By Mal Boright
After two straight hot blowout victories in the postseason title chase, the Champlain Valley Union High baseball team had to chill for a day Tuesday. Its Division 1 semifinal contest against South Burlington High was postponed until Wednesday (Observer press time) due to rain and wet grounds.
The fifth-seeded Rebels came to Hinesburg carrying a 14-4 record and a narrow 2-1 season-opening victory over CVU. It was the only loss for the number one seed 17-1 Redhawks, who blanked South Burlington 7-0 at home April 30 behind pitchers Rayne Supple (six innings) and Andrew Bortnick (one).
Wednesday’s winner goes on to meet the victor of a Colchester High at Rice Memorial High clash in the championship game at the University of Vermont’s Centennial Field, date and time to be determined.
On the mound and at the plate, CVU issued a northern Division 1 thumping to southern hopeful Burr and Burton Academy of Manchester Friday at the Hinesburg rounders range by a convincing 12-0 tally.
The mound work was a slick no-hit job by junior right hander Sam Mikell.
In the batter’s box, the Redhawks unloaded 18 hits from nine individuals, including a first inning home run over the left field fence by shortstop Rayne Supple, who later smacked a double.
“He (B and B starting pitcher Jon Iris) threw me a couple of curves, so I was looking for the fast ball,” Supple said.
He got what he looked for and the ball departed the yard. The solo shot gave coach Tim Albertson’s aggregation a lead it never gave up.
Also swinging a lethal bat was first baseman Shea Ireland, with a double and three singles in four trips to the dish. His perfect day of whacking produced five RBIs. Will Potter bashed three singles to drive home three runs. Designated hitter Landon Carpenter went 3-for-3, all singles.
Mikell was immense all game long. He opened the contest with his own fanning bee, whiffing five of the first six Bulldogs. He faced only 24 batters, that’s three over the minimum as two reached on walks and two on infield miscues.
“I got stronger as the game went on,” Mikell told the Observer shortly before getting a cold water bath from teammates armed with the big ice bucket.
In the seventh and final inning, the big righty with the cracking fast ball used just seven pitches to retire the side 1-2-3, striking out the middle batter on four throws. In all, Mikell used just 88 pitches and went to a three-ball count only three times.
There were two extraordinary fielding plays behind Mikell. The Bulldogs came within inches of a hit when Jackson Rawson, batting ninth in the lineup, led off the top of the sixth with a liner to right center. CVU right fielder Jack Dugan sprinted to his right and made a running, diving snatch of the ball to preserve the gem. It was the only ball to reach the outfield off Bulldog bats.
It was the second time in three weeks that Dugan, The Preserver, has saved a no-hitter with a sensational catch in right field. On May 15, Dugan made a similar grab to maintain Supple’s no-hit victory over Burlington High at the CVU field.
In the third inning, second baseman Jed Morris chased a foul fly down the first base line and made the catch after a marathon run from his defensive position near the middle of the diamond.
It was the CVU staff’s fourth no-hitter of the campaign. Mikell participated in the first as the starter at Spaulding High in Barre. The others were thrown by Supple and Potter, who notched a perfect five-inning job.
An unusual single was among Ireland’s collection. In the first inning, batting after Supple’s long bomb, Ireland stroked a pop fly high into the wind. It was high enough to possibly draw attention at Burlington Airport’s Air Traffic Control. Buffeted by the winds, the ball came down on the right between the mound and the plate and as three Bulldogs looked on, it fell untouched with a loud plop and Ireland safely at first.
As the long time batting average record-holder (.438) Hughie Duffy of pre-1900s baseball once said, “You hit ‘em where they ain’t.”
And that’s what Ireland did.