WRV baseball prevails on an off day

White River Valley High's Leland French-Dyer crosses home plate with the winning run during his baseball team's 6-5 defeat of Leland & Gray on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Rebels catcher Lucas Stolpp (13) can only watch the ball in left field. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley High's Leland French-Dyer crosses home plate with the winning run during his baseball team's 6-5 defeat of Leland & Gray on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Rebels catcher Lucas Stolpp (13) can only watch the ball in left field. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Tris Wykes

White River Valley High baseball coach Devin Cilley speaks to his team before its 6-5 defeat of Leland & Gray on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley High baseball coach Devin Cilley speaks to his team before its 6-5 defeat of Leland & Gray on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley High's Zander Clark is hoisted aloft by Isaac Wilmott after driving in the winning run during his baseball team's 6-5 defeat of Leland & Gray on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley High's Zander Clark is hoisted aloft by Isaac Wilmott after driving in the winning run during his baseball team's 6-5 defeat of Leland & Gray on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Tris Wykes

White River Valley High baseball catcher Brayden Russ listens to coach Devin Cilley voice disappointment in the Wildcats' overall effort after escaping Leland & Gray, 6-5, on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley High baseball catcher Brayden Russ listens to coach Devin Cilley voice disappointment in the Wildcats' overall effort after escaping Leland & Gray, 6-5, on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

White River Valley High first baseman Zander Clark, right, awaits a pickoff throw as Leland & Gray's Cody Hescock dives back safely during the teams' game on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. White River Valley won, 6-5. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley High first baseman Zander Clark, right, awaits a pickoff throw as Leland & Gray's Cody Hescock dives back safely during the teams' game on May 10, 2024, in South Royalton, Vt. White River Valley won, 6-5. Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-12-2024 4:52 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — Had Friday’s baseball game between White River Valley High and Leland & Gray gone into extra innings, the path paced by Wildcats coach Devin Cilley in front of the home dugout might have become a trench.

Back and forth walked the sixth-year leader as the hosts squandered an early advantage and fell into a fifth-inning tie. His sneakered feet assaulted the grass while the visiting Rebels managed a pair of baserunners during the seventh before pitcher Wyatt Cadwell fanned the frame’s final two batters.

Cilley paused like everyone else at the contest, however, when White River Valley’s Zander Clark hammered a ball to left field for a sacrifice fly that brought Leland French-Dyer home from third base with the winning run. The hosts celebrated the 6-5 triumph, but their narrow avoidance of a second consecutive loss meant a lecture was waiting.

“We can’t win if you guys only give 95%,” Cilley said during a postgame meeting in which he stood facing the left field wall and his players sat against its base. “What’s going on? Is it the turkey season?”

Vermonters may hunt such woodland fowl the entire month of May, so another two weeks of potential distraction loom. If the Wildcats (7-2) want to claim their fourth state crown in the last five seasons, they need to roll over the likes of the Rebels (5-6).

“I wasn’t thrilled,” Cilley said. “The boys weren’t on their game, and they didn’t really come to play.”

White River Valley lost two key pieces after last season when pitcher and shortstop Robby McShinsky graduated and center fielder Tattin Griffin chose to no longer play. Baseball is so popular in the area, however — and Cilley’s standards so high — that the Wildcats remain an annual title threat.

“Our goal is to play every game like it’s a playoff game, so that when we get to the playoffs, it’s no different,” said Cilley, whose squad led, 4-0, after an inning before twice stranding runners on third base with no outs. “We can’t take this as just another Friday game. How we played in the middle today isn’t going to get it done.”

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Cadwell began WRV’s winning rally with a leadoff double, and courtesy runner French-Dyer took third on a wild pitch. Leland & Gray intentionally walked Ty Couture and Joey Ferris to load the bases with no outs. Clark, who had singled and struck out twice previously, watched one pitch before his deep drive to the north plated French-Dyer.

“I would have walked them both as well, because Ty and Joey had both hit pretty well,” Cilley said, noting that Ferris was only a home run short of hitting for the cycle. “Zander came up big for us, and hopefully that will be big for his confidence.”

Said Clark: “I just tried to stay calm and visualize the ball coming in. The first pitch was high, and the next one was good enough for me. It was just relief, because stranding someone at third is one of the most frustrating things you can do out here.”

Cadwell allowed 10 hits and five runs, four of them earned, during seven innings and 116 pitches of work. He stuck out 11 Rebels, walked none and hit one.

“He fought hard all day and stuck with it after they got a couple of hits where it seemed like they just stuck the bat out and got lucky,” Cilley said. “Coming in here and beating us is a big deal for some teams. We have a huge target on our back, and that’s why we can’t give in to the pressure.

“The boys have been doing a good job, but today was a little bit of a down day.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.