West Rutland captures softball title over Richford
BY GENE DELORENZO
CASTLETON — For the third consecutive game in the Division IV state softball playoffs, the West Rutland Golden Horde overcame a late-game deficit in the final two innings to upend their opponent. On Saturday, June 11, Westside rallied to beat the Richford Rockets, 7-6, for the state championship played at Castleton University.
The win gave the school its second State Championship this year (along with basketball) and its third championship in five years in softball. There were heroines aplenty for the local team.
The Golden Horde won the contest on a run-scoring single by Olivia Cyr to score pinch runner Emily Trepanier (she had run for Arianna Combs, who had been hit by a pitch to start Westside’s last at-bat with the score tied 6-6).
A clutch single by Samara Raiche (an unsung heroine herself for her tremendous work behind the plate all day for the Westsiders) moved Trepanier to third, and after a pop-out to second for the first out, Cyr stepped to the plate.
Cyr had struck out twice previously and the Rocket’s senior pitching ace Olivia Hatch got two quick strikes on her. But like her older sister back in March at the Barre Auditorium (sister Anna had hit the three-pointer to give West Rutland a State Championship in basketball) Olivia remained calm and confident. She took a good cut at a middle of the plate fastball and hit a hard grounder past the dive of the Richford shortstop into left field.
Bedlam ensued. The “Comeback Kids” had done it again!
In the previous inning, the bottom of the sixth, West Rutland trailed 6-3 when they put the first two runners on base. But a strikeout and a fielder’s choice out recorded at home plate, still left the game at 6-3 with two on, two out.
Eerily, like with the Proctor game last week (when the Horde scored three times with two out to tie the game at 6 apiece), strange and fortuitous things began to happen.
A high fly to leftfield by Emily Sevigny should have ended the inning. But both the Richford leftfielder and shortstop saw it as their ball to catch. After the collision (fortunately no one was injured), Isabel Coombs had scored and Camryn Williams stood on third and Sevigny on second.
With the game at 6-4, Kennah Wright-Chapman left no doubt about ghostly interference, she stroked a powerful single into leftfield to score both runners, and suddenly the game was tied, 6-6.
After Aubrey Beaulieu received a walk from Hatch, Peyton Guay stepped to the plate with a chance to put the Golden Horde ahead. But after having stroked run-scoring hits in her previous two at bats, the senior Rocket from Richford blew her away with three inside swinging strikes.
In the top of the seventh, Guay, who pitched the entire game for Westside, retired the Rockets easily and then the fireworks started.
Earlier in the game, the Rockets jumped to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on two big shots hit to the leftfield fence by Smith and Dueso, the number three and four hitters in the lineup. Only the deep leftfield at the collegiate field kept the balls in the yard.
Westside would counter with a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning, but Richford would score a run in the third on an error to push their lead to 3-1.
The first of Guay’s two hits cut the lead in half to 3-2 in the bottom of the third, but Richford would add a run on an errant throw to third to increase its lead to 4-2 in the fourth.
Guay again knocked home a run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 4-3. But in the top of the fifth inning, Guay couldn’t quite get out of a jam that resulted in two, two-out runs for the Rockets. Richford’s 6-3 lead held until the bottom of the sixth when miracles happened.
The real two heroines of this game have to be Guay and Coach Serrani. While Guay’s pitching numbers were rather pedantic — 7 innings, 6 hits, 9 walks, 6 runs allowed (only three earned runs), and 12 strikeouts — she put a lot of people on base. But six of those strikeouts stranded 10 Richford runners on base to end innings. That was extraordinary.
Only two of the innings did not end with Guay recording a strikeout to strand Richford runners. In a word, she was tough at the toughest of times.
And her line drive rope-of-a -double in the third may have hastened the departure of Dueso after three innings on the mound, while her sharp single to score a runner against Hatch in the fifth was the first hit allowed by Hatch after she had entered the game, striking out five West Rutland hitters in a row. Despite the strikeout in the sixth with two on, Guay simply sprinted to the dugout, picked up her glove and resolutely held the Rockets scoreless in the top of the seventh, so her team would have a chance to win it in the bottom of the inning.
She continually displays more poise, character, and mental toughness than most 21-year-old college athletes. She is 14. An uncanny athlete.
Coach Serrani? Another phenomenal performance that may not strike the heart of the casual fan, but her attention to detail and, particularly, her feel for the opponent’s batting order, stood out in this game. And a new opponent, at that. The two rockets hit by Smith and Dueso in the first inning were indicators to Serrani. How were they going to get through potentially six more at bats from these two?
But the coach had just been playing the “intentional walk game” with rival Proctor all season. The finesse of coaching to the lineup came to the fore. Between Raiche, Guay and Serrani the dynamic duo in the middle of the Richford order would go 0 for 3 (with three walks) the rest of the game. They would not get the ball out of the infield. It was masterful gamesmanship.
The combination of the pitching and catching battery and the coaching acumen (with an unsuspected help from their rivals/friends at Proctor) helped the Horde negotiate their way through the Rockets order four times without suffering major damage. It was tremendous coaching to watch.
Finally, kudos to the fans of both teams. The place was packed. There were more people in the stands from West Rutland and Richford than there were for the Division One game between South Burlington and St. Albans. Those towns are just a bit bigger than the D4 schools! And congratulations to the VPA, Coach Eric Ramey at Castleton, and the entire fields crew at the Castleton site. This was the last athletic dance at the school known for a long time as “Castleton” and it will soon become “Vermont State University”. It was a great send-off to a school name with a proud tradition of excellence.