MONTPELIER — Frost heaves are more of a wintertime hazard, but the Vermont Mountaineers seem to have found a few still lingering here in July.
After startling the NECBL with a nine-game win streak, the team slipped a bit this past week, earning one win in six games before Tuesday’s 7-3 victory over Keene.
It was a rough week for Vermont, but you wouldn’t know it from talking to the players and Vermont manager Charlie Barbieri.
“It’s just the NECBL and there’s a lot of parity with a lot of good teams,” Barbieri said. “I feel like we’re in a little bit of an offensive slump. We’re scoring some runs but haven’t really played some great baseball for the last week and a half. There’s been a little bit of inconsistency. It’s about trying to find a rhythm and get back to it and those winning ways.”
The NECBL has been a historically pitching-dominated league, and that bodes well for Vermont. The team currently sits second in pitching with a 3.62 overall ERA and has allowed just 84 runs, which is best in the NECBL. For the Mountaineers to compete late in the season, it’s the bats that need to get hot — the pitching staff will keep them in every game.
“We were playing pretty good with that nine-game winning streak,” Sean Flaherty said. “But we hit a little rough patch.”
Looking across the field into the opposing team’s dugout, Flaherty identified the Keene Swamp Bats as one of the best teams in the league. And he said Keene is a team that the Mountaineers have to play better against.
“We need to start hitting,” Flaherty said. “When we were on that win streak, we were putting up a lot of runs. And these past few days we’ve been having a lot of 1-2-3 innings. We have to start going gap to gap. That’s what this team is best at. Keene is a deep team with good pitching and we’ve seen them a few times now.”
Barbieri was disappointed to see the winning streak end, but he’s been pleased with his players’ hustle.
“It’s not lack of effort,” Barbieri said. “We have a team of guys that work and have that grit. They work hard. This is a group of kids that work their butts off — and you can’t really teach that. Enzo Stefanoni pitched against Keene last week and we did not make some plays defensively and they can swing it a little bit. When those things happen, it doesn’t lead to good results.”
The Mountaineers are also in the middle of playing 18 games in 18 days, so it’s not like they can take the foot off the gas and relax. With the dog days of summer upon us, being ready to play every day is paramount and the vibe on the bench remains positive.
“In a good league like this you’ve got a lot of good players from a lot of schools,” Mountaineers pitcher Christian Scafidi said. “Baseball is a game of streaks and we were playing well and gellin’ with the pitching and the bats and now you’re going to come up against these teams who have seen you three or four times and they’re going to start putting their own streaks together. Each and every one of us is out here for the next 18 days and we’re all smart enough to know that if you’re tired, we’re all tired. We just need to stick together and continue playing for each other. You’ve got to feed off the energy of your teammates and continue to pick each other up.”
Vermont (14-12) will travel to play the Sanford Mainers at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.