One of just three Vermonters on their end-of-season roster, Northeast Kingdom’s Tyler Wells and the Mountaineers came up short in their bid for the organization’s first New England Collegiate Baseball League title since 2015.
The top seed in the tournament, Vermont dropped a pair of games to No. 4 Martha’s Vineyard in the best-of-three championship series this past weekend.
Wells, Barre’s Dalton Cody and East Montpelier’s Nicholas Beavin were the lone natives on a playoff roster that was made up of collegiate players from all over the United States.
“The best part was the competition,” Wells said. “Being pushed at a high level is something that I’ve always loved, and playing in the NECBL did exactly that. It basically takes all of the best players you see at every college level and puts them in one place. Being from a smaller school puts a chip on your shoulder, and going against other players from bigger Division I schools isn’t easy, but it’s a lot of fun. It taught me a lot about how to approach the game and valuable lessons about how to succeed at that level.”
The Danville native joined Vermont late in their season after wrapping up his own season in California playing for the Palm Springs Power. An itch to keep playing before returning to school and the desire to return to New England for the remainder of the summer led him to reach out to Vermont manager Mitchell Holmes. Taking the field in the State’s capital and wearing a Mountaineers jersey for the first time was a moment the small-town kid will never forget.
“I attended the Mountaineers’ summer camps when I was 9 and 10 and went to their games so it was always a goal of mine to play at that level,” Wells said. “Time flies by as you go through the years playing but it’s really cool to look back on it now and think how proud my younger self would be to see where my baseball career has taken me so far. I’m grateful for being able to represent Danville and the NEK and try to show that it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”
Upon returning from the Golden State to the Green Mountains, the 21-year-old appeared in four games but struggled to find his rhythm at first. His role grew to one larger than he expected after a few players left the team.
“It took a few games to get back into the flow of playing, but it was nice to hit a groove once the playoffs started and string together more hits,” Wells said.
During the first round vs. Sanford, he picked up a hit in both victories, helping Vermont advance to the season finale. Against Martha’s Vineyard, Wells started both games in center field and batted .357 in the series. The first game, he delivered three hits, an RBI and scored a run — as well as a scoreless inning on the mound. The next day, he walked twice and scored another run. The quest to hoist the Fay Vincent Cup fell short, but Wells walked away from his short-lived run as a Mountaineer with many positive takeaways.
“The experience was honestly amazing,” Wells said. “The Mountaineers have one of the most supportive and strongest fan bases I’ve seen in summer baseball, and being a ‘hometown’ kid playing for them was really special. It was also the highest level of baseball I’ve gotten to play at, so getting experience around extremely talented college players was an honor.”
He’ll take that experience and apply it to his senior season at Division II University of New Haven. Wells started every game last spring as the club’s everyday right-fielder and was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District I First Team.
He’s boasted a career .295 average as a Charger, belting four homers to go along with 40 RBI and 48 runs. An experienced returning core and talented incoming class have laid the foundation for what Wells hopes will be a championship-winning season.
“Personally, I just hope to fill whatever role the coaches need and enjoy the moment,” he said. “Hopefully good numbers and everything will follow with that, but the biggest goal is using my experience to help everyone improve. It’s the strongest and most confident I’ve felt going into a school year and I’m excited to see how that translates on the field.
“Playing college baseball was always a dream growing up, and one that kept getting clearer as I got older.”
A three-time Caledonian-Record All-Area honoree, Wells played for Danville and then St. J during his high school days. His senior season as a Hilltopper saw him rack up 42 strikeouts as the team’s ace and All-Metro first-teamer en route to a 6-2 record and 2.63 ERA.
Only time will tell when it comes to Wells’ future in baseball. One thing is for sure, he wants to keep playing.
“[The Mountaineers] are a first-class organization that takes great care of their players and I hope to be back next summer,” he said. “I plan on going to graduate school to continue playing, whether that be at New Haven or somewhere else depending on what I want to study. I’m also hoping to play well enough to open up opportunities in professional baseball so I can continue playing the sport I’ve loved since 3 years old for even longer.”