SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. – The South Burlington 11- and 12 year-old Little League All-Stars are heading to the state tournament this weekend — but without their longtime manager.
According to the Burlington Free Press, Sean McGrath was suspended following a game against Williston last week for violating the Little League mandatory-play rule. Under the rule, all players on South Burlington’s roster had to get at least one at bat. South Burlington had a 2-1 lead when Williston took its final swings in the top of the sixth inning. They failed to tie or go ahead in the inning, and the game ended.
But one player on the field for South Burlington still hadn’t gone to the plate, a violation of the mandatory-play rule that led to McGrath’s suspension.
On Saturday, with McGrath on the sidelines, South Burlington beat Colchester 9-7 to win the District 1 Championship. The team was led by two coaches, including Mike Moore, who said the unfortunate turn of events wouldn’t hurt the team’s chances in the tournament.
“Honestly, the team is focused on playing baseball,” Moore said. “The other stuff is for the coaching staff to deal with, and the team is all about doing their job and playing baseball and that’s what they did.”
Moore says many of the players on this year’s team won the state tournament as 9- and 10-year-olds in 2016. Still, South Burlington had to overcome several tough teams in the district tournament to advance.
“I think our hardest game was against Williston,” said Sam Mazza-Bergeron, a player on the team. “That game was the closest. We had some pretty equal teams and we came out on top.”
The chemistry on the team has been a in their success, says Andre Bouffard, whose pitching helped the team clinch the 2016 championship tournament.
“We all try to stay tough through everything, and one of our mottos is ‘humble, love and tough,’ so we just try to represent all three of those things throughout all the time we had to get ready for the state tournament,” Bouffard said.
South Burlington will play Essex Junction at 11 a.m. Saturday in the opening round of the state tournament, which will take place at Schifilliti Park in Burlington.