By Mal Boright
During the wild celebratory scene late Saturday afternoon at historic Centennial Field in Burlington following Champlain Valley Union High’s 5-0 Division 1 championship victory over Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans, both winning pitcher Curt Echo and his battery mate, catcher Kirk Fontana, were talking about the defensive effort of the entire team.
Echo twirled a three-hit shutout, striking out two, while he and his mates flawlessly handled 19 chances in the field, thus limiting the Bobwhites to three base runners—only one reaching second base.
Add some early and timely hitting by the Redhawks, and CVU used a nifty trifecta combination of pitching, fielding and hitting to once again get the job done.
“We knew they (BFA) liked to go after the first pitch,” said Echo who threw strikes and let his talented mates use their gloves.
“They worked hard all season,” said head coach Tim Albertson as his 18-2 Redhawks earned the school’s second baseball crown. The first was in 2003 under Adam Provost. In 2007, CVU lost to South Burlington High in a title test at Centennial Field.
CVU’s Secretariat of Defense was comprised of Echo plus the infield of third baseman Ryan Fleming, shortstop Drew Nick, second baseman Tucker Kohlasch and first baseman Davis Mikell. These gents had gloves of gold this day, as 11 grounders led to 11 outs, with Kohlasch producing two spectacular grabs and throws.
The outer pasture cordon of (from left field to right) Brendan Davitt, Jeff Badger and Lawrence Halvorson tracked down and easily gloved five fly balls. Three pops were snared by infielders.
As far as the fielders went, Echo was an equal opportunity slinger.
Echo, in blanking 15-5 BFA for the second time in three weeks and winning his third straight playoff game, threw just 73 pitches—only 39 of those in the first five innings. The veteran righthander—with fast ball, breaking stuff and change all working well—set down BFA’s first 14 batters before Dana Duquette sliced a clean hit into right field for a single. A force-out grounder followed to end the frame.
BFA’s biggest threat came in the top of the sixth. After two outs, Matt Palmer and Skyler Bushey, batting one and two in the BFA order, socked solid singles. If BFA was tempted to run in an effort to upset the order of things, a 5-0 deficit and the fact that cannon-armed CVU catcher Fontana had cut down 13 runners over the season, was very discouraging to such thoughts.
Taylor Rafferty, after fouling off three two-strike pitches, topped a grounder to the right of the mound between first and second. Kohlasch raced to the ball and got off a quick throw to Mikell to nip Rafferty and end the uprising.
Mikell, CVU’s closer, warmed up his heater while the Redhawks batted in the top of the sixth. He wasn’t needed as Echo used 10 pitches for a one-two-three top of the seventh, Nick throwing out the final two on grounders to short.
The winners’ timely hitting came in the first and third frames. In the first, Tim Jones worked a one-out walk and with two out, Mikell walked. Echo followed with a solid single to chase home Jones with the only run the Hawks would require.
In the third, BFA righty Darren Callan, who threw well in a 3-0 loss to Echo and the ‘Hawks late in the regular season, ran into control trouble by walking Jones and Nick, the first two batters. Mikell then lashed a two-strike pitch to left for a run-producing single.
Echo then laid down a bunt single, and a wild throw over first brought in Nick. Halvorson singled home Mikell, and Fleming’s fly to very deep center brought in Echo with the final run.
St. Albans’ lefty reliever Ryan Connor then set down the final 10 Redhawks.
BFA had long memories according to Mikell. Apparently mindful of his first inning homer in the teams’ initial meeting, the Bobwhites kept the ball away from the CVU slugger, at least for a while.
“They were throwing outside curves,” Mikell, a heat lover, said after the game. “The hit came on a curve that crossed the middle of the plate.”
Echo’s 3-0 postseason record was magnificent. In 20 and one-third innings, the senior slinger allowed but 12 hits, one unearned run, while walking only two and striking out nine. The other victories were 3-0 (semi) over Colchester High and 7-1 over South Burlington (quarterfinal).
It was the final game for pitching coach Onnie Matthews after eight years of “arming” the Redhawks.