Bennington ready to battle for state crown

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BENNINGTON >> Bennington 10U Little League all-stars coach Pat Thompson isn't one for excuses, but he had a legitimate one on Wednesday as the team practiced before Friday's elimination game against South Burlington at St. Johnsbury. The game starts at 6 p.m.

Of course, these are 9 and 10-year-old kids we're talking about, so they get a pass.

"We had our [opening] game canceled on Friday, we had to wait through 3 1/2 hours of thunder delays," said head coach Pat Thompson. "We were sitting around not playing, then on Saturday, we couldn't finish the South Burlington game."

The tournament, which was scheduled to run five days, was broken up into two weekends by the tournament director. Bennington and South Burlington face off in an elimination game and the winner will face the host district in Lyndon on Saturday. Whoever comes out of the game between Bennington and South Burlington has to beat Lyndon twice in the double elimination format.

"I think, especially after the loss, it was big to [get a chance to] regroup," Thompson said. "We didn't have to play the consecutive days, we were able to come back [to Bennington] and work on some things. We've seen every team up there, so it helped tremendously."

In the opening games of the tournament, Bennington topped South Burlington, 8-3, the big hit a grand slam from Ayman Naser in the first inning. Against Lyndon on Sunday, Bennington ran into a fireballer and had trouble getting the bats going in a 12-1 loss.

"I don't think it was cocky, thinking they were going to win, it was the weather, sitting around and then swimming at the hotel on Saturday, "I think they were tired. I still feel we are one of the better teams up there."

Thompson said he believes if a team can forget a bad loss, it's these kids, who won the state tournament at the 9-10 level last year as well.

"If any team can do it, we're capable of it," Thompson said. "We made it a lot harder on ourselves, but we can do it. We have enough pitching and bats, so if we go up there focused and confident, we'll be ready to go."

First baseman Naser said he is confident in the team.

"If we have the same pitching as last time, we can beat them," he said.

Last year, the 9-10 team traveled to Cranston, R.I., for regionals and four of the nine starters on this year's team — Naser, Tanner Bushee, Nathaniel Greenslet and Connor Hannan — were there last year and got a taste of the big stage.

"It's less scary for the four of us who have been here compared to the other all-stars, we tell them don't be scared, it's nothing big, play with your heart and you'll win," Naser said.

"Having four of the nine starters back from last year, that's an advantage we have," Thompson said..


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