tanner Williams earned the win for Post 13 in 3 1/3 innings, while Colchester closer Connor Langlais, entering with a 15-14 edge, took the loss in the ninth.
"It sucked to go through it, but once you got through it, [everything] cleared up in the end," Kunzmann said. "Definitely, just not giving up -- thanks to all my [teammates] who kept me going."
Colchester jumped ahead in the first on a Matt Roy RBI double. The Cannons tacked on two in the second and four more in a fourth inning sparked by a Jeff Sutherland lead-off homer, the tournament's first.
In the bottom of the frame, Zach Bahan smacked a two-run homer well beyond the fence in left-center for Bennington's first two runs.
"I was just trying to get a hit and get something going," Bahan said. "I didn't expect it to be that big."
After the blast, Cannons starter Zach Tandy struggled with control, hitting two batters with no outs and the bases loaded to plate runs. Four batters later, Wade Green (four RBIs) took reliever Cody Sharrow (five innings) to deep center field for a three-run double and Post 13's first lead, 9-7.
"We got down early, but we came right back. That nine-run inning was big for us, what a big momentum change," Parmenter said.
But Colchester responded with three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to take a 13-9 lead.
After claiming three runs in the bottom of the sixth and getting a pair of scoreless innings from Williams, Cody LaFlamme (2-for-5) kick-started the eighth for Bennington with a solo homer to left that knotted the game 13-13. Later, with two outs, Cameron Bow rapped a single down the third base line for the go-ahead run.
In the top of the ninth, Colchester loaded the bases for Langlais, a pinch-hitter, who drove a two-run single into left field and the late lead.
Matt Parmenter began the last of the ninth with a double to right that was lost in the sun, setting the stage for Kunzmann.
"I had a feeling if Matt got on, Tyler would bring him in. I had a feeling he would go yard -- that's just the way Tyler is," Bahan said.
Bahan finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Parmenter was 3-for-5 with three runs, while Nick Solari was also 3-for-5.
For Colchester, David LaCroix, Sharrow and Roy each finished 3-for-6, with LaCroix recording a single, double, triple, three runs and three RBIs. Sharrow, Tandy and Nick Swim drove in two runs apiece.
"We went to our bullpen to try to close it out ... a ball gets caught in the sun, a two-run bomb, there you go," Mongeon said. "If there was a top of the 10th, we probably would've won. It was one of those games."