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Windsor Baseball Plays Like a Team on a Mission

Orford — The Windsor High baseball team made sure its first-ever meeting against Rivendell Academy wouldn’t be the last-ever game for Yellowjackets coach Don Swinyer.

Senior Ethan Hill threw a complete-game four-hitter with eight strikeouts and no walks, Russell Simonds had two doubles and No. 11 Windsor overcame an early deficit to upset No. 6 Rivendell, 4-1, in the first round of the VPA Division III postseason Tuesday.

It was the fifth win in seven games for the Jacks (7-9), who are motivated to succeed for outgoing coach Swinyer. The one they call “Bird” is stepping down for career-related reasons after 23 years with the program, including the last 19 as head varsity coach.

Windsor’s first two batters of the game reached, but both were picked off of first base by Rivendell senior pitcher Nate Eastman, who pitched seven innings and allowed nine hits with two earned runs, two walks and seven strikeouts. The Yellowjackets fell behind 1-0 after two innings, but recovered to take the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the third. They added an insurance run on Hill’s RBI single with two outs in the seventh.

Windsor will play at No. 3 South Royalton on Friday. The Royals beat No. 14 Northfield on Tuesday.

“We know it’s (Swinyer’s) last chance and that’s definitely pushing us,” said Hill, who took advantage of the Raptors’ tendency to swing at high fastballs. “For us seniors, it’s our last chance, too, so we know how he feels, in a way. We all want to go out with a bang.”

It was a disappointing end for the Raptors (10-5), who had never faced Windsor in the regular season or playoffs. Rivendell scored seven or more runs on 10 occasions this year — six times reaching double figures — but reached base just five times Tuesday and continually chased high offerings from Hill.

The Raptors also hurt themselves with four fielding errors as half of Windsor’s runs came unearned.

“You need to take advantage of the opportunities given to you, and we didn’t do that today,” said Rivendell coach Eric Reichert who, like Swinyer, has been in charge of his squad for 19 seasons. “Windsor got momentum in this game, and if we respond with quality at-bats, maybe things shift back in our favor. We were chopping at balls outside the strike zone.”

It was the second straight first-round upset win for Windsor, which knocked off No. 5 Blue Mountain as the No. 12 seed in the D-III opener a year ago. A member of the Division I-and-II-infused Marble Valley League, the Jacks played just one D-III team in the regular season in a 10-2 win at Thetford.

They lost a number of close games against D-I or D-II opponents while starting the season 2-7, but have rallied to win five of seven.

“We took our lumps this year, but I think it’s paying off,” Swinyer said. “The downside is we don’t normally get a home playoff game, but we play stiff competition and that gets us ready for the playoffs. We’re in the MVL ‘B’ Division, but our non-league games are against (MVL ‘A’ and Division I programs) Hartford, Rutland and Burr & Burton.”

Rivendell went ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning after Eastman levied a lead-off single and stole second. Cole Stever (2-for-3) had a one-out single to land Eastman at third, and he hurried home on a dropped ball at first base on Hill’s pickoff attempt.

Eastman threw his only two walks of the game in the third inning, which helped Windsor take the lead. No. 9 hitter Connor Gould (run, RBI) fouled off a full-count pitch before taking ball four and, with two outs, he advanced to second when Jason Meagher walked. Gould came home on Simonds’ double to center field, and Meagher scored on Raptors’ shortstop Phil Dunn’s throwing error to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.

Windsor’s Nick Kapuscinski doubled with one out in the fourth, moved to third on Eastman’s high throw to first, with Josh Moore reaching, and scored on a sacrifice fly from Gould to make it 3-1.

“We had those two baserunning errors in the first inning, and it kind of gave the momentum of the game to (Rivendell),” Swinyer said. “Luckily, we had the whole rest of the game to right the ship and we were able to do that.”

Stever doubled with two outs in the bottom of the fourth and Eastman knocked a two-out double in the sixth for the Raptors, but neither advanced, and Hill retired the side in order in the fifth and seventh.

Windsor got its insurance run when Simonds hit his second double with one out in the seventh and scored two batters later on Hill’s clunker into shallow center. Nick Lebeau singled and Kapuscinski walked in the inning, but Eastman struck out Moore to leave the bases loaded.

Extra Bases: The game lasted just 1 hour, 50 minutes. ... Eastman took a stinger off the ankle on a comebacker hit by leadoff hitter Meagher and stumbled, but recovered to record the out on the play. Time out was called by Reichert, and Eastman took several practice throws before staying in the game. ... It was the final game for Rivendell seniors Scott Calhoun, Eastman, Stever, Ethan Jayne, Cody Williams and Luke Bell.

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