BENNINGTON — You can’t fault opposing teams’ hesitancy pitching to Mount Anthony’s Connor Hannan with runners on base. The numbers speak for themselves: The senior has three home runs and 16 RBIs, both team-highs. So when Rutland elected to intentionally walk the MAU slugger with two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday, it felt like the right move.
Rutland trailed 3-1, having just scored its first run in the top half of the inning and was looking to keep that momentum.
That brought Aaron Whitman to the plate, who made Rutland pay for that decision. He slapped a line drive into the gap in centerfield, plating all three base runners and extending MAU’s lead to 6-1 as the senior slid safely into third on a bang-bang play. Any potential comeback bid quickly faded away with the bases-clearing triple, and MAU closed things off in the seventh for the 6-1 victory.
“(Aaron) started the season off 1 for 14, I think, and since then, he’s on fire,” MAU coach Trevor Coyne said. “I actually moved Aaron up a slot in the lineup today, because he’s hot. That was a huge hit.”
The MAU centerfielder finished 3 for 5 during his senior day game, with four RBIs. It’s just the latest display of how deep the MAU lineup is, as five everyday players currently possess batting averages north of .300, with Carter Thompson leading the charge with his .429 average.
Colby Granger was once again solid on the mound, picking up his fourth win in five starts. Granger threw six innings, allowing just a single run on two hits. He walked four and struck out six. Rutland’s lone run came courtesy of an Anders Lowkes RBI groundout to shortstop in the top of the sixth inning.
The only other time Granger found himself in any sort of trouble was in the third, where he issued a pair of walks and MAU had an error which loaded the bases with one out.
Rutland had a great chance to cut into MAU’s 2-0 lead at that point, but Granger settled in to strike out consecutive batters and get out of the jam unscathed. Michael Schillinger worked a two-out full count, but Granger got the Rutland outfielder to foul tip a pitch into the mit of Nat Greenslet behind the plate, ending the threat.
Whitman drove in his first run of the game in the bottom half of the inning, plating Tanner Bushee with an RBI single to left.
Granger helped his own cause in the bottom of the second, hitting a sacrifice fly that allowed Whitman to cross home plate.
MAU’s first run of the game came on a controversial balk call two batters previous with the bases loaded. The home plate umpire could be heard saying it was the incorrect call to Rutland’s manager, but the play stood and Hannan scored from third. While it was a dead ball as soon as the balk call was made from the infield umpire, Rutland’s starter Sam Arnold continued with his pitch anyways, which MAU’s Bryce VanVoorhis ripped into shallow left for what would have likely been an RBI single.
The win puts the Patriots (12-3) back on track after Friday’s extra innings loss to Burr and Burton, their first loss since April 15.
Coyne was happy to see the Patriots bounce back and not take Rutland lightly.
“We couldn’t treat them like a 4-9 team, we had to treat them like Rutland, our rival,” he said. “It was a big game – definitely nice coming off the BBA loss.”
Arnold pitched four innings for Rutland, allowing five hits and three runs while striking out six and walking one. Quinlan Warner Hall pitched two innings in relief, allowing three runs on one hit, striking out two and walking five.
Bushee closed out the MAU win, pitching a 1-2-3 top of the seventh.
The Patriots conclude their regular season at Bellow Falls Friday at 4:30 p.m.