Royals Earn Dose of Revenge On Their Way to a State Title
South Royalton’s players celebrate their Vermont Division IV baseball title after the Royals’ 3-1 win over Danville at Centennial Field in Burlington last night. (Andy Duback photograph)
South Royalton catcher Alex Berk tags out a Danville runner at the plate last night. (Andy Duback photograph)
South Royalton’s Darren Cilley scores the first run last night. (Andy Duback photograph)
South Royalton’s Nate Moore delivers a pitch during the Vermont Division IV title game at Centennial Field in Burlington last night. (Andy Duback photograph)
Burlington — Winning its first state championship in eight years was a pretty sweet feeling for the South Royalton School baseball team last night.
Doing it against Danville made it that much better.
Junior pitcher Nate Moore allowed no earned runs in a complete game-effort and the Royals’ aggressiveness — both at the plate and on the basepaths — paid off in a 3-1 win over the Indians at Centennial Field.
Capping a 17-1 season, top-ranked South Royalton won a state title for the first time since 2005 while avenging semifinal losses against Danville during each of the last two years. The Indians (No. 3; 12-7) went on to win the title both times.
“This means about 10 times more than it would have against MSJ (Danville’s semifinal victim),” said South Royalton senior second baseman David Ballou, who delivered a key bunt in the fourth inning and threw on the run to record the second out in the seventh. “To do it against repeat champions that knocked us out, it just means a lot more. Hats off to them for making it here three straight years, but it was our turn.”
Swinging at nearly everything Danville curveballer Brett Elliott (five innings, six strikeouts, two walks) threw at them, the Royals had just five hits, but put the ball in play during 16 of 22 at bats and didn’t once strike out looking.
When South Royalton’s runners did get on, they were effective. Darrin Cilley wasted no time getting the Royals started with a double down the left-field line to start the first inning. The senior alertly tagged up to scamper to third on Moore’s fly ball to right, and came home on Ballou’s sacrifice to left to make it 1-0.
“Darrin had a good slide (on the double) and then did a good job getting in from third because David’s ball got held up in the wind a little bit,” said Royals coach Jim Ballou, in the first year of his second stint with the team. “That was a good way to get started.”
Moore helped make sure the lead held for at least one inning, throwing out Danville’s Jake Mills, who led off with a single, at home plate on a squeeze bunt attempt in the second inning, with No. 8 hitter David Marthers laying it down the third base line with one out.
There was at least some good fortune in the decision to come home with it, though the Royals had also done their homework on the Indians for that situation.
“We all sat and watched (Danville’s win over Mount St. Joseph) online, and they did the exact same thing in that game,” Jim Ballou said.
Moore admitted he might have let the run score if not for a blown defensive assignment.
“We were supposed to have someone covering (first) base and there wasn’t anyone there, but I knew the runner would be coming home,” the pitcher said. “So it was something we did wrong that worked in our favor, but I might have never gone home if we didn’t watch the (semifinal) together. That helped a lot.”
Danville stranded the bases loaded in the inning, then had two more runners on in the third when sophomore right fielder Keanan Thompson ran deep in foul territory for what would be one of two diving catches by Royals’ outfielders. Thompson’s outstretched lunge retired the side.
“Sometimes the outfield doesn’t get a lot of credit, because maybe not a lot of balls get out there, but we have some great outfielders,” David Ballou said. “When they make plays like that, it pumps us (infielders) up and makes us want to make plays.”
Danville tied it up in the top of the third on South Royalton’s only two errors of the night.
Moore walked Eric Remick to start the inning and tried to get the lead runner on Marthers’ come-backer. The ball went into the outfield, and the subsequent throw to third was errant to allow Remick to score to make it 1-1.
The Royals came right back in the bottom of the fourth, with Moore drawing a leadoff walk, getting to second on Danville’s lone error on a pickoff attempt and getting to third on Ballou’s bunt for the first out.
Hunter Brock drove him in with a base hit, stole second and scored on Alex Berk’s blooper into shallow center field to make it 3-1.
“David’s hitting .440 this year, so we’re not normally going to have him bunt with a runner on second,” Jim Ballou said. “But sometimes at the end of the year, you just gotta change things up a little bit and in that case, it helped us.”
The Royals had just two runners over the last two innings — both were caught stealing — but South Royalton’s defense did its part to hang onto the lead. Brock dove in left field to rob Mills in the fifth, Berk, the Royals’ catcher, threw out Remick trying to steal third in the sixth and Ballou charged hard to erase Elliott at first base with a running put-out in the seventh.
That was the second out, and Moore struck out Kyle Johnson to end it.
Extra Bases: South Royalton improved to 3-0 in finals against Danville, having beaten the Indians in back-to-back years when Jim Ballou was a Royals pitcher in 1981 and ’82. ... Moore (six hits, six strikeouts, three walks) allowed no earned runs in 192∕3 innings this postseason. ... For the first time in a high school championship game, Centennial Field’s video board displayed life-sized head shots of the players, much as it does for the Vermont Lake Monsters, the minor league baseball team that plays at the park. ... Devin Cilley, who played for the Royals’ during its loss to Blue Mountain in the finals three years ago, coached first base. Dennis Cilley is an Royals’ assistant coach. ... After his diving catch to end the top of the third, Thompson was robbed himself on a running scoop catch by Danville center fielder Marthers to lead off the bottom of the inning. ... The Royals are now 57-27 (.679) all time in the playoffs in Divisions III and IV combined, with seven championships.
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.