In VSBL opener, Manchester tops Bennington

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MANCHESTER — It was opening day for the newly-minted Vermont Summer Baseball League, with all of the protocols and precautions of playing sports in the "new normal" of the coronavirus.

But once the first pitch was thrown by Manchester's Jack Lane — it was just baseball.

"It was great for the boys, but the community came out to support it," said Manchester coach Darrin Senecal. "They needed something like this to get back to "normal', while being as safe as possible."

And on the field, Manchester's Nate Smilko had the big hit, a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth inning, to lead them to a 7-1 win over Bennington in a game played at the Dana L. Thompson Recreation Park.

Manchester led 3-1 heading into the fifth inning when the game was delayed for about an hour due to rain. The teams were determined the get the game in and after some work on the field, the game continued. After a scoreless top of the fifth, Manchester rallied for three runs with two out.

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John Morgantini started it with a single, before Ethan Senecal reached on an error from the first baseman. After moving up, Jack Lane drove home Morgantini with an infield base hit to make it 4-1. That brought up Smilko, who crushed a two-run hit to left-center, driving in Senecal and Lane to make it a 6-1 game.

"It was Nate, his double was huge," Senecal said. "And he came in and did a heck of a job on the mound too."

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Manchester added one more run in the bottom of the sixth, Blake Greene scoring on a Chandler Pouk fielder's choice.

"They had some timely hitting, I think almost all of their runs were [scored] with two out," said Bennington coach Bill Hay. "We had some opportunities that we didn't take advantage of and they did."

Lane started on the mound for Manchester, giving way to Alex Knowles, Joey McCoy, Smilko and Senecal. The quintet allowed only one run on three hits, but did combine to walk seven in the contest.

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"Knowles, it's really his first time coming in and pitching there," Senecal said.

Smilko had a big moment on the mound as well in the fifth, walking the bases loaded but fanning Ryan Audet on a 3-2 count to end the frame scoreless.

For Bennington, Caleb Hay started, going the first 1 and 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits with three strikeouts. He was followed by Henry Sniezek, Luke Trombley and Audet.

"It's going to take some time to get going, tonight was a learning experience," Hay said.

Bennington hosts Rutland today at 5:30 p.m. at the Bennington Baseball Park, while Manchester hosts Lakes Region at the Thompson Rec Park at 5:30 p.m.


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