Bennington eyes second straight state title
BENNINGTON — Same story, different verse for the Bennington Little League 10U all-star team.
Last year, Bennington swept Brattleboro to win the District 2 title and then went on their way to win the Vermont state championship, granting them a berth in the Eastern regional tournament.
This year, it was the same song and dance for Bennington, who swept Brattleboro again in their district series and are now prime to defend their title and win their second straight state championship.
"It's pretty cool that we're back in the state tournament again this year and that we have a chance for two in a row," said Bennington coach Patrick Thompson. "It really shows how far along baseball has come here in Bennington the past few years and how competitive the league has become."
In their sweep of Brattleboro, Bennington showed how strong they are in all phases of the game, averaging over 10 runs a game at the plate with solid pitching and fielding to back it up.
They also showed how resilient of a team they are when they overcame blowing a five-run lead to Brattleboro in game three with a walk-off victory to win the series.
"I think that was the best thing for us, playing a close game and having to overcome some adversity," Thompson said. "It showed that we came from behind to win and how much fight this team has."
This year's Bennington team is very different from the one that won the championship last year.
Only four players — Tanner Bushee, Ayman Naser, Nathaniel Greenslet and Connor Hannan — returned from last year's championship team.
But it doesn't change the fact that Bennington is gunning for a second straight championship, which has instilled players with confidence and belief.
"Our team is a pretty confident bunch and I think the way we have been playing has really helped them ignore that pressure of winning a second straight title," Thompson said. "I also think will the four guys we have back from last year's championship is a big help too since they have really done a great job leading this team and setting the example of we need from the other kids on the team."
Key to Bennington's confidence has been their strong play in the field, which Thompson said will be very important in the state tournament, with the ball being put in play more often and with strikeouts being less frequent.
Unlike last year's run too, players won't have the luxury of playing in front of their hometown fans, and will instead travel to St. Johnsbury. That's where they will face off against South Burlington in the first round of the double elimination tournament tonight.
"We have a tough task ahead of us in playing South Burlington in the first round," Thompson said. "South Burlington always has a good squad, so I have been preaching to the kids that we're going to have to give everything we have if we want to start off the tournament with a win. You don't want to lose this game and have to fight all the way back in the loser's bracket."
If Bennington were to beat South Burlington, they would play the winner of Brown River/Lydon in the second round of the tournament.
State championship or not, it's been a nice start to the postseason for the 10U all-stars and the kids and the coaches are having fun being together.
"It's been a lot of fun being around these kids and it's great to see the excitement the kids have brought to the community of Bennington," Thompson said. "Hopefully we're able to come back with another state title by next week."
Bennington and South Burlington will square-off on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
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