BURLINGTON, VT -- The Vermont Lake Monsters used base on balls early and timely hitting late to complete a three-game sweep of the Tri-City ValleyCats 9-5 in New York-Penn League action Thursday night at historic Centennial Field.
The Lake Monsters trailed 2-0 in the bottom of the third when Tri-City starter Antony Bello walked the first four batters of the inning to force home Vermont’s first run. Bill Rhinehart followed with a bases-clearing double down the leftfield line for the Lake Monsters first hit of the game and a 4-2 lead.
The ValleyCats got a run back in the sixth on a Brandon Caipen RBI double, but Vermont answered with two of their own in the bottom of the inning on a run-scoring throwing error and an RBI single from Rhinehart for a 6-3 lead.
Again Tri-City rallied with two runs in the eighth inning on an RBI groundout and Matt Cusick RBI single to cut the Lake Monsters lead to 6-5. Reliever Ryan Harrison came on to strikeout Steve Brown to end the ValleyCats rally.
Vermont scored three insurance runs with the help of RBI singles from Craig Stinson and Aaron Seuss, for a 9-5 lead before Harrison retired the ValleyCats in the ninth for his first save and the Lake Monsters third straight win to open the 2007 season.
Rhinehart, who was 2-for-4 with four RBI on Thursday, now has seven RBI in Vermont’s first three games. Dan Lyons added two hits, while Lyons, Mark Gildea and Jake Rogers each scored two runs.
Cusick was 3-for-4 with a run, double and RBI for the ValleyCats (0-3), while Brandon Barnes was 2-for-4 with two runs.
18-year-old Vermont starter Colton Willems (1-0) allowed two runs on seven hits over five innings for his first professional victory, while Bello (0-1) four runs on just one hit with five walks over four innings for the loss.
Vermont is now 3-0 for just the second time in the team’s 14-year history (8-0 to begin the 2001 season). The Lake Monsters will begin a three-game roadtrip to Lowell on Friday night with a 7:05 p.m. game against the Spinners at LeLacheur Park. Vermont will return home to Centennial on Monday night to begin a six-game homestand.