There is nothing more exciting in the world of sport than a single elimination tournament that determines a championship. Anything can happen. No matter how good, or bad your respective team is, anyone can beat anyone else on any given day. Favorites can get knocked off early, and under dogs can advance farther than anyone thought possible, or not.
The single elimination format is what Vermont high schools use to determine their state champions in all their sports. The playoffs for the spring sports season began on Tuesday, June 2nd, and as of Monday morning (this paper's deadline) each sport had completed their quarterfinal round, reducing each divisional field to just four teams.
Many Rutland County teams were in action last weekend competing for a spot in the state semifinals. Others were eliminated in the opening round, while a few did not even make the playoff field. Of those that did compete this weekend some survived to play on, while others were eliminated. Read on to see how our local teams fared in softball and baseball as well as boys and girls lacrosse.
Otters and Golden Horde Reach Semifinals
The lone Rutland County representative in the Division-IV tournament are still alive and kicking. The 5th seeded West Rutland Golden Horde began the post season by destroying 12th seeded Long Trail 33-3 in the opening round (Wednesday, June 3rd) before shutting out Twinfield 4-0 in quarterfinal action last Saturday in Plainfield. Sara Walczuk tossed a four hit shutout for the victorious Horde, while Emily Sumner blasted a double for the big offensive hit. Twinfield finishes their season at 12-5.
In Division III the fifth seeded Poultney Blue Devils made an early exit, as they were upset in the opening round 4-0 by twelfth seeded Rivendale. The Blue Devils wind up 11-5 after the disappointing playoff loss.
Of the three Rutland County teams in the Division - II tournament only the top seeded Otter Valley Otters survived to reach the semifinals. Both the Fair Haven Slaters and Mill River Minutemen bowed out in the first round. The eleventh seeded Slaters fell to the sixth seeded Springfield Cosmos on Wednesday, June 3rd, to finish the year at 6-11. The Minutemen, who fully expected to reach the quarterfinals, were upset at home on Tuesday, June 2nd 9-4 by the thirteenth seeded Cosmos. Mill River finishes their season with 12 wins and just 5 losses.
The top seeded Otters received an opening round buy, and then last Friday in Brandon rode a three run sixth inning to a 4-1 quarterfinal victory over the eighth seeded Randolph Ghosts. Senior Otter hurler allowed just one hit while striking out four to secure the complete game win. Randolph ended their year at 11-7.
In Division I the fifth Seeded Rutland Raiders opened up the tournament ith an 8-0 win over the Burlington Seahorses in Rutland on Wednesday, June 3rd. Katherine Cohen fired a two-hit shutou with 10 strikeouts to secure the post season win for the Raiders. But unfortunately for them it would be their last. Last Saturday in Swanton Danielle Magnant
threw a solid two-hitter to lead the forth seeded Missisquoi Thunderbirds a 4-1 quarterfinal win over the fifth seeded Rutland Raiders. Megan Blongy and Samantha Tuepker had Rutland's only hits, and they finish their season at 13-5.
Canes Upset Raiders in Quarterfinals
The second seeded Rutland Raiders easily defeated the fifteenth seeded North Country Falcons 15-4 in the opening round (Tuesday, June 2 in Rutland) of the Division I playoffs, only to be upset last Friday in the quarterfinals10-7 by the seventh seeded Hartford Hurricanes. With the game tied 6-6 after six innings of play the Hurricanes scored four times in the top of the seventh to earn the win and secure themselves a spot in the semifinals. AJ Hamel had two hits and drove in another three while Ryan McGuire contributed a solo home run to the upset. Logan Scelza was the winning pitcher. Mark Comstock and Matt Merritt had two hits apiece for Rutand who end their season at 13-5
In Division II both the Otter Valley Otters and Fair Haven Slaters both survived one-run wins in the play downs and were still alive and competing in quarterfinal action last Friday. The tenth seeded Mill River Minutemen were eliminated in the opening round on Tuesday, June 2nd, losing to the seventh seeded Union-32 Raiders 9-1 to end their season at 8-9.
The third seeded Slaters were fortunate to be alive to host the sixth seeded Harwood Highlanders, narrowly escaping an upset bid by the Bellows Falls Terriers in the opening round. In a scoreless tie Nathan Stannard singled home Jesse Maynard in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Fair Haven a narrow 1-0 win over Bellows Falls.
Then on Friday in Fair Haven the Slaters scored five times in the fifth inning to avoid yet another upset and eliminate the sixth seeded Harwood Highlanders 5-3 in quarterfinal action. Stannard and Jesse Maynard had run producing singles for the Slaters in the sixth. Fair Haven starter Dan Brown struggled in the first, giving up three runs but then found his game, and shut down Harwood down the rest of the way allowing his Slaters to come back and secure themselves a spot in the Division-II semifinals.
The same day in Milton the Otter Valley Otters were on the verge of pulling off back-to-back upsets when everything fell apart. After defeating the fifth seeded Randolph Ghosts 2-1 in the opening round (Tuesday, June 2 in Randolph) the twelfth seeded Otter Valley Otters led the fourth seeded Milton Yellow Jackets 12-7 going into the bottom of the seventh and needed just three outs to advance to the semifinals. But they wouldn't get them. The hometown Yellow Jackets would score six runs, capped off by a three-run walk-off homerun by Alex Learned to avoid the upset, and eliminate the Otters with a 13-12 win. Joey Massores hit a two run-homer and Jon Shaw added a solo shot for Otter Valley who finish their season dead even at 9-9.
In Division III the fourteenth seeded Poultney Blue Devils upset third seeded Enosburg by delivering them a 6-0 shutout in the opening round on Tuesday, June 2nd. That allowed them to advance to the quarterfinal game against the sixth seeded Green Mountain Chieftains last Friday, and it was there in Chester where the Devils ran out of magic. Falling behind 9-0 Poultney scored six times in the sixth, but couldn't finish the comeback in the seventh, and were eliminated from the playoffs with a 9-6 loss. Scott Williams was 2-for-4 with two RBIs for Poultney, who wind the year up at 8-10.
In Division IV the third seeded Proctor Phantoms got a quarterfinal gift. Instead of playing the sixth seeded Danville Indians they got to host eleventh seeded Richford in last Friday's quarterfinals. Why? Because, Richford who went 0-15 during the regular season got their first win of the year when they beat Danville 5-2 in the opening round of the playoffs. But the Phantoms, as expected, had little trouble with them. Chad Thornton and Ryan Carter led Proctor to an easy 16-4 win and a spot in the Division - IV semifinals. Carter drove in three runs, two on a homerun blast. Thorton registered three hits and like Carter drove in three as well. Proctor enters the semifinals at 11-6, while Richford ends their year with a 1-15 record.
Raider Girls Reach Semifinals
Hannah Wright scored five goals last Friday in Rutland to lead her top seeded Raiders to an easy 18-5 quarterfinal win over the eighth seeded Mount Mansfield Cougars. Chelsea Temple (three goals,) Sara Lovett (two goals,) and Marisa Kiefaber (two goals) joined Wright in the multiple goal parade, while Ashley Boucher, Marissa Gfeller, Kate Kurchena, Grace Wright, Chelsea Monaco and Kayla DelBianco added single goals to complete the Raiders offensive onslaught. Rutland goalie Jessie Wilson made ten saves while working the net. The Raiders enter the semifinals riding an impressive 15-1 record.
The eleventh seeded Raiders boys squad wasn't so fortunate, losing on Wednesday, June 3rd in the opening round, to the sixth seeded Bellows Falls Terriers 11-2, ending their year at 4-13.