Royals Roll Into Semis
Big Inning Sends S. Royalton Past Arlington
South Royalton’s Nate Moore delivers a pitch to an Arlington batter during the first inning of the Royals’ 9-0 win in a Vermont Division IV baseball quarterfinal at Alumni Field yesterday. Moore threw five-hit ball over six innings for the victory. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Purchase photo reprints »
Arlington first baseman Josh Brace (18) makes the grab on the relay throw for a first-inning groundout against South Royalton’s David Ballou (31), who arrives late on a head-first slide. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Purchase photo reprints »
South Royalton’s Hunter Brock jackknifes away from a tight pitch during the sixth inning of the Royals’ 9-0 win over Arlington in a Vermont Division IV baseball quarterfinal at Alumni Field yesterday. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Purchase photo reprints »
With Troy Tracy (8) barreling down from third base, South Royalton's Darren Cilley (5) pops a bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt during the second inning of yesterday's Vermont Division IV baseball quarterfinal with Arlington at Alumni Field. The play resulted in a throwing error that scored three runs, sent Cilley to third base and gave the Royals a 5-0 lead on their way to a 9-0 win. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Purchase photo reprints »
South Royalton — If it’s possible to squeeze out a 9-0 win, leave it to South Royalton School baseball coach Mike Ballou to find a way.
A suicide-squeeze bunt play that was anything but ordinary supported a six-run second inning in the top-ranked Royals’ 9-0 blanking of No. 9 Arlington in a Vermont Division IV quarterfinal yesterday at Alumni Field. Between Darren Cilley’s bunt (on a pitch above the letters), an inaccurate throw to first base and some aggressive baserunning, the Royals (15-1) turned potential trouble into gold en route to a decisive victory.
“(I want) the correct bunter up there in the right count, a good baserunner at third base and just someone knowledgeable about what’s supposed to happen,” Ballou said. “We have several boys that can bunt the ball, and several boys that know when to go.
“We did miss one today — it wasn’t supposed to happen and the runner thought it was supposed to happen — but no big deal. Just that and some confidence.”
The game’s key play was nothing more than the way South Royalton always plays the game: Put the pressure on the other guy.
The fun started after the Royals followed a walk to Hunter Brock to open the home second with an RBI triple from Thomas Ingham and an RBI single from Alex Berk for a 2-0 lead. Although Arlington pitcher Alex Hawley would catch Berk in a rundown on a stolen base attempt, the right-hander walked Tracy, hit Leif Johnson and surrendered a single to right from Keenan Thompson to load the bases.
Ballou called for the squeeze right away. With Tracy racing down the third-base line, Cilley somehow knocked down Hawley’s shoulder-high offering only to slip as he exited the batter’s box. An accurate throw would have caught Cilley, but Hawley’s delivery skipped away from first baseman Josh Brace and deep into right-field foul territory.
Johnson and Thompson high-tailed it home, Cilley wound up at third base and South Royalton had what it had sought … more or less.
“I’m pretty confident in bunting, so I knew that I was going to have to get it down,” said Cilley, who scored one batter later when Arlington third baseman Troy Sweet’s throw to the plate on a Nate Moore grounder hit Cilley in the back. “(The pitch) was pretty much coming straight at my chest, so I just slid my hand up and hit it right off the handle. …
“It worked real good. It got all the runs in. That’s what matters.”
The rest of South Royalton’s day came from the conventional baseball textbook.
Key hits? Check. The Royals put the Eagles (5-11) away with runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings. Thompson and David Ballou delivered RBI singles in the latter two cases, while an infield error brought home Berk in the third.
Solid defense? Yep. While Arlington was throwing and booting the ball to the tune of four errors, South Royalton’s defense was airtight and solid.
Good pitching? You betcha. Moore worked six innings and held the Eagles to five hits, striking out nine and walking one. Only one Arlington baserunner got as far as second base on the SoRo starter, who yielded to Ingham, his cousin, for a perfect seventh.
“Nate did a very good job; he pitched within himself,” Mike Ballou said. “Sometimes he has a tendency to try and do a little too much by himself. He’ll try to strike everyone out instead of hitting his spots. He was becoming more of a pitcher today, where he would get ahead in the count, work corners and throw his curveball when he needed to throw his curveball.”
It’s an easy task when backed by an offense built to create mayhem.
“If you make a bad pitch, you might get a little upset about it,” Moore said. “You start throwing a lot of balls, which has happened to me a bunch of times this year. You just have to keep your cool and take your time.
“You just forget about that last pitch. That’s what I try to do. I try to smile a lot.”
Hard not to yesterday.
Fungoes: Hawley threw five innings for the Eagles in defeat, allowing five of South Royalton’s nine hits and six earned runs. … Thompson and Ingham finished with two hits each for the Royals. … Berk, SoRo’s catcher, threw out a pair of Eagles at second base on steal attempts. … Arlington catcher Alex Trayah competed as an individual at Wednesday’s VPA state boys golf championship in Woodstock. … South Royalton will host the winner of this afternoon’s West Rutland-Rochester tilt at Alumni Field in a Tuesday semifinal.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.