White River Valley baseball completes 2nd straight perfect season with VPA D-IV championship

  • The White River Valley baseball team hits Centennial Field for pregame warmups prior to its VPA Division IV championship game with Blue Mountain on Friday, July 11, 2021, in Burlington, Vt. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

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    Emma Gillette, of Bethel, holds a sign in support of White River Valley catcher Tyler Ballentine before the start of the VPA Division IV baseball championship game with Blue Mountain at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt., on Friday, June 11, 2021. Despite the sign, Gillette said she isn't related to Ballentine, although "he's like a little brother to me." Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • White River Valley baseball coach Devin Cilley (61) shares a high five with pitcher Carder Stratton (12) during pregame introductions for the VPA Division IV baseball championship game with Blue Mountain at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt., on Friday, June 11, 2021. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • White River Valley's Carder Stratton delivers a third-inning pitch during the VPA Division IV baseball championship game with Blue Mountain at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt., on Friday, June 11, 2021. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • White River Valley's Jacob Barry dives head-first for home plate as Blue Mountain catcher Ethan Gilding (10) turns for a late tag in front of home plate umpire Connor Hoagland during the third inning of the VPA Division IV baseball championship at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt., on Friday, June 11, 2021. Barry was safe on the play, scoring on an infield error that also plated teammate Robby McShinsky. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. home plate umpire Connor Hoagland Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • Blue Mountain's Evan Dennis pulls a first-inning double down the first-base line during the VPA Division IV baseball championship game with White River Valley at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt., on Friday, June 12, 2021. Dennis later drilled a two-run homer in the second inning to give the Bucks an early 2-0 lead. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell—

  • White River Valley catcher Tyler Ballentine holds the VPA Division IV baseball championship plaque aloft after the top-ranked Wildcats' 16-2 win over No. 2 Blue Mountain on Friday, June 12, 2021, at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 6/12/2021 1:16:21 AM
Modified: 6/12/2021 1:16:27 AM

BURLINGTON — The basic tenet of a Devin Cilley-coached baseball team: Who needs hits?

Yeah, they’re nice and can be very useful, but Cilley’s White River Valley Wildcats team — and the South Royalton High ones that preceded them — have spent years showing they can win games without putting the ball in play.

Such was the case on Friday night, when the ’Cats erased a 2-0 deficit against Blue Mountain in the VPA Division IV championship game without the benefit of a base hit.

One frame later, top-ranked WRV went ahead to stay in more conventional fashion and completed its second straight undefeated title-winning campaign in a 16-2 rout of No. 2 Blue Mountain at Centennial Field.

“I know the team can make runs if I hold them defensively,” said WRV pitcher Carder Stratton, who threw a complete-game four-hitter, struck out 11 and had three hits, none of which left the infield. “We’re good at making things happen without putting the ball in play. We’ve done that all year. We’ve made them make errors, just rush things. It’s something that we do. We hustle everything out.”

The Bucks (13-4) got off to a good start. Sophomore pitcher Evan Dennis held the Wildcats (17-0) hitless through four innings and launched a two-run homer to get his squad on the board. Yet when the fourth frame was done, all he had to show for it was a 2-2 tie.

It’s a frustrating feeling, one that ultimately overwhelmed BMU coach Scott Blood’s young squad. The Bucks committed three errors, hit three batters and had difficulty keeping White River Valley from running the bases with wild abandon.

“This one just kind of slipped away,” Blood said. “We had a good game plan coming into it. The kids worked so hard leading up to this moment. It just felt like it kept slipping away. They got themselves into key situations and just continued to produce, and it was hard to really shut it down when we needed to.”

Dennis came out throwing zeroes for Blue Mountain and backing it up with his bat.

The sophomore was left stranded after he roped a first-inning double to right, but he renewed his teammates’ hearty congratulations with a ringing two-run homer to right field for a 2-0 lead in the third.

The blast didn’t faze Stratton, who fanned the next batter he faced. The Bucks wouldn’t get a baserunner past first the rest of the night.

“I was thinking about going out and they all kind of came together, so I said, ‘OK, I’m not going to waste my visit,’ ” WRV coach Devin Cilley said. “A lot of players, that would have shook ’em up pretty good. It didn’t bother him much at all.”

Shortly after that, WRV got busy doing something with nothing.

Robby McShinsky opened the home third with a walk. Leadoff hitter Jacob Barry (two hits, three runs) followed with a double-play grounder to BMU second baseman Collin Punderson, but the toss to second base pulled shortstop John Dennis off the bag and McShinsky slid in safely.

After a walk to Dominic Craven (double, two RBIs, three runs), Stratton stepped to the plate and bounced a ball to Dennis, who threw high to first base. McShinsky motored home and Barry came right behind, sliding across the plate ahead of catcher Ethan Gilding’s tag to tie the game at 2-2 — without a hit.

Thinks took a turn toward the baseball normal in the WRV fourth.

Austin Tracy (two runs) drilled a triple to the left-field corner, coming in on Weston Trombly’s RBI sac fly to deep left-center for the go-ahead run. Two singles around a walk, along with the Wildcats’ usual aggressive baserunning, bumped the lead to 5-2.

The ’Cats needed just one hit in a two-run fifth to increase its cushion to 7-2. Alex Lober (two runs) had it, an infield roller that an error added for a visit to second base. Tracy took a pitch off his back, a ground out moved them both over and a wild pitch brought in Lober. Blood brought on Ricky Fennimore to pitch, and his first movement resulted in a balk that plated Tracy.

WRV added nine runs on eight hits in the sixth to make it academic. Trombly and Curtis Barry each drove in a team-high three runs for the Wildcats, who — at 35-0 — still haven’t lost a baseball game since the school’s 2019 opening.

“Amazing,” Stratton said. “Coming into this year, we knew it would be awkward, weird. We worked every single day so hard. The team is so supportive. It keeps us going. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Whether it needs to hit the baseball or not.

Fungoes: Blue Mountain gave WRV its closest shave in a 10-9 loss on May 25. The Bucks rallied from a 9-5 deficit in the seventh inning to tie the game, which the Wildcats won on a walk-off Weston Trombly double in the home half. … Blood played for the legendary John Bagonzi at Woodsville High and was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 11th round of the 1971 MLB draft. A right-handed pitcher, Blood would play five seasons in the low minors build a 30-23 record with a 2.99 earned-run average over 433 innings before retiring in 1975. … Cilley and his players all had ribbons affixed to their caps to remember students from Bellows Falls (purple) and Leland & Gray (green) who died in automobile accidents this spring. … WRV graduates Lober, Jacob Barry, Curtis Barry, Stratton and Tyler Ballentine.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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