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Pitching, defense send White River Valley to D-III baseball final

  • White River Valley's Carder Stratton.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/4/2019 9:57:59 PM
Modified: 6/4/2019 10:07:30 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — What makes baseball unique from all other sports is how one throw, one pitch or one play can win or lose a game.

White River Valley showed that on Tuesday afternoon, when it defeated Thetford, 4-1, in the VPA Division III semifinals.

The Wildcats — many of whom were on South Royalton’s 2018 D-IV finalist before the Act 46 merger with Whitcomb — will play No. 3 Vergennes for the title at the University of Vermont’s Centennial field at a day and time to be determined.

WRV led 1-0 in the third inning when the complexion of the game changed. Thetford’s Seth Boyce walked, and with one out, teammate Alex Emerson hit the ball to right field and Boyce raced for third. Austin Tracy, the Wildcats’ freshman right fielder, unleashed a rocket of a throw to third to nail Boyce for the second out of the inning, shifting the game’s momentum. Emerson reached second with a double, but the next batter struck out to end the inning.

“That throw from right field was a big play,” WRV head coach Devin Cilley said. “That throw took the wind out of their sails.”

The Wildcats’ energy showed as the defense surrendered little behind a strong trio of pitching efforts from Timber Russell, Carder Stratton and Logan Martin.

WRV carried the momentum into the bottom of the third. Stratton reached second base on an errant throw to first, then advanced to third and home on back-to-back pass balls to pad the Wildcats’ lead to 2-0.

In the fourth inning, Thetford got one back as Ryan Pepe hit in Jake Colby on a soft grounder to third base, but that was it on offense for the Panthers.

Martin came in to close out the game in the final two innings, giving up only one hit and striking out four.

Russell pitched two innings, gave up no hits and four walks, with two strikeouts for WRV. Stratton pitched three innings, giving up four hits, two walks and one earned run with three strikeouts.

Thetford’s Alden Nichols pitched five innings and gave up four hits, four walks and three runs, two earned; he struck out three. Dylan Kuban relieved him for one inning with one hit, one strikeout, one walk and one earned run.

The Wildcats struck first in the second inning, when a two-out single from Dominic Craven scored Tyler Ballantine to give them an early 1-0 lead.

It was a hard-fought battle, but WRV earned its first finals appearance in its first year as a school following three straight appearances in the title game — with two victories — as South Royalton.

“We’re going back to the finals, and we’re really excited about it,” Cilley said with a smile.

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