Going, going, gone! Bennington Babe Ruth wins state title
WINOOSKI -- The 2014 Bennington County U15 Babe Ruth All-Stars team is made up of players that, over the previous two summers and various Babe Ruth levels, knew nothing but the taste of a state championship.
There was no way they were letting this year's title slip away.
Down by two runs to St. Johnsbury in the first, and eventual final, championship game on Sunday, Bennington responded by scoring four runs in the fourth and three in the sixth to seal a 9-4 win, sending the team back to the New England regional tournament.
"It's great to be able to say three-peat," said first baseman Noah Normyle, who hit a solo home run in the win.
"It's awesome," Bennington manager Kip O'Neill added. "It's something the kids have worked very hard for, and they have accomplished one of their goals. We have other goals that we are going to reach for next week, but this is a great one to get."
Bennington, though, had to work for it.
While the team entered Sunday's game at Hawthorne Field in Winooski knowing a win would end the day after one game, Bennington found itself behind 3-1 through 2 1/3 innings Sunday after a two-run shot by Coleton Loura-Bumps, and the prospect of a second game loomed heavy overhead.
But with the swagger of a team that has been there, done that in these kinds of game, Bennington went back to work to get the lead.
"It was good competition, I was happy to see how we handled adversity," Normyle said. "We battled back, got some runs and took the lead. We did exactly what we wanted to do."
Scoring their runs off of Loura-Bumps, who took the start opposite Bennington's Austin Condo, Normyle (2-3) started the production with an RBI single in the bottom of the third.
In the fourth, Mike Morgan (2-2) hit a double four batters in to plate Cole Lamoureaux and open the floodgates a bit, as Ryan O'Neill (0-2) followed up with a sacrifice hit to plate Bryce Bush before Carter Bentley (2-3) reached on an error that allowed Morgan to score.
Griff Stalcup (1-4) came up next, and hit an RBI single down into left that brought in Brian Grace, and Bentley nearly scored as well but was called out at home on a close decision, sending Bennington back into the field up 6-3.
"We have a really full lineup," Bentley said. "Once the little guys get it going, we all get up. The play at home, it was a good play. It happens, but we bounce back."
St. Johnsbury came back with a run in the fifth on an RBI single by Jaxson Hussey (1-4), but with a runner in scoring position Condo struck out the next batter and followed up by inducing a fielder's choice tag at third to end the inning.
"What we like about A.C. [Condo] is that he hits to contact and we are all good fielders so we can pick him up," Bentley said. "They had that one shot, but there was nothing we could do about it. We bounced right back, and they only scored on run after that."
In the sixth, St. Johnsbury again put a runner in scoring position with one out, but again Condo kept the runner at second, getting a pop-up and a groundout to end the inning.
"I wouldn't say Austin had his best stuff today, his fastball was up a little bit, but he mixes pitches really well and he never let them get into too much of a groove," O'Neill said of his starter.
With the door closing on St. Johnsbury after leaving the two runners stranded, Bentley slammed the door for good in the bottom of the inning.
After Nilu Chirchirillo, Morgan and Josh Comali all reached to load the bases with two outs, Bentley came up to bat and laced the ball down the right field line, tucking it just fair.
With the acknowledgment that the ball was in play, Bentley hit the jets and slid into third, all three runs safely across the plate.
"Everybody on this team contributed today," coach O'Neill said. "Earlier in that inning, Nilu got on, then Josh followed ... and Brian did his thing, and then Carter gave us the opportunity to open the game up.
That's why Carter bats lead-off. He is a cool cat and he is calm under pressure all the time."
Now staring at just three outs before another championship, Ryan O'Neill trotted out to the mound to relieve Condo, and O'Neill faced just three batters to end the game.
"We are always confident about Ryan," Bentley said. "And he shut it right down."
With the win, Bennington advances to the New England regional in Manchester, N.H. and a game against the Maine champions, Central Maine, next Saturday.
The hope for Bennington now is, after two unsavory trips to regionals, the third time will be the charm.
"We have to settle our nerves a bit," Normyle said. "Really, we have seen it all before. Regionals is higher competition, but it is competition we can compete at and win at. We just have to keep our concentration and our focus."
NOTES: Of the 12 Bennington batters that came to the plate, 11 reached base. Condo walked one batter and hit one batter in his outing and gave up all four runs. Loura-Bumps finished with two strikeouts and four walks. Austin Wendell went 3-4 for St. Johnsbury with two runs scored. Bentley finished with four RBIs and a stolen base.
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