Whitchester Walks Off a Winner With Softball Crown

  • Freshman Toni Turner jumps in celebration after her single in the bottom of the seventh propelled Whitchester to victory over Proctor, 8-7, to capture the Division IV softball championship in Castleton, Vt., on June 9, 2018. (Ben DeFlorio photograph) Ben DeFlorio photographs

  • Whitchester freshman Toni Turner smacks a run-scoring single in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Proctor 8-7 in walk-off fashion, capturing the Division IV softball championship in Castleton, Vt., on June 9, 2018. (Ben DeFlorio photograph) Ben DeFlorio

  • Whitchester's softball team hoists the Division IV championship trophy after defeating Proctor, 8-7, in Castleton, Vt., on June 9, 2018. (Ben DeFlorio photograph) Ben DeFlorio

  • Whitchester first baseman and starting pitcher Chelsie Trask stretches to grab a throw to first but Proctor's Maggie McKearin beat out the thrown in a tight game. Whitchester went on to defeat Proctor 8-7 in walk-off fashion to capture the Division IV softball championship in Castleton, Vt., on June 9, 2018. (Ben DeFlorio photograph) Ben DeFlorio

  • Kayla Townsend of Whitchester looks to advance on a fly ball as Proctor's Laci French covers second in a wild first inning. Whitchester defeated Proctor 8-7 in walk-off fashion to capture the Division IV softball championship in Castleton, Vt., on June 9, 2018. (Ben DeFlorio photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2018 11:38:19 PM
Modified: 6/18/2018 9:05:55 AM

Castleton, Vt. — Whitcomb High and Rochester High won’t exist next school year, but the memories from this softball season are certain to endure.

In their third and final season as a cooperative, top-seeded Whitcomb-Rochester rallied for an 8-7, walkoff win over Proctor in the VPA Division IV championship game on Saturday at Castleton University’s Spartan Softball Field.

Freshman Toni Turner — a former track athlete who didn’t intend to play until her peers persuaded her — delivered the winning hit in the bottom of the seventh, driving in Amelia Mattrick with a two-out base hit up the middle.

The win was the 201st and final one for Mountaineers coach Ray Colton, who mentored Whitcomb for 18 years before the co-op with neighboring Rochester started in 2016. He does not plan to apply for the same job next season at the newly formed White River Valley Union High School, part of an Act 46-prompted merger between Bethel and Royalton.

Colton finishes with 23 career postseason wins and three championships against three title-game losses, the most recent defeat coming in 2012 against Proctor.

“I like for things to end evenly, so I’m glad I get to go out 3-3 (in finals),” said Colton, whose Hornets were 2-2 in championship games before the Mountaineers lost to West Rutland in last year’s final.

“I just hope next year’s coach understands that they’re getting a really good team, with two really good pitchers.”

After allowing Fiona Vaillancourt to throw the duration of Tuesday’s semifinal win over Danville, Colton reverted to the approach that has helped carry Whitchester throughout this 16-1 campaign: starting Chelsie Trask and inserting Vaillancourt in the fourth inning.

Trask (one hit, three runs, one earned, four walks, two strikeouts) departed with a 7-3 lead, and quick-operating Vaillancourt struggled with control at times while walking six and giving up seven hits. The Phantoms (No. 3; 1-5) plated one run in the fourth and three in the fifth to tie it, including RBIs by Rachel Stuhlmueller and Sydney Wood.

In the sixth, the potential go-ahead runs were on second and third with one out before Vaillancourt worked through a lengthy at-bat against pitching counterpart Amanda Reynolds, who fouled off four pitches before striking out swinging. Vaillancourt then induced a groundout to Stuhlmueller to end the threat.

“That was big,” Colton said. “We didn’t want to be playing from behind that late in the game.”

After striking out the first two batters in the top of the seventh, Vaillancourt gave up an infield single and another hit that careened off the third base bag. The runners were on second and third when Vaillancourt induced a popout to herself, lightly spiking the ball for emphasis as she went back to the dugout.

“I knew (Vaillancourt) would come through, even after it was 7-7,” said Trask, who allowed three runs in the first before two scoreless innings. “She always does. She’s a competitor and gets better as the game goes on.”

After a groundout to start the bottom of the seventh, pinch hitter Anna Smith drew a five-pitch walk before getting replaced by courtesy runner Mattrick, who’d hit the first three times from that spot in the lineup. Mattrick stole second and went to third on a passed ball with two outs.

No. 2 hitter Turner, who’d last played softball in fifth grade prior to this season, stepped to the plate with the game in the balance.

“I was really nervous,” Turner said. “Sandy (Gates), our assistant coach, kept telling me, ‘You got this,’ and it helped calm me down.”

Reynolds (13 hits, four earned runs, one strikeout, three walks) — whose low-velocity pitches challenge hitters to create their own power — lobbed one over the plate and Turner drove it up the middle, allowing Mattrick to score easily from third and elating the many supporters from Bethel and Rochester on hand on a seasonably mild late afternoon.

Trask said she hopes next year’s coach at White River Valley Union employs a similar method of using both herself and Vaillancourt, utilizing both in the same game on most occasions.

Vaillancourt, meanwhile, was just happy to leave Castleton on Saturday with a win, the third overall title for Whitcomb or Whitchester, all under Colton. She also led the way at the plate with three hits and two RBIs.

“We really wanted to end it this way for coach, and for the school,” said Vaillancourt, who started in center field. “It’s a really exciting win.”

Extra Bases: Turner (2-for-4, sacrifice bunt) was the only Mountaineer aside form Vaillancourt with multiple hits, while Phantoms’ No. 2 hitter Maddie Lee went 3-for-5. … Vaillancourt and Sammy Barcomb had RBI hits during a six-run first inning for Whitchester, which also took advantage of two errors. Vaillancourt delivered another RBI hit in the third to make it 7-3. … Colton’s career mark is 201-157 (.561), including 23-18 in the playoffs. … Proctor had its first winning season in five years.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.

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