October 15, 2018

Rushford returns in walk-off win

Liam Reiner got the complete game win at the Strike Out Cancer game vs Essex on May 17th in Hinesburg

Jacob Bortnick rips a base hit during the Strike Out Cancer game vs Essex on May 17th in Hinesburg

Jacob Murphy dives safely back to first during the Strike Out Cancer game vs Essex on May 17th in Hinesburg

Storm Rushford (center right) celebrates a win with his team during the Strike Out Cancer game vs Essex on May 17th in Hinesburg

By Lauren Read

Observer correspondent

Usually a walk-off win is the highlight of a high school baseball game. But last Thursday, Champlain Valley’s victory was just the cherry on top of an already great day.

CVU sophomore Storm Rushford, who has battled acute lymphoblastic leukemia for the last 10 months, returned to the mound for the Redhawks before Thursday’s game — in a ceremonial capacity.

“They really have been by his side,” said CVU coach Tim Albertson. “They have gone to see him in the hospital, they have texted, they have called … You look at Storm and you think ‘I’ve got it easy and I know that I can get through this.’”

Champlain Valley and Essex celebrated the annual Strike Out Cancer Game in Hinesburg and presented the family with a check for $6,500 that they had helped to raise, then watched as Rushford took the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“I think it meant a lot to the guys. They have been there since the beginning,” Albertson said. “This is an opportunity for them to give back to somebody that they have had faith in and support.”

Liam Reiner took the ball from Rushford and went the distance on the mound, pitching seven innings, giving up six runs and striking out 11. Tyler Skaflestad was responsible for the game-winning RBI, earning a walk to score a run and cap off a seventh-inning comeback that resulted in a 7-6 win for CVU.

Aidan Johnson was 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Redhawks, and Jake Boliba added an RBI double — pretty perfect ending to a great day.

“It was exciting. I think the guys loved it,” Albertson said. “When perspective is at your side, every single day you are able to take a look at life and see that there are bigger things than being able to play a game.”

The story is not over for Rushford, who is working hard to be able to play for the Redhawks this season. He entered a game last Saturday, getting an at-bat and some time on the mound in a 6-3 win over North Country.

“He works so hard. He has persevered through so many tough situations. You are rooting for him,” Albertson said. “It is all a matter of how he feels.”

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