.By Anthony Labor The Essex Reporter
The Essex Post 91 American Legion team has played a solid five games through the start of the Vermont State Tournament.
Essex won four of its five games throughout the tournament heading into Tuesday night with its only loss coming in a 5-4 game against Addison County last Saturday.
After the loss, Essex came back from a four-run deficit against Lake Region on Sunday to advance to the championship round.
“The team has been pretty impressive so far throughout the tournament,” said Essex Post 91 manager Paul Morgan. “We have shown a lot of guts coming back from games even in the loss.”
Essex moved on to face Addison County in the championship Tuesday evening. Addison County took down Colchester on Tuesday morning to advance.
Colchester and Addison County started a game Sunday evening that was suspended due to darkness. The two finished out the game Tuesday morning.
Addison County hasn’t lost a game yet during the tournament meaning Essex will have to beat them twice to be crowned champions. Addison County only needs one win for the title.
Essex kicked off the tournament as the No. 1 seed in the north and took on No. 4 south seed Bellows Falls Post 37.
Essex won 10-3 behind a strong offensive showing from the team and a solid outing by Jacob Benson. Benson pitched eight innings giving up three runs on four hits with eight strikeouts.
Hayden Smith led the way offensively, as he went 3-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored.
Josh Baez and Davis Mikell each tallied three hits and scored two runs.
Jacob Gaboriault, Patrick Brodeur and Elijah Baez each scored a run in the game.
Essex capitalized on a number of Bellows Falls errors, as it scored four unearned runs to secure the lopsided victory.
Essex followed up with another strong outing from its starting pitcher against Brattleboro.
Mikell pitched a complete game shutout, as he led Essex to a 3-0 win. He gave up three hits in nine innings of work with only two walks and 13 striekouts.
He helped his own cause at the plate, as he went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Josh Baez continued to run the bases well in the game, as he finished with two runs scored and an RBI. Essex lost the only game of the tournament on Saturday in a tight 5-4 game against Addison County. They gave up four runs in the fifth in the loss.
Hayden Smith and Mikell each scored two runs in the game, but Essex couldn’t find the tying run.
“We had one bad inning in the loss,” said Morgan. “We scrapped, but just couldn’t knock across the tying run.”
The loss knocked Essex into the loser’s bracket and put them in a must-win game against Lakes Region on Sunday.
After falling behind 4-0 through two innings, Essex rallied in the sixth inning scoring three runs and taking the lead with a two-run seventh. They scored one in the eighth and three in the ninth on their way to a 9-4 win to knock Lakes Region out of the tournament.
Benson pitched a gem in relief, as he threw 6 2-3 innings of shutout ball with 10 strikeouts.
“We have had some really good performances offensively and pitching throughout the tournament, but Jake Benson really sticks out to me,” said Morgan. “He pitched real well in our opener and really saved us with his relief appearance on Sunday.”
Deagan Poland went 2-for-4 in the game with three runs scored and an RBI.
Josh Baez tallied three RBIs and scored a run.
Joey Robertson scored two runs and had an RBI in the game from the leadoff spot.
Essex will have to show the same fight it did in the final four innings of Sunday’s game to move on as champions of the tournament.
“We have played close games all year and that has really helped prepare for the tournament,” said Morgan. “We just need to throw strikes and defend and be aggressive on the bases. If we do that, we should be fine the rest of the way.”