CASTLETON — The game ended for Post 91 the same way it began for Colchester: with four straight base hits.
Colchester’s hits gave the Cannons a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and Post 91’s a dramatic three-run rally in the seventh that lifted them to a 3-2 victory and the 2018 Vermont American Legion crown on Wednesday.
What a finish it was at Spartan Field at the Castleton University Athletic Complex. When Corey Giannelli’s two-out single up the middle delivered the winning run, Post 91 players emptied the dugout and rushed to the plate to greet the winning run, represented by Grady Cram, and Giannelli, the all-tournament first baseman.
The rally made a winner of tournament Most Valuable Player Maverick King with his complete-game six-hitter and deflated a Cannons team that was one out from forcing a winner-take-all second game.
But Colchester pitcher Saul Minaya, who had engaged with King in an impressive pitchers’ duel, did not have the gas to finish.
He was helped by a clutch diving catch by right fielder Chase Carey on a sinking liner by Gordon Schmalz with a runner aboard after a walk. That made it two outs but the top of the order then raked Minaya for four straight singles.
Ryder Thornton’s hit got Post 91 on the board, Cram’s put a second runner on base and Ryan Young and Giannelli followed suit to drive in runs without a close play at home and give Post 91 its second win of the tournament over Colchester, the North’s top seed.
Post 91 won its first title since 2014 and its 10th overall.
The finish brought to an end pitching dominance that saw King and Minaya mow down hitter after hitter. At one point they combined to retire 23 of 25 batters, including 10 straight by King.
King struck out nine and walked one in seven innings; Minaya struck out four, walked two and allowed nine hits in his 6.2 innings.
Despite the slow start, King was the more dominant pitcher overall, stranding four Colchester runners.
Minaya worked his way out of trouble several times, with Post 91 leaving six runners aboard in the first six innings and four in the first two.
King fanned the first batter he faced but Colchester then jumped all over his fastball before he established a rhythm.
Carey and Donovan Montgomery had back-to-back singles to set the table and Minaya and Justin Dattilio singled to drive in runs. An over-run of second base by Montgomery resulted in his being tagged out, affording King a free out when he needed it most.
He ended the first inning with a strikeout and then settled right in and allowed only two runners to reach scoring position the rest of the way.
Article by Tom Haley, Rutland Herald
Article Courtesy of Rutland Herald