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Olympians Run Wild in Quarterfinal Victory

Bradford, Vt. — The 14th-seeded Rice Memorial High softball team was able to steal a win over No. 4 Windsor in the first round of the Vermont Division III state tournament Tuesday. In yesterday’s quarterfinal, the thievery was all Oxbow’s.

The No. 6 Olympians were 10-for-11 on stolen base attempts and scored all of their runs on wild pitches and passed balls in a 4-2 win over the Knights.

The O’s (12-5) stole third base five times and led from the first inning on as they advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2010. They’ll take on the winner of today’s quarterfinal between No. 7 Enosburg and second-ranked Richford.

Oxbow managed just three hits against senior Rice pitcher Bailey McCarthy (five strikeouts, seven walks), but was opportunistic on the basepaths. Leadoff hitter Amanda Wheeler, catcher Heather White and shortstop Cassie Hutchinson each had two steals, with Wheeler accounting for two of the runs scored.

White scored the winning run, singling to start the fourth inning and stealing both second and third before coming home on McCarthy’s wild pitch to make it 3-0.

Rice had five hits and drew three walks off Oxbow junior Leah Hanzas, who allowed one earned run and struck out three.

“Our baserunning was pretty much the difference in the game,” said Oxbow coach Robin Wozny, whose team went ahead 2-0 in the first and led 4-0 through five.

“We were quick and smart, and that’s what you have to do against a team like Rice. They outhit us and have some good players.”

A Catholic school located in Burlington, Rice finished the season just 2-16, but the Knights played a regular season schedule comprised entirely of Division I and II teams. The mightier competition prepared them well for Tuesday’s 10-1 stunner at Windsor, the Knights’ first playoff win in 22 years. Rice stranded seven base runners yesterday, leaving them loaded in the fourth.

“We hit the ball well at times today, but we couldn’t get enough big hits,” said ninth-year Rice coach Paul DiFalco. “The passed balls and wild pitches have been a killer for us this year. (McCarthy) had a great finish this year and pitched a heck of a game against Windsor, but as you saw, (lack of control) was the difference for us again today.”

Wheeler drew a four-pitch walk to start the game and, one out later, Hanzas walked on a full count and stole second on the same play against a sleeping Rice defense.

Wheeler, who’d already moved to second on a wild pitch, came home on another when McCarthy threw in the dirt and past Knights catcher Lindsay Rockwood. Hanzas came home on a passed ball during the same at-bat to make it 2-0.

After stranding Shae Brammell (double, stole third) in the third, the O’s added one each in the fourth and fifth innings in familiar fashion.

After White’s wild-pitch run in the fourth, Brammell bunted Wheeler — who walked to lead off the inning and stole second — to third and she scored on yet another wild pitch, with two outs.

While coming home from third on wild pitches and passed balls may seem like a given, Wozny said it’s something her team emphasizes in practice.

“It does take some skill, because you have to have a good lead and judge where the ball is,” Wozny said. “If you don’t have a good enough lead and the ball has any kind of bounce off the back stop, you’re stuck at third.”

The Knights made three of their five hits in the sixth and seventh innings against a tiring Hanzas, who threw 110 pitches. Rice’s first four batters reached to start the top of the sixth, including a two-run single to left from Ryann Dorain to make it 4-2 with none out and two on.

Theresa Morin, who had three RBIs against Windsor, hit into a lineout, and Oxbow shortstop Cassie Hutchinson doubled Rachel Chicoine off second base. Chicoine had reached on Hutchinson’s own error, the Olympians’ lone miscue of the game.

Rice’s No. 9 hitter, Brittany Line, drew a walk to start the seventh, but the next batter, Nikki Talcott, was called out for leaving the batter’s box. After McCarthy’s single moved Line to second, Rockwood and Allie Doe both flew out to Wheeler at second base to end it.

Extra Bases: Knights third baseman Elise Prehoda was hospitalized after a hard ground ball hit by White plunked her in the face on the one-hop. She was taken to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center by ambulance for precautionary reasons, Oxbow athletic director Rich Thornton said. Prehoda was replaced by Dorain, who later had Rice’s lone RBI hit. ... Hanzas’ father, John, and two of her uncles, are Rice graduates. ... Oxbow courtesy runner Rachel Emerson was called out for leaving first base early in the fourth inning, while Rice’s Braelyn Leppert-Hill was called out for base runner’s interference when she ran into McCarthy’s ground ball in the fifth. When Talcott was sent to the bench for stepping out of the batter’s box in the seventh, it was the third dead-ball out of the day.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.