×

Post 84 not made in the shade

  • White River Junction Post 84 senior's Alex Emerson beats the tag at home by Bennington Post 13 catcher Owen King as Post 84's Tom Bissaillon watches in the seventh inning of the first game of their doubleheader in White River Junction, Vt., on July 20, 2019. The run brought White River Junction within one run of tieing the game but Bennington won, 11-10. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • White River Junction Post 84 senior coach Scott Holmes tries to settle his team during a high-scoring seventh inning with Bennington Post 13 in the first of game of their doubleheader in White River Junction, Vt., on July 20, 2019. Bennington held on to win, 11-10. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A low throw gets past White River Junction Post 84 senior first baseman Robert Slocum as Bennington Post 13's Guy Milliman slides safely in the seventh inning of the first game of their doubleheader in White River Junction, Vt., on July 20, 2019. The eight-run inning put Bennington ahead and they held on to win, 11-10. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, July 20, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The heat is on the White River Junction American Legion Post 84 baseball team. And it has nothing to do with the wave of excessively warm weather currently affecting nearly half of the U.S. population.

Battling for the Vermont Southern Division’s fourth and final playoff berth on Saturday, the WRJ diamond boys made their road more difficult by blowing a five-run lead to lose the opener of their doubleheader, 11-10, to visiting Bennington Post 13. Equilibrium was restored with an 11-0 rout in the nightcap at the Maxfield Sports Complex, but Post 84 no longer controls its own fate.

“That first one set us back,” said Post 84 coach John O’Hara. “We thought, ‘Boy, are we in a good spot.’ And then we just couldn’t close it out.”

White River Junction, 10-12 in state play, concludes the regular season by hosting Randolph Post 9 for a Tuesday twinbill that begins at 5 p.m. Post 84 needs to sweep their neighboring foes while hoping Bennington (10-11) drops at least one of its three remaining games, scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

A fourth-place tie with Post 13 would give the slot to White River Junction, which won three of the teams’ four meetings this summer. Bennington’s remaining foes are Lake Region, Brattleboro and Rutland, which began the weekend as the division’s top three teams. Randolph is the South’s cellar-dweller.

“Randolph has played some teams tough down the stretch,” O’Hara said. “They beat (Bennington) last weekend, 17-7, and they’re playing for pride. What I don’t know is how much pitching they’ll have left.”

That’s because Randolph’s schedule this weekend included doubleheaders on Saturday at Rutland and on Sunday at Brattleboro. That’s a tough closing stretch, to say nothing of heat that read 94 degrees and felt like 100 during Post 84’s Saturday clashes.

White River Junction scorekeeper Shannon Spencer parked herself under a baby blue beach umbrella. Catcher Ethan Belvin draped a rag soaked in ice water atop his head whenever he wasn’t behind home plate. O’Hara joked about lounging in a kids’ wading pool in the third-base coaching box.

“It’s brutal out here, but all you can ask for this time of year is to be playing meaningful baseball,” O’Hara said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had to play it a bit earlier and more often than we’d like to this point.”

Recent Windsor High graduate and pitcher Robert Slocum started Saturday’s opener and went 5⅔ innings, departing with a 5-1 lead after recording one out during the sixth. O’Hara’s initial thinking was to ride the right-hander all the way through game one, but Slocum successfully argued to save some of his strength for Tuesday’s action.

Relievers Alex Bushway and Jake Colby couldn’t hold what had grown to an 8-3 lead with two outs in the seventh, however. Bennington scored eight runs to take an 11-8 lead, and the hosts, who brought Slocum back in to record the final out, could only get back a pair of tallies during their last at-bat.

“I got talked out of my decision, and that’s on me,” said O’Hara, noting that two runs scored when a grounder took a horrible hop and struck infielder Brady Clark in the lip during the seventh. “But we’ve still got to make the plays behind whoever’s pitching.”

Post 84 had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh, but Hunter Perkins popped out and Slocum grounded out to end the game.

Post 13 had no substitutes, while White River Junction inserted pinch runners wherever its pitcher and catcher reached base. The visitors managed just three hits off Bushway during the second game, which was ended after the visitors’ fifth at-bat because of the mercy rule.

“Tip of the cap to them, because they may have only had nine guys over there, but they were the right nine guys,” O’Hara said. “Commitment and effort, and they didn’t give up.”

White River Junction had 14 hits during the second game, including three singles by Kyle Hamilton, who added three RBIs. Perkins had a double and an RBI, and Jacob Dwinell, Ryan Pepe, Clark and Alex Emerson each had two singles against the error-plagued visitors.

Emerson had a double and two singles during the first game, while Hamilton produced a double and a single and Clark and Slocum each had a pair of singles. Bushway earned the victory during the second contest, allowing three hits while striking out one batter and walking two.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.