Bennington 10U wins in walk-off fashion

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BENNINGTON — When the Essex Town all-stars took the lead with four runs in the top of the sixth inning during Sunday's winners' bracket contest in the Vermont 10U state tournament, Bennington coach Ryan Greenslet was only worried about one thing.

"My thought, honestly, was making sure the kids kept their heads up and [continued to fight]," Greenslet said. "Getting down, I saw the sail deflate a little bit and we just had to stay motivated. Once we got back up to hit, I knew we would be OK."

Down two in the bottom of the sixth, Talin Bartholdi hit a game-winning walk-off two-run double to propel Bennington to a 7-6 win and push his team one win closer to a state championship.

"I was looking for a pitch straight down the middle," Bartholdi said. "Once it got over the outfielder, I knew we had won and we were going to the championship [round]."

Bennington took a 4-2 lead into the sixth inning and Blake Tienken — who had come in for the starter, Seth Greenslet — was trying to lock down the win.

Tienken got the first out of the inning with a strikeout, but the No. 9 hitter, Luke Tumilowicz, reached on a walk. The leadoff hitter, Jacob LaRoche also fanned, putting Bennington one out away from the victory.

But Essex loaded the bases with a walk and a hit-by-pitch before Austin Ravelin drove in a run on a fielder's choice to make it 4-3. Grayson Pike walked with the bases loaded, tying the game at 4-4. The next hitter, Levi Bent, doubled to drive in two and give Essex a 6-4 lead.

"Blake came in and it can be nerve-wracking," Greenslet said. "Seth did what he could do and any time you switch pitchers in a tight game, you never know what can happen. He did great, even though at first he didn't want to pitch. He stepped up and did it."

As the bottom of the sixth started, Bennington faced a two-run deficit, but immediately Aidan Lacasse roped a single to start the frame against LaRoche. Rowan Behan followed with another hit and then Aidan Santarcangelo walked to load the bases with no out.

"The bottom of the order loaded the bases right away," Greenslet said. "It's crucial to get one of the first two on base."

Carson Andrick popped out for the first out, but then Seth Greenslet ripped an RBI single that went off LaRoche's ankle and rolled away.

That made the score 6-5 and LaRoche came out of the game with his injured ankle, forcing Essex to make a pitching change to Ravelin.

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"I told Talin while their pitcher was warming up to pick the one you want, but it has to be perfect," Ryan Greenslet said.

Bartholdi came up and hit the ball right over the head of the right fielder, driving in Behan and Santarcangelo for the winning runs.

"I was happy when they switched pitchers," Bartholdi said. "I knew he would be a good pitcher, but I wasn't worried, I just hit it like I usually do."

Tienken was big on the offensive side of the ball as well, racking up a 3-for-3 day at the plate, two singles and a double.

"That was his best hitting day," Greenslet said. "We tweaked a couple of things and he made the adjustments."

Behan added a pair of hits and scored two runs out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup.

Now, Bennington will have six days off to get ready for Saturday's matchup against either Essex or Addison County, 15-4 winners in the losers' bracket game over Connecticut Valley North on Sunday.

Whoever wins that game has to beat Bennington twice to advance.

"Being at the top of the standings is a good feeling," Greenslet said. "They have to beat you twice and they have to play on Friday, so that's a lot of baseball."

***

In the opening game on Saturday, Bennington used a four-run fifth inning to beat Connecticut Valley North, 6-2. Bartholdi went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, while Carson Andrick's double gave Bennington the momentum.

Brody Smith got the victory, pitching a complete game and only allowing two runs on four hits and striking out four.


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