The second-seeded Brattleboro Colonels faced the top-seeded and undefeated BFA-St. Albans Comets for the Division I softball title at Veterans Memorial Park in Poultney on Friday night, and came away with a dramatic 2-1 win in nine innings to capture their second straight state title.
Friday’s game was everything a championship game should be — the top two teams in the state going toe-to-toe with everything at stake and little margin for error. Fittingly, this game was the only extra innings game of the season for the Colonels.
BFA-St. Albans pitcher Chelsea Abbott struck out 14 in the Comets’ 8-2 win over St. Johnsbury in the semifinals on Tuesday. She entered Friday’s game with the reputation of being a power pitcher who is tough to hit.
But it was the Colonels scored the first run of the game in the fourth inning when sophomore Kayla Wood hit a fly ball down the right field line that bounced off the glove of Comets right fielder Allie Doe. The ball rattled around by the fence as Wood made it safely to third on the play. She came home when senior Sydney Santor hit a ground ball at Abbott.
The Comets tied it in the fifth. Eli Millman reached on an error by Santor in right field. Kathryn Howrigan singled as did Celsey Lumbra, but Millman, who nearly collided with Comets coach Bert Berthiaume rounding third, was thrown out at home. Hannah Ayers then singled to left center to score Howrigan.
It remained 1-1 until the top of the ninth inning, when junior Kaylee Graham singled up the middle, took second on a passed ball and went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Santor. Senior Ariel Kane then struck what proved to be the game winning blow — a sacrifice fly to center field that was deep enough to score Graham from third, as she barely beat a strong throw by Comets center fielder Ayers.
Wood then slammed the door shut in the bottom of the ninth by retiring the first two Comets she faced, then shaking off an infield error to get the final out. She struck out 9, walked 4 and gave up 4 hits against a team that was known for their hitting.
Then again, Wood firmly cemented her reputation as one of the best pitchers in Vermont with her second straight championship game victory. Last season, she shut out Essex, 1-0, in the title game.
According to team statistics, Wood entered Friday’s game with an 18-1 record and an earned run average of 0.49. In 129 innings of work, she struck out 166, walked 34, gave up 60 hits and 19 runs (just 7 of them earned), and hit 3 batters.
Brattleboro defeated Champlain Valley, 6-0, in the playdown game on June 2, squeaked past over Missisquoi, 3-2, in the quarterfinal on June and beat Essex, 1-0, in last Tuesday’s semifinal.
The Colonels did not have a base hit in beating Essex, and they had to scratch for runs against Abbott, who finished with 10 strikeouts and 5 walks.
Entering Friday’s game, the Colonels had four players hitting above .400 — Santor (.473), senior Taylor Kerylow (.442, and leading the team in hits with 31), Wood (.440) and Graham (.420).
Kerylow got 2 of the 6 hits that Abbott gave up. Lumbra and Ayers had 2 hits each for the Comets.
Six area athletes compete in New Englands
• The New England Track and Field Championships were held in Burlington on Saturday, and six area athletes were in this event.
Bellows Falls’ John Punger qualified for the 1,600-meter run, and finished 20th in a personal best time of 4 minutes, 33.82 seconds.
Brattleboro’s Jacob Ellis also qualified for the 1,600, but he passed up that event to run in the 800 and also be part of the 4 X 400 relay that included Abadi Kerlin-Smith, Alec Silver, and Greg Reuter.
The goal was to break school records in both events. Ellis finished seventh in the 800, but in a qualifying heat, he ran the event in 1:55.70 to break the record of 1:56.7 set by Eric Mewes in 1979. The relay team fell short in its record bid, finishing 13th in 3:31.75. The Brattleboro record for the 4 X 400 is 3:29.6, set by Burt Chard, Yuchon Kono, Lauren Bullis, and Neal Noble.
Sophomore Paxton Reed competed in the triple jump as the 32nd seed. In a third place finish in the state meet the week before, his best jump was 41 feet, 7 inches. On Saturday, his jump of 39-2.75 was good for a 22nd place finish.
Chester leads CRVBL standings
• Two months into the 2011 season of the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League, the Chester Pirates lead the standings with a 4-1 record. Tied for second are the Claremont Cardinals and the Saxtons River Pirates, a half-game out of first with 4-2 records. The Keene Black Dogs and the Putney Fossils are 2 1/2 games out of first with 2-4 records, and the Brattleboro River Rats are in last at 1-4.
All games were rained out on Sunday. Weather permitting, there will be games this Sunday as Chester will take on Putney at 10 a.m. at the Dummerston School field, followed by Brattleboro facing Keene at 1 p.m. Claremont travels to Vermont Academy to face the Saxtons River Pirates at 10 a.m.
Legion baseball season begins
• With the end of the high school baseball season comes the beginning of the American Legion Baseball season.
Brattleboro Post 5 will be led again this season by coach Claude Gouin, who guided Post 5 to a third-place finish in the 2010 state tournament.
Bob Lockerby will again coach Bellows Falls Post 37, which was knocked out early in last year’s state tourney.
Both teams finished with 12-6 records in the regular season last year.