Bennington's regional run ends with loss to Massachusetts

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CRANSTON, R.I. — While the Bennington 10U All-Stars dropped a 7-6 decision to Massachusetts on Wednesday afternoon at the Eastern Region Baseball Tournament, the focus wasn't on the loss — it was on the experience the team had this week in Rhode Island.

"This is a great tournament and a lot of great teams here," said Bennington All-Stars coach Ryan Greenslet. "We did phenomenal and our kids came to play. We've put Vermont on the board now."

Greenslet said as much as the team was trying to win and make the finals of the New England Regionals, there was as much focus on making the week an experience for the 13 players on the roster.

"We were coming down here to have a good time and we had a blast," Greenslet said. "We had a great time at the banquet, we took them to laser tag, we took them to the zoo [Wednesday], we didn't just focus on baseball, it was about the experience all around. I have a great group of parents, where everyone's involved in things together."

The baseball was pretty good too. The only other time that Bennington's All-Stars made this trip, they finished 0-4 overall. With this year's win against New Hampshire the first ever for a Bennington 10U team at the regionals, they were in all four games and actually had a lead in every single one.

"People were telling me that teams are excited to play Vermont, they think it's an easy win," Greenslet said. "This is a big stage, they are nervous and for the most part, they came through when they needed to."

Massachusetts took a 3-0 lead off Seth Greenslet, who started for Bennington, but the kids came back to tie it in the third inning. Bennington's Brody Smith cut the lead to 3-1 in the second, romping around the bases after a pair of errors to score.

They tied the game in the bottom of the third. A single from Aiden Santarcangelo in the leadoff spot and then a double from Carson Andrick put two runners in scoring position. Greenslet walked to load the bases with no one out. Talin Bartholdi made it 3-2 on a fielder's choice and then Rowan Behan tied it with a single.

Bennington could have had another run, but Bartholdi was thrown out at the plate on a nice play by the right fielder for Massachusetts, Blake Carr.

Greenslet retired six in a row on 14 pitches in the third and fourth inning, which gave Bennington a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth.

"All the pitchers we used [in the tournament] came out firing," Greenslet said. "I think Seth had 50 pitches or so in the first two innings, he ends up going 4 2/3. That's buckling down."

All the damage in the fourth came with two outs. Smith led off with a hit, Hudson Burnell reached on a fielder's choice, as did Santarcangelo, to send up Andrick, who singled. Greenslet came up and singled to load the bases. Bartholdi lined a hit into the outfield for an RBI and the lead, then Behan walked to force in an insurance run.

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Bennington added another insurance run in the bottom of the fifth when Andrick had an RBI hit to left field, driving home Smith to make it 6-3.

"Everyone on that field contributed, putting the bat on the ball," Greenslet said.

From the second spot in the lineup, Andrick went 3-for-3, scoring two runs, driving in another and got on base all four times up.

"Carson has been amazing," Greenslet said. "He had a little slump last game, but when they buckle down, they can do it. He's a well rounded player, has a level head, and if you're looking for someone in that spot, he's it."

Greenslet reached his pitch limit with two out in the fifth, and Tienken came in to close the frame. He came back out in the sixth looking to close it. The first two hitters reached before Tienken bore down and struck out Jack Sherman and William Cassidy. That brought up Patrick Killeen, who popped up in the infield.

A trio of Bennington players went after it, but the ball hit a glove in fair territory and bounced away. When the dust settled, Massachusetts had cut the lead to 6-5.

"It comes down to the pressure of the game," Greenslet said. "The ball is up, they think, oh my God, this is it and they instantly put pressure on themselves. Then [there is] the play at home, rushing the throw and stuff gets crazy."

Colton Harjula walked and Rory Funke doubled in the tying and go-ahead runs to make it 7-6.

Bennington had a final chance in the bottom of the sixth, but Carr closed the door as Bennington finishes the New England regional at 1-3.

Andrick said the experience of playing in the regionals is a fun one.

"Being able to go to the zoo, play laser tag with my friends, doing all those things is a real nice experience," Andrick said.

Greenslet said the support from home was a big deal to the coaches and the players.

"I want to say thank you to everyone in Bennington, from people leaving comments on Facebook, phone calls, everybody that has been watching [the tournament]," Greenslet said. "The support, the congratulations, the go-get-ems, it makes these kids feel good. It was an amazing experience and I couldn't be happier with everyone. We'll go back [to Vermont] and hold our heads high as the Vermont champions."


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