by Bill Murphy
The Vermont Journal/ The Shopper
REGION – Both the Walpole Maples and the Walpole Wild Blue are in the middle of a fight for a home field play-off position as the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League has passed the halfway mark of the 2016 season, while the Saxtons River Pirates stand winless in the Vermont based Green Mountain League, which is a higher level of competition.
For local fans we feel the CRVBL is certainly good enough competition as the perennially contending Claremont Cardinals are once again on top of the heap. This year, they are off to a 7-1 start with the Keene Summit team right on their tales at 7-3. Keene has been in the league for many years, BUT rarely contend.
The two Walpole teams are sitting presently in the final two home play-off spots with the Maples at 7-3 and the Wild Blue at 5-4. They have already had their two regular season league meetings this campaign and the encounters were split. Defending champion Putney is fifth at 4-4, followed by Sunapee (2-5), Newport (2-6) and Brattleboro (0-9).
Mark McGill of the Maples was pleased with his Maples 2-1 victory over Putney in which Colby McAllister provided a walk-off hit and Steve Corey pitched well. Corey also was big in a recent tight doubleheader win over Newport 5-4 and 6-4, in which the Maples took early leads and held on. McGill says, “We have a good team, BUT there are a number of good teams in the league. I hope we play well enough when we play the top teams in the play-offs to stand a chance.” The Maples lost a 13-3 contest to Claremont early this season.
The Wild Blue under the leadership of Frank Brown hopes to finish strong as well. They recently lost a tough 3-2 decision to Putney and not only have the Maples and Wild Blue split their season series, they also both split with Putney, showing there is some balance near the top of the league.
The Wild Blues two main pitchers Blake Gowen, (“who threw real well in the recent Putney game”- Brown,) and Adam Kuhn, have for the most part held their own and Brown says, “In the end, the whole thing is going to come down to pitching.” Kaian Wilkes of the Wild Blue currently leads the CRVBL in hitting.
Those who are looking to see the Walpole teams in action can see both at home the weekend of July 9th and 10th in doubleheaders, with the Maples hosting Keene Summit at 11 a.m. on Saturday and the Wild Blue with the exact same scenario on Sunday with Sunapee. The Maples are home again on Saturday, July 16th in a 7 p.m. game versus first place Claremont, while the day after, the Wild Blue travel to Pioneer Valley High School across the Massachusetts line to play Brattleboro, at noon.
The Saxtons River Pirates return to action playing on their Saxtons River field at Vermont Academy for the traditional Fourth of July action, when former Pirate Brown brings his Wild Blue team in for a noon contest. Brown has told Moore, he may pitch an inning or two on the same mound he helped bring the Pirates glory on. Moore says another former Pirate, Morgan Brown, who played professionally for awhile, will be in uniform for the Pirates that day.
The Pirates are 0-10 in the Green Mountain League and are 5-16 overall playing many non-league games. They have developed the strange pattern in league play of playing the opponent tough in the first games of doubleheaders, BUT then being non-competitive in the nightcap.
In the Pirates most recent action, they split a doubleheader in non-league action last weekend with the Barre Braves, winning 3-1, before bowing 9-6. Jeremy Currie’s pitching keyed the win. The runs were driven in by Zach Hale, who had two RBI’s and Chris Bashaw in the first game triumph. Brian Bashaw, Willie Moore, Andrew Robbins, James Lugo, Jason Albert, Davis Guyer, Eric Kimball, Jeremy Gilcris, Monty Vallendar, Jesse Bashaw, Steve Jurkiewicz, Jesse Ballard, Isaac Bissell and Currie have all had two hit games for the Pirates this year.