MONTPELIER — The Keene Swamp Bats snapped the Vermont Mountaineers’ nine-game winning streak Tuesday, but no one is complaining around Recreation Field these days.
Entering the midway point of the season, it’s easy to forget about the team’s 3-7 start. Winning streaks have a way of doing that.
Mired in the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Northern Division basement just a couple of weeks ago, the Mountaineers (12-8) are now tops in the division and showing no signs of slowing down. Timely hitting, strong pitching and limiting errors has thrust Vermont into the local sports spotlight as the team continues to trend upward. And whenever their opponents make a mistake, Vermont is quick to capitalize.
“Overall it’s been good offensive production,” manager Charlie Barbieri said. “Early on in the season we weren’t getting the big hits with runners in scoring position. Now I feel like if we have guys in scoring position, we’re going to score.”
It doesn’t hurt to have pitchers who throw hard and pound the strike zone. Barbieri praised the efforts of Tyler Thorington, Alec Huertas and Christian Scafidi as starters as well as lauding the contributions of his bullpen. Vermont’s relievers have been key while providing needed depth during a short 44-game season. The Mountaineers will be playing 18 games in 18 days over the next three weeks. Some of those games are makeup games from the rainy month of June.
“Our team is really tight,” Thorington said. “This is some of the most fun I’ve had playing baseball. We started 3-7 but since we’ve been winning it’s really gotten to be a lot of fun. We’ve got a lineup one through nine. We’ve got guys who are getting after it in the field like Matt McDermott up the middle who has really been making plays. And then, we’ve also got guys who can hit for power and for average throughout the lineup. It makes it easy being able to pitch with a lead. You just have to pound the strike zone with good velocity and get after the batters. With this pitching rotation I think we have the opportunity to be in every game.”
The Mountaineers have the best team ERA in the NECBL at 2.71. As the season winds on, nobody expects the Mountaineers to win every game. But general manager Brian Gallagher is optimistic every night.
“They’ve got 18 games in 18 days,” Gallagher said. “I doubt that they keep winning at the pace they’ve set, but taking two out of every three from here on out is a real possibility. It would put them in great shape for the playoffs.”
Following one month of summer ball, it’s clear that the Mountaineers are for real. And just like the weather in Vermont, if you don’t like how things are going just wait a bit.