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Post 84 Sees Vermont State Tourney Run End

  • White River Junction Post 84 senior American Legion baseball players listen to coach John O'Hara after their 12-4 loss to Rutland on Sunday at St. Peter's Field. The result ended Post 84's season in the state tournament. (Valley News -Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Moises Celaya, of White River Junction Post 84, scrambles safely back to first base Sunday, beating a throw to Rutland's Josh Beayon. Post 84's 12-4 loss at St. Peter's Field was its second in as many games at the American Legion state tournament and eliminated it from the event. (Valley News -Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Moises Celaya spins his batting helmet atop a finger while exiting the field during the sixth inning Sunday at St. Peter's Field. His White River Junction Post 84 senior American Legion team lost, 12-4, to Rutland and was eliminated from the state tournament. (Valley News -Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • White River Junction Post 84 senior American Legion pitcher Ryan Pepe stares in for a sign from catcher Duncan Frazer during Sunday's game at St. Peter's Field. Post 84 lost, 12-4, to Rutland and was bounced from the double-elimination state tournament. (Valley News -Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • White River Junction Post 84 senior American Legion runner Alex Emerson is almost totally obscured by dust Sunday while sliding home against Rutland catcher Luc Vitagliano. Emerson was out and his team's season ended with a 12-4 loss at St. Peter's Field during the double-elimination state tournament. (Valley News -Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, July 30, 2018

Rutland — During the White River Junction Post 84 American Legion baseball team’s Sunday game at the Vermont state tournament, a 10-month-old Rottweiler alongside the dugout chewed a plastic water bottle with accompanying pops, cracks and ripping noises. Drago, who already weighs 110 pounds, mauled the container with gusto while his team battled host Rutland Post 31 in an elimination contest at St. Peter’s Field.

In the end, White River Junction’s season and the water bottle both wound up torn to shreds, the final score coming in at 12-4 for Post 31. White River Junction concluded a rebuilding campaign, one in which it used players from seven Upper Valley high schools and was heavy on youth and inexperience.

“We’ve been beating ourselves all year,” said Post 84 coach John O’Hara, whose team committed three errors and misplayed a rundown that led to one of Rutland’s runs.

“We have a lot of young guys who haven’t played Legion baseball, and the transition from high school and the increased game speed is a big deal. We’ve made a lot of mental mistakes, but there’s been a lot of growth compacted into six weeks.”

Last season, Post 84 used a veteran lineup led by current Upper Valley Nighthawks pitcher Jordy Allard to reach the state tournament title game for the second time in three years. O’Hara helped build a difficult schedule that featured out-of-state tournaments against some of the best teams on the East Coast. When that failed to yield a championship, he planned to step aside.

Instead, longtime White River Junction Legion coach Jarrod Grassi, who holds the same role at Hartford High, stepped down from summer ball, and O’Hara was convinced to rejoin Post 84. The team claimed the fourth and final tournament berth in the South Division and lost to the North’s top team, the Colchester Cannons, on Saturday.

Recent Hartford High graduate Tyler Hamilton pitched Saturday’s contest for White River Junction. Today, however, he begins a week’s worth of football practices for the upcoming Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl charity all-star game. Gone with him was Post 84 assistant coach Jamie Richardson, who’s serving as Vermont’s defensive coordinator.

“When Tyler’s at the top of the lineup, he gets us going and has picked us up in big spots,” O’Hara said “As he goes, the team goes. The Shrine is an important game for a good cause, and I think he made the right decision. Obviously, however, we missed him today.”

With potential hurlers Moises Celaya and Hunter Perkins prohibited from taking the hill because of injuries, the White River Junction pitching staff was left rather thin on Sunday. Starter Robert Slocum went 3⅓ innings, allowing four hits and three runs, two of them earned, while striking out two batters and walking three. He was followed by Kyle Hedgepeth, who lasted an inning while giving up four hits and two runs, one earned.

Walker Albrecht was next and walked one batter and hit another before being yanked. Ryan Pepe finished out a disastrous seven-run fifth frame for White River Junction, and Kyle Hamilton pitched the sixth inning.

White River Junction had 11 hits but stranded 10 runners. Brady Clark had a single and a double, No. 9 hitter Alex Emerson had three singles and Hamilton and Ryland Richardson each had two singles.

White River Junction’s first nine batters were retired while Post 31 built a 3-0 lead after an inning and a 4-0 advantage after two frames. Post 84 pulled within 4-1 during the fourth, but Rutland added a run during its half of that inning. The visitors cut their deficit to 5-4 in the fifth, but Rutland’s following at-bat featured three hits, an error, two walks, a hit batsman and seven runs.

“I coach aggressive baseball, and we’ve put guys in situations they’re not necessarily comfortable in,” said O’Hara, pointing to a safety squeeze bunt that Pepe couldn’t execute correctly during the fifth inning. “We had a lot of guys who hadn’t played Legion or played together before. I knew we’d make mistakes and we were willing to hang with them so they could learn.”

Notes: Fourteen of this season’s Post 84 players are eligible to return next summer, but Celaya and Frazer will be too old. … O’Hara said it was his understanding that Bellows Falls Post 37’s Seth Balch, a recent Windsor High graduate, would also miss Legion state tournament baseball games for Shrine football practice. … Celaya, a recent Hanover High graduate who’s headed to kick for the Colby College football team in Maine, will not play baseball his freshman year there because of an elbow injury. … Allard, who had the day off while the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s all-star game was being conducted, cheered his former Post 84 teammates from the edge of the dugout and acted as something of a pitching coach, consulting with White River Junction’s hurlers and catching for them while they warmed up. He also threw pregame batting practice. … 2017 Hartford High graduate and current University of Vermont student Dylan Spencer served as a Post 84 assistant this summer. He had played for the program the past several years. ... O’Hara said recent Woodstock High graduate Owen Tarleton, a pitcher who’s headed to play in college, was one of several players only willing to be part-time players this summer and hasn’t been with the White River Junction team for a couple of weeks. … The tournament began with some controversy when the OEC Kings from the Northeast Kingdom, headed for the postseason, were declared ineligible days before the start of play. O’Hara said he reported Oxbow High student Lincoln Ilsley as ineligible because he competed for a team that wasn’t the closest to his listed home address. That would have been Post 84.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.