When the Burlington Free Press made its predictions for the Division I baseball tournament, it picked the sixth-seeded Rice Green Knights to upset the third-seeded Brattleboro Colonels.
That pick rankled the Colonels and their coach Chris Groeger.
“It’s pretty evident that we don’t get a lot of respect from the North,” said Groeger. “We’ve held our own against those teams over the years.”
And the Colonels certainly did more than just hold their own on June 3 at Tenney Field. Willem Thurber ripped a single up the middle with one out in the 10th inning to score Aaron Petrie from second base with the winning run in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Rice.
With Mount Anthony, Rutland, and Burr & Burton all eliminated by northern teams in the Division I playoffs, it was left to Brattleboro to defend the honor of southern Vermont baseball in Division I.
Rice’s only run of the game came in the first inning, when Evan Haverluk reached on an infield hit and later scored on a throwing error. But Thurber ended what could have been a big inning with a strong throw from left field that cut down Kurt Wenner at the plate for the final out.
That wasn’t the only great play by the Colonels’ defense. Petrie, playing center field, ran down four very tough fly balls. Catcher Turner “Cowboy” Clews reeled in a pair of foul balls for outs, and starting pitcher Alex Bingham fielded his position well.
Brattleboro manufactured a run to tie the game in the third inning as Zinabu McNeice singled to right, stole second, moved up to third on an error and scored on a groundout by Clews.
After that, Bingham and Rice starting pitcher Kaiden Quinn put up zeros on the scoreboard. Rice was first to go to the bullpen and put hard-throwing left hander Tanner Wolpert into the game in the fourth inning. He completely shut down the Colonels’ bats, but Bingham kept it a tie game until he hit the 120-pitch limit and had to be removed from the game with two outs in the eighth.
Thurber took over and finished the eighth. Rice would load the bases in the ninth, but Thurber induced a ground ball to end the inning. Brattleboro got a two-out infield hit from Sam Bogart in the bottom of the ninth, but he was picked off by Wolpert to end the inning.
The tension kept building as the big Brattleboro crowd that lined the left field line from the dugout to the foul pole was hoping for something good to happen. It did when Petrie drew a one-out walk in the Brattleboro 10th, took second on a passed ball, and raced home on Thurber’s game winning hit.
“Willem is a good kid. It’s nice to see him having some success,” said Groeger. “He threw somebody out from left field, got the game-winning hit, and did an outstanding job pitching.”
Bingham and Thurber held Rice to just four hits, with a combined seven strikeouts and three walks.
“What a performance Bingham had,” said Groeger. “If it wasn’t for a dropped ball, he would have thrown a shutout.”
The Colonels got another big game from Bingham in the semifinal against Burlington on June 7 at Tenney Field. He threw a complete game one-hitter in another dramatic 2-1 win to send Brattleboro to the state finals for the second straight year. We’ll have the full details in next week’s paper.
• Bellows Falls, the No. 2 seed in Division III, opened the playoffs on June 3 with a 6-2 win over 10th-seeded Vergennes at Hadley Field.
Winning pitcher Jack Cravinho threw a three-hitter, striking out five and walking four.
Jamison Nystrom had two hits, drove in one run and scored a run to lead the BF offense. Jeb Monier and Walker James each had a base hit, while Eli Allbee drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
At press time, the Terriers were set to host No. 3 Peoples in a semifinal at Hadley Field on June 7.
• Eighth-seeded Leland & Gray had an early exit from the Division III playoffs with a 15-5 loss to fifth-seeded Green Mountain in a first-round game in Chester on June 2.
The Rebels led the game 5-4 going into the bottom of the fifth inning when GM erupted for 11 runs that led to the game being stopped due to the mercy rule.
Jack Hinkley was the batting star in the GM fifth with a double, a single, and three RBIs. Liam O’Brien had two hits and Chase Swisher added a double. Wyatt Rose earned the victory in relief.
• Bellows Falls had beaten Green Mountain twice during the regular season, but the third time was a charm for the sixth-seeded Chieftains as they knocked off the third-seeded Terriers, 7-5, in a Division III quarterfinal game on June 4 in Westminster.
The heroine of the game was GM’s starting pitcher Brie Howe-Lynch, whose off-speed pitches induced numerous pop-ups and ground ball outs for the Terriers.
It was a tight game until the fourth inning, when the Chieftains broke open an 1-1 tie with four runs on just one hit, an RBI single by Kim Cummings. BF pitcher Izzy Stoodley issued three walks and hit a batter in the inning.
BF got a run in the bottom half of the inning when Emma Thompson reached on error and eventually scored on another error. GM added two more runs in the fifth to make it 7-2.
The Terriers tried to rally in the sixth with a two-run single by Riley Haskell and a run-scoring infield hit by Jenna Dolloph, but Howe-Lynch slammed the door shut in the BF seventh. After Natalie Noyes led off the inning with a single, the Terriers ended the game with three straight ground ball outs to shortstop Riley Paul.
“We expected the bats to wake up, and they never did,” said BF coach Don Laurendeau, “We have a better time hitting fast pitchers and had a hard time adjusting. The good news is that I’m only losing two seniors. We have a good team coming back next year.”
The Terriers finished their season at 10-7.
• This season has been a grind for the Brattleboro Colonels, but they got enough wins to get a home playoff game on June 1, and they took care of business as the eighth-seeded Colonels edged the No. 9 North Country Falcons, 5-4, at Sawyer Field on May 31.
Leah Madore had 17 strikeouts, one walk, and hit three batters in throwing a complete-game one hitter for the victory. Four errors in the field kept the Falcons in the game late as they scored four runs in the fifth inning.
The Colonels started with an RBI double by Brittney Wright and an RBI single by Taylin Bauer in the first inning. Aliza Speno singled and scored on an error in the third, and Wright and Madore each had a hit and scored a run in the fourth inning.
The win gave the Colonels a trip to the quarterfinals on June 3 to face the undefeated and top-seeded BFA-St. Albans Comets. Brattleboro knew it had to play a nearly perfect game to beat the two-time defending state champs, but finished with a 5-0 loss to the Comets.
Madore struck out 10 batters and walked only one in the loss, but gave up eight hits. Molly Smith and Candace Moore each had two hits and drove in two runs for the Comets.
Wright had two of the Colonels’ four hits off winning pitcher Sierra Yates, who struck out 12 batters and walked just one. Logan Austin and Cynthia Velazquez had the other two hits. Brattleboro finished the season with a 10-6 record.
• Leland & Gray was the No. 8 seed in Division III, and opened the playoffs on June 2 in Townshend with a 21-5 rout over No. 9 Randolph in a five-inning game stopped by the mercy rule.
The Rebels were in control from start to finish. In the first inning, they sent 13 batters to the plate and scored eight runs. Catherine Shine hit a two-run double and Savannah Cadrin smacked a three-run single to lead the barrage.
Kristen Lowe held the Ghosts to just one hit, but walked six batters. She finished with eight strikeouts and got stronger as the game went on.
Randolph’s pitchers issued 12 walks as the Rebels took advantage of numerous passed balls and wild pitches to pile up the runs.
There was a scary moment in the third inning when senior captain Hannah Landers slid awkwardly into home plate and severely injured her right ankle. Landers was in considerable pain as she was helped off the field and treated, but her teammates picked her up by scoring eight more runs to put the game away.
“We got enough hits and the defense made plays when they needed to,” said coach Tammy Clausen, who had to move up the game a half-hour earlier so five of her players could participate in a band concert at the school.
“We’ve got so many students involved in so many things in the school, so we all try to accommodate that,” Clausen said. “That’s what’s great about Leland & Gray.”
The Rebels headed north to Bradford on June 4 to take on top-seeded Oxbow. The Olympians withstood a late Rebel rally to hang on for a 5-4 win.
Oxbow scored a run in the first inning, and added three more in the second. The Rebels came back, but the Olympians got an insurance run in the sixth which proved to be the margin of victory. The Rebels finished the season with a 7-9 record.
Track & Field
• Bellows Falls placed sixth in the boys’ meet and seventh in the girls’ meet in the Division II championships at Burlington High School on June 3.
Jonathan Terry won the triple jump with a jump of 40 feet, 9 inches for the Terriers, and was the runner-up in the discus with a toss of 123 feet, 10 inches. Max Hooke was third in the high jump, clearing the bar at 5 feet, 7.75 inches.
BF’s Stephanie Ager finished first in the 3,000 meters in 10:37.05, while Laura Kamel won in the discus with a throw of 106 feet, 9 inches. Breanna Stockman earned silver in the javelin with a throw of 109 feet, 4 inches.
• Leland & Gray was ninth in the boys’ meet and 12th in the girls’ meet in the Division IV championships at Knapp Field in Manchester on June 3.
Top 10 finishers for the Rebel boys were Hunter Fillion, who was third in the javelin, fourth in discus and seventh in the shot put, and Trevor Stillwagon, who was fourth in the long jump, sixth in the javelin, and seventh in the 400 meters.
Emma O’Brien was sixth in the 1,500 and eighth in the 400 to lead the Rebel girls. Kate Petty was sixth in the triple jump.
• The Brattleboro girls were 10th, while the Brattleboro boys finished 12th in the Division I championship meet in Burlington on June 4.
Brattleboro’s Isabella Lonardo was second in the 300 meter hurdles in 48.46 seconds and fifth in the 100 meter hurdles in 17.20 seconds. Sylvie Normandeau was third in the pole vault, clearing 8 feet, 11.5 inches. and Ava Whitney was fourth in the 800 meters in 2 minutes, 21.67 seconds. The 4x100 relay team finished fifth in 53.85 seconds.
The only Brattleboro boy with a top-six finish in an event was Jacob Girard, who was third in the javelin with a toss of 139 feet, 7 inches.
• The eighth-seeded Brattleboro boys opened the Division I playoffs on June 1 with a 7-0 win over ninth-seeded Rutland at the BUHS courts.
Singles players Nathan Kim, Ben Luna, and Max Naylor won their matches in straight sets, as did the doubles duos of Jackson Heller and Elias Gradinger and Thomas Hyde and Ben Berg.
Will Taggard and Ty Smith had to battle through their single marches. Taggard rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory, while Smith prevailed with a 7-5, 3-6, 11-9 win.
Against top-seeded Burlington in the quarterfinals on June 3, the Colonels lost, 6-1. Kim had only win for the Colonels, a 6-0, 6-3 victory at No. 1 singles. The closest match was in doubles, as the tandem of Berg and Hyde went to a third set super tiebreaker before losing 4-10.
• Fifth-seeded Leland & Gray rallied from a 7-6 deficit to beat No. 12 Colchester, 14-11, in their first-round Division I playoff in Townshend on June 1.
Warren Roberts led the Rebels with five goals and an assist, while Ely White and Trevor Stillwagon each had three goals and an assist. Jackson Fillion scored a goal and assisted on six others, while Trevor Hazelton got a goal and three assists. Nick Petronic also scored.
In the quarterfinals against fourth-seeded Champlain Valley on June 4, the Rebels lost, 15-3. Leland & Gray finished the season with an 8-4 record.
• Eleventh-seeded Brattleboro was dominated by No. 6 Mount Anthony as the Patriots rolled to a 16-1 win in a Division II first-round playoff match on June 1.
A strong Patriots defense stymied the Colonels and their offense put 40 shots on the Brattleboro goal. Mount Anthony led 11-1 by halftime.
The Colonels’ only goal came from Alex Baker with 4:44 remaining in the first half. Goalie Thad Sawyer made 13 saves.