Colonels win third state softball title in four years

Rebels routed in Division III title game

The Brattleboro Colonels and Leland & Gray Rebels both trekked to Legion Field at Veterans Memorial Park in Poultney on June 19, there in search of state softball championships in their respective divisions.

The Colonels made their 17th trip to the Division I finals, walking away with their third state title in four years.

Brattleboro pitcher Kayla Wood turned in a performance ranking with the greatest of any athlete ever to wear the purple and white. She struck out 20 batters and walked no one in throwing a perfect game, handing the third-seeded Colonels a 1-0 win in nine innings over the fifth-seeded Missisquoi Valley Thunderbirds.

Top-seeded Leland & Gray, which hadn't played in the Division III championship game since 1991, fared less well. The Rebels lost that day, 15-1, to the No. 6 Oxbow Olympians.

A perfect thriller

If what marks great athletes is their ability to perform at their best on the biggest stage, Wood was absolutely incandescent in her final game as a high school pitcher.

Just how dominant was Wood?

Of her first 29 pitches thrown, 28 of them were strikes.

She struck out the first 11 batters she faced before a Missisquoi batter managed to connect on a pitch.

It gets better. Of Wood's 97 pitches thrown over nine innings, 91 of them gloved in as strikes.

Wood had speed to burn on her pitches, and placed them at will. The closest that any Missisquoi batter came to getting a hit was in the eighth inning, when Katie Campbell hit a long foul ball that barely missed dropping into the outfield for a probable double.

Meanwhile, the Colonels struggled against to get hits off of Missisquoi pitcher Dakota Raleigh. Nonetheless, Brattleboro was presented with several scoring chances that they could not cash in on.

Raleigh lost her perfect game bid in the fourth, when Maddie Derosia reached on a dropped pop-up, and then lost her no-hitter when Haley Struthers followed with a double to put runners at second and third with two outs. Wood struck out to end that threat.

In the fifth inning, Daisy Giroux hit a two-out single to left, then stole second and got to third on a bad throw. Again, the inning ended with a strikeout, this time by Alyssa Bezanson.

McKinlie Carpenter led off the sixth inning with a single up the middle, and reached second on a sacrifice bunt by Derosia, but Struthers grounded out to end the inning.

Wood led off the seventh with a walk, but was thrown out stealing second, ending the Colonels' hopes of winning the game in regulation.

The tension ratcheted higher as the game went through a scoreless eighth.

Wood retired the Thunderbird on two groundouts and a strikeout in the top of the ninth. She was still perfect after nine innings, but that perfection might have been wasted. The game was now at the point where the first team to make a mistake would lose.

While not perfect, Raleigh - who finished the game with 10 strikeouts and just one walk - was still pitching well and escaping jams. But the Thunderbirds' luck ran out in the bottom of the ninth.

After all the tries to push a run home, the Colonels would earn their third championship in four years in a dramatic finish made possible by two Missisquoi mistakes.

Bailey Paige led off the inning with a base hit to left; Derosia doubled to right to put runners at second and third with no outs.

All the Colonels needed was a sacrifice fly to win the game. Struthers hit that fly ball – but it wasn't quite deep enough; Missisquoi left-fielder Sommer Libby snagged it, and uncorked a strong throw to catcher Molly Metayer. Paige was caught in a rundown and tagged out.

But the Missisquoi fielders weren't paying attention to Derosia. She made it to third base during the rundown, and that was their first mistake.

Their second, and fatal, mistake, came two pitches later when Raleigh - facing Wood - sailed a wild pitch that hit the backstop.

Derosia streaked home to score – and just like that, the Colonels were champs.

Brattleboro finished the season with a 17-2-1 record and said goodbye to seniors Wood, Terwilliger, Paige, Bezanson, Struthers, and Rissa Smith.

Rebels hit hard

• While the Division I championship game was a pitchers' duel, the Division III championship game that followed was anything but.

Oxbow's Leah Hanzas allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out seven, while Leland & Gray's Elizabeth Symanski was roughed up for 10 hits.

The Rebels also had a shaky night in the field, committing eight errors.

Oxbow got a run in the first inning, and never trailed after that, adding three more in the third before breaking open the game in the fourth inning.

Cassie Hutchinson's two-run double keyed the five-run fourth for the Olympians. Heather White added an RBI triple in a five-run fifth that saw the Rebels make five errors to keep the inning going.

Hanzas helped her cause with three hits as she scored three times and drove in a run.

The Rebels' only run was scored in the fourth inning, when Symanski reached on an error, took third on a passed ball, and scored on Kelsey Bruder's single to left.

It was a disappointing end to the Rebels' otherwise great 15-4 season.

Little League roundup

• The regular season is over for the Brattleboro Little League, as the Pirates finished with a perfect 15-0 record. The Cardinals took second at 11-4, followed by the Red Sox (7-8), Giants (5-10), Athletics (4-11), and Royals (3-12).

Now it's tournament time. The 9- 10-year-old All Stars and the 11- 12-year-old All Stars begin District 2 play against Bennington on Saturday, July 6 in Bennington.

The 9-10s play at 1 p.m. in the first of a best-of-five series. The remainder of the series is Sunday, July 7 in Brattleboro at 1 p.m.; Tuesday, July 9 in Brattleboro at 6 p.m.; and (if necessary) Thursday, July 11 in Bennington at 6 p.m.; and Saturday, July 13 at 1 p.m. The winner of the series is the District 2 champion and will advance to the State Championship series in North Burlington starting July 20.

The 11-12s play the first of their best-of-seven series against Bennington starting July 6 in Bennington at 4 p.m.; July 7 in Brattleboro at 4 p.m.; July 9 in Bennington at 6 p.m.; July 11 in Brattleboro at 6 p.m.; and (if necessary) July 13 in Brattleboro at 4 p.m.; and July 14 in Bennington, time and site to be determined.

The winner of the series is the District 2 champion and will advance to the State Championship series in Essex starting July 20.

As Brattleboro has the only 10- 11-year-old All-Star team in District 2, they advance directly to the State Championship series, which will be played in Brattleboro starting Saturday, July 27.

Chester/Saxtons River top CRVBL standings

• At the mid-point of the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League season, the Chester/Saxtons River Crush sit at first place with an 8-1 record. The Claremont Cardinals, last year's champs, are close behind at 6-2.

In third place are the Sunapee Old Lakers at 6-3, followed by the Walpole Wild Blue (5-4), Newport Polar Bears (4-4), Putney Fossils (3-5), and Keene Black Dawgs (2-5). The Brattleboro River Rats are bringing up the rear with at 0-10.

Softball roundup

• The Brattleboro Elks ended last week undefeated in Division 1 of the Brattleboro Area Men's Softball League, boasting an 8-0 record.

Zooters and Brattleboro Pharmacy were tied for first at 4-3 in Division 2. Aerodyne sits atop Division 3 with a 6-1 record. Falvey Pools leads Division 4 at 10-2.

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