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White River Valley takes a stand against Windsor to advance

  • White River Valley's Timber Russell.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 5/31/2019 9:50:35 PM
Modified: 5/31/2019 9:50:27 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — NASCAR used to say it should only sell the edges of seats, because that’s all its fans would use. The dugout at the White River Valley School’s baseball diamond doesn’t even get that much attention.

The WRV baseball team doesn’t sit come game time; instead, the Wildcats all line up at the out-of-bounds line in front of their bench and there they stay, all game long. The dugout sits in empty shadow, a backdrop.

Of course, when you’re hitting, running and rolling to a VPA Division III tournament quarterfinal win, who wants to rest?

“That’s them,” WRV coach Devin Cilley noted after the top-ranked Wildcats blanked No. 8 Windsor, 9-0, on Friday. “Obviously, I want them out there, too. That’s one thing I said to the boys the other day. We went down and watched Windsor. They’re up when they’re hitting, but they’re not when they’re in the field. These guys are up all game long right from the beginning.

“That tells us that we’re doing a good job.”

WRV (16-0) jumped on the defending champion Yellowjackets (7-11) for four first-inning runs and pulled away gradually. Junior Timber Russell fronted the Wildcats’ 12-hit attack, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

“I knew who these guys were, and they were who we thought they were,” Windsor coach Jamie Richardson said. “We knew we were going to have to put the ball in play, and obviously, if we don’t score any runs, we’re probably not going to win the game at all.

“We gave them some runs. We need to play an error-free game like the last game. We just didn’t do it.”

The school name and mascot have changed, but the Wildcats play the same high-pressure baseball Cilley practiced as a South Royalton High athlete not so many years ago. The tactics paid immediate dividends against starting Windsor pitcher Dylan Hodgdon.

George Carr and Carder Stratton opened the home first with successful bunts — Carr’s was of the swinging variety — and Jake Hewitt moved both over with a fly out to deep center. An infield error on a Zeb Perreault grounder plated the first run, and Russell followed with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead, Perreault moving to third base.

Cilley called for a double steal with runners on the corners, drawing a balk from Hodgdon to plate Perreault. Jacob Barry’s then drove in Russell for a 4-0 cushion.

“It was very important; everybody kind of relaxed after went we up by four runs,” Cilley admitted. “I know I did.”

The whole roster toeing the (out-of-bounds) line, White River Valley kept up the pace.

The hosts nicked Windsor reliever Grayson Frazer (5⅓ innings pitches, six strikeouts) for two runs in the home second, Russell’s two-out single to left bringing in Carr (2-for-4, two runs) and Stratton (hit, walk, two runs) for a 6-0 advantage. The Wildcats plated two more runs in the fifth aided by an error, a wild pitch and a cue-ball single down the third-base line by left-handed batsman Tyler Ballantine. Perreault, who reached base on Windsor defensive miscues in his first two at-bats, added an RBI single in the sixth.

Logan Martin’s three-hit shutout pitching did the rest. The junior shut down Windsor’s batters on just three hits, fanning seven against just one walk. Martin produced outs from 10 straight Yellowjacket plate visits from the second to the fifth frames, retired seven of Windsor’s final eight batters and never let a visiting baserunner past second.

“They’re a solid team,” Richardson said. “I didn’t get to see them play, but I got a lot of scouting reports, and everything they said was true. One through nine, they’ve got good hitters. They’ve got pitching that buries it in the strike zone, and they make you swing the bat.”

The South Royalton-Whitcomb merger that brought WRV into being has given Cilley depth he hasn’t had before. Since Martin threw just 94 pitches, he could get the ball to start Tuesday’s home semifinal with No. 4 Thetford. Russell, Hewitt, Stratton or Dominic Craven could also be standing on the mound that afternoon.

“We’ve got plenty of options,” Cilley said.

And he won’t have to go hunting in the dugout to find them.

Fungoes: Perreault, WRV’s catcher, caught the Jacks’ Justin Smith stealing in the opening inning. ... Senior Ryland Richardson, limited as he recovers from a basketball-season injury, made a couple of one-inning cameos at first base for Windsor. ... The Jacks graduate seven: Smith, Hodgdon, Richardson, Robert Slocum, Josh Gaudette, Dan Cardillo and Gavin Harriman.

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

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