CASTLETON -- For the past three years, Bennington Post 13 and the Colchester Cannons seem to connect for the biggest and craziest games of the Vermont American Legion season.
In 2011, Bennington came back from seven runs down to force a deciding game in the championship. Last year, Post 13 scored nine runs in one inning in the semifinal and still needed a two-run walk-off homer to get to the title game.
So of course, 2013 would be no different.
In a game that featured 28 hits, 21 runs and as many twists and turns as a labyrinth, Colchester got the best of the southerners again, as the Cannons scored two runs in the top of the 11th inning to score an 11-10 win and move on to next week’s regionals.
"It was just a typical Bennington-Colchester game," said Cannons coach Jeff Mongeon. "We’re up, they’re up, there’s extra innings. People have to step up and you just wait for the moment you hold on for a victory."
Bennington lost in the final for the fourth straight season.
"Every year, it comes down to the final game and one run. We can’t get over the hump," said a frustrated Post 13 coach Walt Parmenter.
Tied at 9-9 in the ninth, Bennington’s Weston Lozier got a base hit with one out and Tanner Williams followed with a hit of his own. After Cannons pitcher Josh Rylant got an out on a grounder, they intentionally walked Tyler Kunzmann to load the bases. That brought up Zach Bahan, who popped out to the first baseman to end the inning.
In the tenth, Russell Krebs singled with one down and back-to-back walks by Shea Mooney and Noah Carroll filled up the bases again. But Lozier fanned and Colchester’s Sean Callahan came in to face Williams.
"We lost on the walk-off last year, I didn’t want that to happen this time, it was in the back of my mind," Callahan said.
Pitching carefully to Williams, Callahan got him to fly to right, ending the inning in another painful squander for Post 13.
"We knew we would go to Callahan in a bind situation where we needed one out," Mongeon said. "Just a big spot. He has guts, that’s why we wanted him in there in that situation."
Post 13 left more than a dozen runners on base, unable to come up with a big hit late.
"We didn’t execute hitting when we needed to and they did," Kunzmann said. "Timely hitting was the big thing. We could have won it, but we couldn’t come to it."
In the top of the 11th, Colchester finally broke through. After Kunzmann was lifted after reaching his innings limit, No. 9 hitter Cassidy Moore was hit by a pitch. Two batters later, Callahan reached on an error and Josh Rylant singled to give the Cannons the lead.
Kunzmann went 10 1/3 innings, striking out 11, while throwing 162 pitches.
"Tyler is a big game pitcher," Mongeon said. He’s a big strong kid, not afraid of anything. He’s a special player and competitor."
Despite the deficit, Bennington continued to battle.
Parmenter reached to open the bottom of the 11th and stole second. Kunzmann, who was 3-for-6 at the plate and reached base six times, was safe on a throwing error, allowing Parmenter to score to make it 11-10 with one on and no out. But Callahan finished off the win with three straight outs, a groundout and two strikeouts, to end it.
"That’s baseball, the ball takes funny bounces," Parmenter said. "We have Tyler at second with no out [with] the meat of our order and couldn’t get the hit, it’s discouraging."
Colchester had a 6-5 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning when Bennington came through with four runs. Zach Bahan and Krebs had base hits sandwiched around two strikeouts. With two down, Carroll singled to right on a 3-2 pitch to make it 8-6 and Lozier added another RBI hit.
The 6-through-9 hitters in the Post 13 lineup combined for four hits and three RBIs.
"Those guys were good, Weston was an unsung hero," Parmenter said. "They got some big hits when we needed it. Noah did a decent job and Shea picked us up as well. The kids that came off the bench did a good job."
In the end, however, Colchester celebrated and Bennington is forced to wait another year for a Legion title.
"It’s exciting," Callahan said. "I have no words really, it was a good all around effort by the entire team and I’m glad we came out on top."