Getting to the state championship game is the first step, but then there’s a game to play. It’s a final challenge to tie the season together with a championship arc.
Three of the participants in this year’s high school baseball state championship games at Centennial Field know the feeling of approaching the pinnacle of their sport, but being just short of completing the ride.
Spaulding finished second in Division II last spring, falling to Owen Kellington-led U-32 in a 5-0 shutout.
The Crimson Tide made it all a thing of the past with their 4-2 state semifinal win over the Raiders on Tuesday and enter the state final as favorites to win the trophy.
Brattleboro faced a CVU juggernaut team that was in the hunt for its second straight Division I title last year, falling in a 13-0 blowout in the state final.
It looked like the Colonels could have a rematch with those same Redhawks in the Finals this weekend, but No. 4 seed Essex had other plans.
Blue Mountain had a similar story in Brattleboro last season. The Bucks were a top club in the regular season, but were not level with prohibitive favorite when it came to state championship time.
This time around, Blue Mountain is the undefeated juggernaut in the state title match against White River Valley. Can they end Storytelling Season with their 10th title in program history?
No. 3 Brattleboro vs. No. 4 Essex
There’s something about the playoffs that makes Essex teams play at the top of their game.
The Hornets were the No. 4 seed in the DI Football Playoffs, defeated the top-seeded seed in the semifinals, and won a state championship the following week.
This baseball season could go the same way after Essex knocked out two-time defending champion CVU in the state semifinals.
If the Hornets want to claim their first title since 2010, it will be thanks to throwing.
Andrew Goodrich and Eli Bostwick are guys with a lot of big game experience. Goodrich went the distance in the eight-inning semi-final victory over the Redhawks, but even if he’s unavailable Essex have plenty of weapons to turn to.
Pitching is also the Colonels’ business card. Brattleboro has allowed just four runs in three playoff games. Alex Bingham won a semi-final against Burlington and the Colonels have other talented arms to turn to.
Will pitching be the story of the day in the DI final?
The teams face off Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Centennial Field in Burlington.
No. 1 Spaulding vs.
No. 2 Lyndon
It seemed destined that this would be the game to decide everything in Division II.
Spaulding and Lyndon, two Capital Division teams, were by far the most dominant teams D-II had to offer.
For part of the season the Vikings went unbeaten, before the U-32s handed them their first defeat and two games later the Crimson Tide added another.
In that 11-3 game, Lyndon was in control, but Spaulding’s powerful offense scored 11 points in the fifth inning.
This is common for the Crimson Tide. Their attack can get too strong for opponents who quickly fade when Spaulding takes control.
The Crimson Tide have scored in double figures in 12 of their 18 games. Whether it’s Danny Kiniry, Kieran McNamara, Zack Wilson, or Averill Parker, among others, the team has contributors ranging from No. 1 to No. 9 spots in their roster.
Although Spaulding’s offense gets a ton of attention, his throw was arguably even more crucial during the playoffs. McNamara threw a one-hit game in the quarterfinal against Missisquoi and Parker was excellent in a complete game in the semifinal.
Lyndon didn’t look as dominant the second half of the season, but the Vikings are by no means a team to be taken lightly.
The Vikings got timely hits in their semifinal win over Hartford and rookie Wyatt Mason worked deep into the game on the mound.
Junior Austin Wheeler has been the ace of Lyndon’s pitching staff and is a great offensive play, along with guys like Trevor Lussier, Zach Hale and Carsen McQuade.
Lyndon is looking to win his first title in 13 years, while Spaulding is hoping to end a 32-year drought.
The championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Centennial Field
Hazen #1 vs. Peoples #3
Peoples Academy is the only defending state champion to take the field this weekend at Centennial Field, looking to retain the crown.
Wolves had an impressive run in the Division III playoffs, beating their opponents 24-2 en route to the state championship game.
Their most impressive effort was a 6-0 semi-final win over a Bellows Falls side that seemed to get better and better as the season progressed.
Ben Alekson was untouchable in that win over the Terriers, allowing just three hits in a full game effort.
The Peoples have only lost twice this season, the first of two to National Finals opponent Hazen, 12-7 on May 2.
The Wildcats were equally dominant with their only losses at Spaulding and Thetford.
Hazen has allowed three or fewer runs in a game 11 times and his top two pitchers, Lyle Rooney and Tyler Rivard, are both expected to be available for the national final.
Rivard, Jadon Baker and Andrew Menard all had multiple hits in a 9-3 semifinal win over Thetford and Hazen has more talent to go along with them.
Hazen’s coach, Spencer Howard, graduated from Hardwick School. He would love to deliver the Wildcats’ first title in 40 years.
He will get his chance Sunday at 11 a.m. at Centennial Field.
No. 1 Blue Mt.
White River Valley #2
White River Valley ultimately lost a handful of baseball games this year, but the sky wasn’t falling. This Wildcats team was still one of the best the state had to offer.
They proved it by playing their third straight state championship game.
White River Valley dominated in their first playoff game against West Rutland, but had a real challenge in the state semifinals against Arlington, winning by just one point.
Dominic Craven was the Wildcats’ personal ace. Craven is one of nine seniors in an experienced and championship-ready squad.
This year’s Blue Mountain team looks to be the biggest challenge to White River Valley’s dynastic dominance. The Bucks enter the Finals as favorites to end the Wildcats’ title streak, with Blue Mountain sporting a perfect 16-0 record.
Junior Evan Dennis has been a standout performer for the Bucks and is surrounded by a good mix of veterans and young talent motivated to snatch Blue Mountain’s first title in seven years.
The Wildcats and Bucks have created some rivalry when it comes to playoff success. Friday isn’t just a rematch of last year’s D-IV baseball final, it’s also a rematch of the state championship basketball game, where Blue Mountain won on a buzzer-beater .
The Wildcats surely have a revenge on the mind.
White River Valley is shooting for its third straight championship and Blue Mountain goes season undefeated Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Centennial Field.