Champlain Valley Union High School baseball coach Tim Albertson has maintained his team was not trying to defend their Division I title, rather the Redhawks were chasing another one.
And with a batch of new players mixed with some core veterans — a dozen graduated last year — Albertson stood by his words this spring.
New team, same season-ending result.
Third-seeded CVU put together a seventh-inning rally to force extras, and then pulled ahead in the 11th snare the D-I title away from No. 1 Essex in a 4-3 victory at Centennial Field late Monday night.
The clock was just minutes before midnight when sophomore Rayne Supple got Steve Jurkiewicz to bounce out to second, ending the longest D-I baseball final in the tournament history of the Vermont Principals’ Association. It also gave CVU back-to-back crowns, the first D-I team to repeat as champions since Missisquoi achieved the feat in 1988.
“The first D-I team in 25 years and the fact that it’s two different groups … this is a great team,” Albertson said. “These guys have been relentless all season, it’s their style. In all honesty, that’s the way they want to do things.
“There’s absolutely no quit in them.”
Supple tossed six innings of no-hit relief and fanned six batters to earn the win. Supple’s classmate, Deagan Poland, also came through, driving in the winning run in the 11th in reaching base on an error. Poland also set up a couple rallies, including in the two-run seventh inning.
“You have to go out there and play — it doesn’t matter how old you are, got to go out there and win it,” Supple said. “We are just not fazed by the pressure. We always come up clutch, it’s just a matter who does it. Every night it is someone different. It’s good to have a well-rounded team.”
In the 11th, pinch-hitter Shea Ireland led off with a single, starting a rally highlighted by Poland’s go-ahead grounder that produced the winning run.
Jurkiewicz, Essex’s starter, struck out 10 batters in the no-decision for the Hornets (16-3), who reached the title game after falling in the early rounds in each of the past two seasons. Essex also had its 13-game winning streak snapped.
“I was hoping for that 14. … It’s a great stepping stone for the program. I don’t think anybody expecting us to be here except for us,” Essex coach Chris Richard said. “We came through a lot, came together as a team and battled.”
Essex scored a run in each of the first three innings. Tyler Warren and Josh Baez had RBI singles in the first and second innings, respectively, before Justin Ward’s run-scoring groundout pushed the Hornets’ lead to 3-1 in the third.
CVU scored its first run in the third, Fontana with a two-out single.
Poland opened the seventh with a bunt single. Hayden Smith followed, reaching on an error. With first and second and no outs, Mikell lined a single to right to score Poland.
“That was just a decision by the coach, found a good pitch and put it in the right spot,” said Poland of the leadoff bunt.
After Luke Salerno relieved Jurkiewicz, Fontana drilled a single to center to tie the game at 3. The next batter, Alex Henning, dropped a bunt, but Mikell was nabbed at the plate, and then Supple grounded out to end the frame.
As CVU’s starter, Mikell fanned eight in the no-decision.
Essex and CVU were the first Chittenden County schools to meet in the final since 2007.
The last Division I title game to go to extra innings was in 2002, when Essex defeated Mount Anthony 2-1 in eight innings.