BENNINGTON -- With a five-run lead in the fifth inning, things looked comfortable for the Bennington 11-12 All-Star team in Game 6 of their District 2 series against Brattleboro.
In what seemed to be a blink of an eye, Brattleboro had four runs and the tying run on base when pitcher Will Buck came on with two outs.
After getting two strikes, Buck brought out his secret weapon.
"Will likes to throw the knuckleball," said coach Todd Pinsonneault. "I saw it right when it came out of his hand, it dove low and outside and the kid swung at it and [we] got out of it."
Bennington used the momentum to finish off Brattleboro, winning 12-8 to move on to the state tournament.
"It was definitely a great series and Brattleboro played their hearts out," Pinsonneault said. "We never quit and that was the biggest key. We rallied together and pulled it off."
In the bottom of the fifth, Bennington put the game away. WIth one out, Thomas Pietrack hit a single and Nate Coyne was hit in the back with a pitch to put two runners on. Will Shea followed with a base hit to drive in a run and one batter later, Buck blasted a two-run double to right center for an 11-7 lead.
"I was nervous, and so was the team," said Shea, who was 3-for-4 on the day. "We just needed to hit and hopefully have them not hit in the sixth. Brattleboro was a good team, it was hard to beat them, but a lot of fun to play them.
In the sixth, Buck, now pitching with a five-run lead, allowed a homer to leadoff hitter Cyr Solari, but ended the game with a strikeout to send Bennington to states for the first time since 2011.
Bennington took the lead in the bottom of the second inning, scoring all five runs with two outs. Keegan Coon led off the frame with a double and two batters later, Pietrack (3-for-4) homered into left for a 2-0 lead. Coyne singled, as did Shea, who motored all the way home on two throwing errors. Owen Wilcox then came up and blasted a homer for a 5-0 advantage.
"We encourage the kids to go up and swing the bat," Pinsonneault said. "We've got them to be a little more picky, wait for their pitch and when they see it, they're getting better at capitalizing on it."
Brattleboro's Jack Price got his team back into it in the fifth with a two-run double, but Buck shut the door.
Now Bennington will travel to Burlington on Saturday to start the state tournament and the winner of that will go to either Rhode Island or Connecticut for regional play.
"It's going to be fun, but we can't expect an easy ride," Pinsonneault said. "We'll be ready to go."