A certain number of times a year this column begins with once upon a time. This week I tossed in a few extra words to make those words begin with the twelfth word of this piece. Regardless, you get the idea.
There was a time when Walpole played big in the baseball universe. Bigger than they are or ever were that is, one would have to say. Walpole had a Legion Baseball team when they didn’t belong in the league. It wasn’t that they didn’t play well, it was the fact that they were in a league that was composed of cities and Walpole. There was Manchester, Keene, Rochester, Nasuha, etc. You get the idea. They never seemed to win anything, BUT, they challenged for first place a number of times.
What was really exciting, was when Walpole upset one of the big posts from Manchester. It didn’t matter if it was Post 79, Sweeney, Jutras, it never mattered, it was a victory to take pride in. I think when Fall Mountain opened, it took away some of that Walpole Chick pride, so for more than several years, the Post kept the Legion program going. Of course, like Bellows Falls does now, they had to draw from surrounding towns, actually even from as far away as Claremont and Newport, BUT, the biggest thing was, Walpole competed and they were also respectable. I always thought that was special.
Today the tangent came before the story, which is that Walpole is on top of the world in the Fall Mountain Independent Baseball League again. This league, which is for Babe Ruth aged athletes, has seen Walpole win the title now, in three of the past seven years, which made me think of Walpole’s proud baseball history.
This years title game was a beauty and took just over an hour and a half to play as Walpole defeated defending champion Springfield 2-0. The two teams had met twice during the regular season and split those meetings. The two teams met in last years title contest with Springfield making it three title holders in three years as Charlestown and Westminster had both claimed titles in 2013 and 2014 respectively, which followed Walpole’s back to back successes in 2011 and 2012.
Walpole coach Kevin Tidd said of the 2-0 finale this time around, “it was a great pitchers duel. Bailey (Cote) was outstanding striking out 15, but their kid (JJ LeCouffe) was really good too. He struck out 10 and we only scored in one inning against him.”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Walpole’s Justin Beauregard drove in both runs. Springfield coach Sonny Bouchard, who felt his players “had a really good season. We lost key players from our defending championship team and I am absolutely proud of how we played. There was no question in my mind that Walpole was the class of the league, BUT, we played them tough.”
Springfield had to win “a wild one,” in Bouchard’s words to reach the finals. Springfield had defeated Bellows Falls two times in three meetings in the regular season and we wonder IF that home field advantage they earned with those victories mattered, in that 15-11 wild semi-final triumph. Matt Veysey’s 4-4, including a triple and a walk, to be on base five times, led the way from the lead-off spot and Collin Pinney added two hits.
Tidd was a little nervous before his team put the title game away, BUT, reacting to Bouchard’s class comment, Tidd said “I did feel it would happen, after all we had ten kids who had been with us three years. This was a good team.” I think everyone thought so.
SHRINE FOOTBALL- Saturday is the Annual Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl Game played at Castleton University. The gigantic parade begins at 3:00 p.m. followed by a 5:30 p.m. kick-off. The game is almost as old as I am and the motto “Strong legs run that weak legs may walk” has been brought to my attention, each year of life I remember.
As most readers know, the game has become less competitive each year lately, as New hampshire plays football at a much higher level than Vermont, BUT, raising funds for the Shriners Hospitals in their quest to help Burned and Crippled children, far exceeds any play on the field.
Each year the Vermont squad trains and takes the field in hopes of becoming THE TEAM which will stop New Hampshire’s long winning streak. The 2016 Vermont team has two area players as Springfield’s Ben Tubbs and Bellows Falls’ Zac Streeter, will wear their schools colored helmets and pads for one last time. Our papers top tier photographer Doug MacPhee, tracked down the two athletes at Shrine Camp on Tuesday while they were preparing for the contest.
Tubbs told MacPhee “Things have gone pretty well so far. The experience of meeting everyone is great. These players are the best in the sport in Vermont. We have done a number of fast paced drills and so far we are making a lot of progress.”
Streeter told MacPhee “Camp is going great and everyone is getting to know each other. We are bonding as a team. That has been the top priority for us, everyone is going to play a lot better when your teammates mean something to you. We are training together, working hard, to get where we need to be for Saturday.”
Good luck Ben and Zac. Kick-off is 5:30 Saturday at Castleton.