D-III baseball: @BFA-Fairfax uses small ball, pitching to deny White River Valley

Donavan Craven gets a late throw at third as BFA-Fairfax’s Reagan Naumeister slides safely to the bag. White River Valley High School’s Wildcats faced a tough opponent on Saturday, June 15, 2024, in the Bullets. With the Wildcat bats silent, Fairfax clinched the D-III championship title 7-0 at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro)

Donavan Craven gets a late throw at third as BFA-Fairfax’s Reagan Naumeister slides safely to the bag. White River Valley High School’s Wildcats faced a tough opponent on Saturday, June 15, 2024, in the Bullets. With the Wildcat bats silent, Fairfax clinched the D-III championship title 7-0 at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro)

Coach Devin Cilley, center, tries to rally his team for one last effort in the seventh inning against BFA-Fairfax in the D-III championship in Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro)

Coach Devin Cilley, center, tries to rally his team for one last effort in the seventh inning against BFA-Fairfax in the D-III championship in Burlington, Vt., on Saturday, June 15, 2024. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro) White River Valley Herald — Tim Calabro

BFA-Fairfax’s Max Clark slides safely under the tag of Brayden Russ on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. With the Wildcat bats silent, BFA-Fairfax clinched the D-III championship title, 7-0. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro)

BFA-Fairfax’s Max Clark slides safely under the tag of Brayden Russ on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. With the Wildcat bats silent, BFA-Fairfax clinched the D-III championship title, 7-0. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro) White River Valley Herald — Tim Calabro

Jacbo Benoit gets tagged out after running into a pickle against BFA-Fairfax. White River Valley High School’s Wildcats faced a tough opponent on Saturday, June 15, 2024, in the Bullets. With the Wildcat bats silent, BFA-Fairfax clinched the D-III championship title 7-0 at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro)

Jacbo Benoit gets tagged out after running into a pickle against BFA-Fairfax. White River Valley High School’s Wildcats faced a tough opponent on Saturday, June 15, 2024, in the Bullets. With the Wildcat bats silent, BFA-Fairfax clinched the D-III championship title 7-0 at Centennial Field in Burlington, Vt. (White River Valley Herald - Tim Calabro) White River Valley Herald — Tim Calabro

By BEN HOOKE

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 06-17-2024 2:55 AM

Modified: 06-19-2024 4:37 PM


BURLINGTON — In White River Valley’s magical three-week run to reach the VPA Division III baseball state championship game, a lot of things broke the Wildcats’ way.

Ground balls found gaps they shouldn’t have, opposing ace pitchers struggled with command and teams committed multitudes of errors as White River Valley managed to upset the fourth-seeded and top-seeded teams in D-III to reach the state final.

So when the Wildcat magic ran out, it was only fitting that they’d find themselves on the other end of those same breaks.

Sixth-seeded BFA-Fairfax delivered a rock-solid defensive performance behind great pitching from ace Ryan Sheehan and pieced up the Wildcats at the plate to win, 7-0, in the state final at Centennial Field.

“We just couldn’t get hits today, simple as that,” said Wildcats coach Devin Cilley.

Sheehan tossed a complete game, 11-strikeout one-hitter that stymied the Wildcats, and even the runners who reached base had their typical aggressive baserunning silenced by a disciplined approach from the Fairfax infield.

On the other end, White River Valley struggled with a small-ball hitting performance from the ages from the Bullets. Despite hardly hitting a ball that cleared the Wildcat outfield, the Bullets recorded 11 hits on sharply hit grounders, line drives and several bloopers that snuck between the infield and outfield. The Wildcats did themselves no favors in the field, committing five errors and throwing several wild pitches on the day that helped the Fairfax offense advance runners into dangerous positions.

“In general, I think we pitched pretty well. They didn’t hit anything that far, and it was a lot of grounders and seeing-eye stuff. We can win when we allow 11 hits, but when we get five errors as well, that makes it really tough,” said Cilley.

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Jacob Benoit recorded the Wildcats’ lone hit in the fourth inning, but even that hit was emblematic of the team’s struggle at the plate. Benoit slapped a weak chopper that he barely managed to outrun, but he failed to advance any further as he was thrown out on a fielder’s choice.

Fairfax never truly dominated, but it opened the game with a three-run first inning and scored in the third, fourth and fifth innings to increase its margin wider and wider as Sheehan and the Bullets’ infield clamped down.

For White River Valley, it’s a disappointing end to two consecutive runs to the state final. After upsets a year prior allowed the Wildcats an easier road to the state final, the 2024 iteration involved a tougher journey but the same result — a one-hit loss in a state final.

In the eight-year run the Wildcats and their predecessor South Royalton have had, all three of their state final losses have been shutouts.

With just two senior starters graduating in newcomer Joey Ferris and outfielder Finn Bailey, the Wildcats will bring plenty of talent back for a run at a ninth consecutive state final appearance.

“We’re gonna miss Finn … he’s a kid I watched grow up from the young levels and grew all the way up to be a great baseball player. He’ll be tough to replace,” said Cilley. “We’ve been here eight years in a row. The formula’s working. Now we just gotta get over the hump again.”