By RUSSELL JONES
In many ways, what played out on Spartan Field in Castleton on Saturday, June 8, was very familiar for West Rutland fans. Just like in Barre for the basketball state final, the two teams fighting it out were the same, many of the players were the same, and West Rutland raised the trophy in the end.
Blue Mountain was defeated by the Golden Horde for the state championship in hoops and came to Castleton determined to prevent that scenario from repeating.
The Bucks came out in the first inning facing junior pitcher Kiana Grabowski, who was the winning pitcher when the two teams met early in the season. The Bucks were ready for her and West Rutland was left reeling after Blue Mountain scored five runs on five hits and left three on base in the first inning of the championship game.
“It was Kiana’s turn in the rotation,” West Rutland coach Laurie Serrani said. “They only got four hits off of her in that first game. She pitched fine, I think that just shows how much they’ve (Blue Mountain) improved since we played them.”
Down by five runs in the first was a position that the Horde had not been in much this season.
“With the exception of losing to Mill River 13-19, we’ve never been down like that this whole season,” assistant coach Carl Serrani said.
The Horde came out in the second with hard-throwing freshman Elizabeth Bailey on the mound, and the West Rutland defense that had been so good all season, uncharacteristically let her down.
Three errors in the inning led to two runs and runners on first and second with only one out when Carl had seen enough. He called time and went to the mound to talk to Bailey and the rest of the infield.
“I just told her she was overthrowing it,” he said. “I told her let her defense work and trust in her teammates.”
Carl walked back to the dugout and Bailey struck out the next two batters looking, blowing fastballs right by them and the Horde defense played error-free for the rest of the game.
The Bucks picked up another run in the top of the fourth and things were looking bleak for the Horde, down 8-2 as they came up to bat in their half of the fourth, half of the game already over.
During the basketball final, Blue Mountain was tied with the Horde, with just over a minute left in the game, when Madison Guay came off the bench to drain a clutch three-pointer that led to the win for West Rutland.
Down by six runs in the fourth inning, Guay came to the plate with two on base and one out. Once again, Guay breathed life into her team by hitting her lone hit of the game, a two-RBI single to right field.
“The energy in the dugout just shot up after that hit and it stayed consistent throughout the rest of the game,” Guay said. “No matter what’s happening, I always have confidence in myself and my team.”
West Rutland scored three in the fourth, and added two more in the fifth. Coming into the sixth, they were down 9-7, but it no longer seemed insurmountable and the momentum was squarely on their side.
The sixth inning began with junior Keira Pipeling hitting a sharp single down the left field line and then stealing second a few pitches later. Junior shortstop Alyssa Covarrubias walked and then Bailey dropped a single into right to load the bases.
Blue Mountain pitcher Libby Bogie walked the next batter to bring home a run and then Becky Sanderson singled up the middle to score two as West Rutland took their first lead of the game.
That’s when the Horde, who had dominated Division IV all season long, took control of this state final game. A 12-run sixth inning led them to a final score of 19-9 and for the second time this year, they raised a state championship trophy.
“Hitting is contagious for us,” Laurie said. “We got our mojo going and we were able to come up with the win. Even when we got up by six I still wasn’t happy because I was worried they’d get things going in the seventh and come back.”
Six seniors from this team graduated on Friday but only two of those six were starters, meaning the core group of players will return for another run next year, but they will have their work cut out for them to be as successful as this year’s 19-1 championship team.