The certainties of life: Death, taxes and the Wildcats winning a VPA playoff game at home

White River Valley's Ty Couture reacts after crossing the plate during the Wildcats' game against Randolph in the VPA first round Division III game on Wednesday,  June 5, 2024 in South Royalton, Vt. White River Valley won 5-4. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley's Ty Couture reacts after crossing the plate during the Wildcats' game against Randolph in the VPA first round Division III game on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 in South Royalton, Vt. White River Valley won 5-4. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

White River Valley's Donovan Craven tags out Randolph's Avery Stockwell during their VPA Division III first round game on Wednesday, June, 5, 2024 in South Royalton, Vt. Fifth-seeded White River Valley won 5-4 over 12th-seeded Randolph and advanced to face fourrth-seeded Green Mountain Union in Chester, Vt., on Friday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley's Donovan Craven tags out Randolph's Avery Stockwell during their VPA Division III first round game on Wednesday, June, 5, 2024 in South Royalton, Vt. Fifth-seeded White River Valley won 5-4 over 12th-seeded Randolph and advanced to face fourrth-seeded Green Mountain Union in Chester, Vt., on Friday. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

During a VPA first round playoff game, White River Valley's Holden Rediker (21) and his teammates support Zander Clark (5) after Clark was tagged out at home in the bottom of the fourth inning during their game against Randolph on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 in South Royalton, Vt. Clark had tripled and tried to come home on a bunt. White River Valley won 5-4. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

During a VPA first round playoff game, White River Valley's Holden Rediker (21) and his teammates support Zander Clark (5) after Clark was tagged out at home in the bottom of the fourth inning during their game against Randolph on Wednesday, June 5, 2024 in South Royalton, Vt. Clark had tripled and tried to come home on a bunt. White River Valley won 5-4. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

By BEN HOOKE

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-06-2024 4:19 PM

There’s something Devin Cilley and his White River Valley Wildcats really seem to like about playoff baseball games at their home field in South Royalton.

Maybe it’s the walk-up music and on-site PA announcer, a rarity at the small-school level.

Maybe it’s the large and loud crowd that always seems to show up for games.

And maybe it’s the simple fact that at home, the team just doesn’t seem like they can lose.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats staved off an upset bid from 12th-seeded Randolph on a picturesque Wednesday afternoon to secure a 5-4 triumph and advance to the second round of the VPA Division III playoffs.

The win continued a remarkable streak. Dating back to the WRV’s predecessor, South Royalton High School, the baseball program has won 24 consecutive playoff games on home turf.

The last time the team dropped a playoff game at the field in South Royalton was a Division IV semifinal loss to Danville in 2011, before many members of the current roster had reached school age.

“We’ve done well here … for years we hadn’t lost a game here in the regular season or playoffs,” said Cilley, White River Valley’s coach. “We lost a couple last year and this year, but we trust our routine when we play here. I think we have a good routine.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Hanover to temporarily close portion of Allen Street to vehicles
Young bear spotted relaxing on a hammock in a Vermont yard
Dollar store under construction in Royalton
Mother bear euthanized, cubs sent to rehab facility after close encounters in Bartlett, N.H.
Bike Week at Weirs Beach is for old leather and new friends
Protests of president punctuate rainy graduation for Dartmouth’s Class of ’24

It was no cakewalk getting past Randolph, though.

The Galloping Ghosts, whose Capital League regular-season schedule pitted the team against a swath of quality Division III and II opponents, battled well at the plate and made a number of impressive plays in the field to force White River Valley to play its best baseball to prevail.

“We knew Randolph were better than their seed,” Cilley said. “Obviously, we played them here earlier in the season, and we walked them off in the eighth inning. So we knew who they were and we had to step up to beat them.”

Randolph jumped all over Wildcats starter Wyatt Cadwell with two slash singles from their first two batters. Both base runners scored on a pair of throwing errors to give the visitors a quick 2-0 advantage.

White River Valley responded quickly in the bottom half of the inning, recording three RBIs to retake the lead and regain control.

From there, pitching, fielding and base running all factored in the result.

Randolph tied the game in the fourth with a RBI single from Chase Higgins, but White River Valley retook the lead in the bottom half of the inning on a two-out opposite field RBI single from Jacob Benoit.

The lead would have grown bigger if not for the play of the afternoon from Randolph’s Trent Spinks, who made a full-extension diving catch on a well-hit ball to the left-field gap from White River Valley’s Brayden Russ to end the inning.

The Wildcats tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth to stretch the lead but still had to deal with one final surge from the Galloping Ghosts.

With Cadwell tiring on the mound, Randolph worked two walks before Antonio Reyes slapped a ball back up the middle to half the deficit.

After the Wildcats failed to produce a base runner in the bottom of the sixth, it came back to Cadwell to slam the door on the upset bid.

The junior did exactly that, striking out the side in 15 pitches to end the day with a Wildcat win.

“Wyatt was really good today,” said Cilley. “Things got a little hairy in the sixth, but I trusted him and our fielders to make the plays today and they did.”

In total, Cadwell allowed two earned runs in seven innings of work, striking out 11 batters on the day.

White River Valley heads to Green Mountain on Friday for its second-round matchup. Last year, despite being the fifth seed, upsets granted WRV extra home games, but the team had no such luck this year. The Wildcats’ path to Centennial Field for an eighth consecutive state final appearance will leave South Royalton for the first time in Cilley’s tenure.

“We have to hit a bit better … got a few things to fix, but I’m excited to go there,” Cilley said.