BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – Vermont Legion baseball is a good sports product. If your local team is good enough to make the State Legion Tournament, they play a high level of baseball. The competition at the top is really good.
The Bellows Falls Post 37 Legion Baseball team is on the play-off bubble. Chances are they will make the cut, but they have to enjoy one last good week of play to make that happen. They are 10-6 with five games to play.
Since Post 37 began competitive Legion play around sixty years ago, it was important for the small community to put together a roster including neighboring towns, if they wished to play with the big boys. They have done a nice job of that again this time around. In fact, BF has players from four of the five high schools in our reporting area.
In Bellows Falls, Kevin Vancor is the manager and Bill Lockerby is the head coach. The two of them work on putting together the roster and Lockerby guides them on the field. Shawn Burke and Jarrod James are assistant coaches.
The success of any Legion team starts with its pitching. Post 37 has a staff full of potentially strong hurlers. It all begins with Fall Mountain’s Kendal Heath, who is their ace, with a 3-1 record and 34 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. It is certainly wonderful that BF has Heath, but there could be as many as three more aces, if he were not around.
BFUHS’s Brady Illingworth (2-1/ 22 strikeouts in 14 innings), Green Mountain’s Josh Woods (2-0/ 2 saves) and Windsor’s Seth Balch (3-0/1.46 era), all can take the ball versus tough competition when you need them to and Zac Streeter, who graduated a year ago and was the 2016 ace, didn’t pitch in the spring and became sore when he tried to catch up, but he is ready and waiting if his number is called. All, except Illingworth and Streeter have eligibility beyond this season. Spencer Clark and McGregor Vancor both have pitched during the season with Clark sometimes utilized to throw off the timing of other teams.
BF has a catching duo who handles the staff well. BFUHS product Liam Hackett has the stronger arm and catches more than 50 percent of the time, but FM’s Tucker Wright handles Heath the ace and others when called upon. Hackett plays in the outfield at times as well and is in his final year of eligibility.
Illingworth and Heath share first base, BF’s Jacob Streeter is at second, FM graduate (in his final year) Joe Corey is at shortstop and Heath and Alex Groenewold share third. Groenewold is capable of sharing any position, just about anywhere. Groenewold, who graduated from the Falls a year ago, needs to be somewhere in the line-up every day, because he is Post 37’s best hitter. At last check, he was mashing the ball at a .451 clip and had 10 runs batted in through BF’s 16 games. There are times one might find Groenewold at second or even in the outfield or Balch possibly at third.
In the outfield, Springfield graduate Kyle Weeks (back for his final year of play) usually mans left field, Zac Streeter is in center and Woods is in right. Fall Mountains’ Bailey Cote is the most utilized designated hitter, but Lockerby says,
“Our pitchers are such good hitters, but we had bigger plans for Cote originally at several positions, including pitcher, but arm issues changed those plans.”
FM’s Ethan McNamara and BF’s Griffin Waryas are youngsters, who fill out the roster. Both Vancor and Waryas are often used to pinch run.
BF is a strong pitching and hitting team, that plays their share of good defense. Behind Groenewold in the average department is Illingworth at .357, Corey .348, Jacob Streeter .318, Woods at .303 Heath at .300 and Zac Streeter batting .286 with a team leading 15 RBI’s. Next in that runs batted in log are Illingworth and Corey with 14. The Streeter brothers lead the team in runs scored and stolen bases with 15 and 9 respectively. Jacob has the 15 runs scored and Zac the 9 stolen bases.
Heading into this final week of competition, Brattleboro leads the Southern Division of Legion play with a 13-1 mark, followed by White River Jct. and Rutland with 10-3 and 10-4 marks respectively. Post 37 presently holds down the final southern play-off spot at 10-6, followed by Lakes Region at 6-7 with Bennington knocking on their door at 5-7. Randolph at 2-12 and Ludlow at 1-15 are already out of the picture.
BF had its toughest game remaining on paper Tuesday evening hosting Brattleboro at 7:00 p.m. Thursday night, they host Bennington at 5:30 p.m. They have what could be their biggest two games left on the road Saturday, when they meet Lakes Region at Castleton at noon and 3 p.m. The 2017 regular season concludes Sunday, when BF hosts Ludlow at 7 p.m.
Lockerby likes his teams’ chances and says, “we have been hitting the ball astronomically better than we did a year ago. Hopefully we can finish strong and get in the tournament. Our schedule was sandwiched together when we faced many of the tough teams and we even had to pitch position players in some of those games. When we have a fresh squad, especially our pitching, I think we can beat any team.”