Hartford baseball stopped in extra innings

Hartford's Christian Hathorn reacts to his team's loss in extra innings with Middlebury for the VPA Division II semifinal on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Walking back to the dugout is Matt Hayes. Middlebury won, 4-2. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford's Christian Hathorn reacts to his team's loss in extra innings with Middlebury for the VPA Division II semifinal on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Walking back to the dugout is Matt Hayes. Middlebury won, 4-2. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Hartford's Zach Johnson is short on the tag after a rundown with Middlebury's Alex Sperry at third during their VPA Division II semifinal  on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford's Christian Hathorn is on the right. Middlebury won, 4-2, in extra innings. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford's Zach Johnson is short on the tag after a rundown with Middlebury's Alex Sperry at third during their VPA Division II semifinal on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Hartford's Christian Hathorn is on the right. Middlebury won, 4-2, in extra innings. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford catcher Sean Dunton cheers from the dugout during their VPA Division II semifinal game with Middlebury on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Middlebury won, 4-2, in extra innings.  (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Hartford catcher Sean Dunton cheers from the dugout during their VPA Division II semifinal game with Middlebury on Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in White River Junction, Vt. Middlebury won, 4-2, in extra innings. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-12-2024 3:15 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Middlebury Tigers used some timely hitting and took advantage of Hartford miscues to defeat the Hurricanes in Tuesday’s VPA Division II baseball semifinal game at Maxfield Sports Complex.

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning but failed to push the winning run across with a runner on third and one out. Hartford then allowed a pair of runs in the 10th to give Middlebury a 4-2 victory.

Hartford mounted a threat in the bottom of the 10th with a two-out walk to Christian Hathorn followed by a Zach Johnson single. But Tiger pitcher Tucker Morter got the final out on a fly to deep center to end the game.

“That was a tough one,” Hartford coach Bill Vielleux said after addressing his team gathered around second base. “They got the hits when they needed them. We battled. We didn’t quit. We got the tying runs on and were a gap away from tying it up.”

Vielleux said his team drove the ball well, but the Middlebury outfielders were able to track down the long balls.

“I think that was the hardest we have hit the ball, and we have hit it hard all year,” Vielleux said. “We just couldn’t find any gaps, and their center fielder (Alex Sperry) did a great job.”

Hartford, the fourth seed, outhit the Tigers, 7-6, and got a stellar pitching performance from freshman Wyatt Chambers, who struck out six over 8⅔ innings before Nate Clark came on in relief.

“He did very well,” Vielleux said of Chambers. “He was asked to step up today, and he did.”

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The Tigers, seeded eighth, got on the board first in the fourth, scoring a pair of runs on just one hit.

Sperry, who had three hits and scored a run for Middlebury (11-8), beat out an infield ground ball and Carter Paquette followed with a deep drive that at first appeared to have been caught.

Sperry ended up in a rundown but was able to slide safely under a high throw at third, with Paquette reaching second.

An error on a ground ball to second base scored one run, and a double play ball by shortstop Ryan Brouillard plated a second run to give Middlebury a 2-0 lead. Chambers got the third out on a fly to right.

Hartford answered quickly, opening the bottom of the fourth with singles by Sean Dunton and Chambers. They moved up to second and third on a ground out to first, and Kyle Spaulding, first pitch swinging, doubled to right, scoring Dunton and Chambers.

Chambers never gave the Tigers much opportunity after that, going three up and three down in both the sixth and seventh inning.

Hartford had another opportunity to take the lead in the fifth on a pair of walks and a Middlebury error.

With the bases loaded and two out, Spaulding drove the ball deep but it was hauled in by Morter in right to end the inning.

Hartford’s best chance to win came in the bottom of the ninth with a one-out triple by Clark followed by a walk to Dunton. But Morter, who relieved starter Gabriel Velez in the sixth, got a strikeout and groundout to end the threat.

In the top of the 10th, a leadoff double by the Tigers’ Ethan Sweet was followed by a strikeout and Cole Warren hit a ground ball to first that was misplayed, putting runners on the corner. Warren stole second and Sperry got a base hit to score one run; the throw home got away, allowing the second run to cross the plate and giving the Tigers the lead for good.

Middlebury will play for its first state title against sixth-seeded Mount Abraham on Saturday at Centennial Field in Burlington.

Hartford, which made the semifinals in 2022 and 2021, finished the year at 13-6.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com