CASTLETON — West Rutland pitcher Elizabeth Bailey was rocked by two vicious line drives off her body in the fifth inning, but you could say Blue Mountain got rocked even harder in the bottom of the sixth. West Rutland banged out nine hits in that inning and scored 12 runs on the way to a 19-9 victory in Saturday’s Division IV state championship softball game at Castleton University.
The Golden Horde was trailing 8-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth and still trailed 9-7 when they came to bat in the sixth.
Then, one of the highest-scoring innings in Vermont softball championship game history changed everything. The Golden Horde sent 16 batters to the plate that inning.
Becky Sanderson got the two-run single that gave the Horde their first lead of the game, 10-9.
“I was just trying to hit anything to get the runners home because we were down,” Sanderson said.
It was Sanderson’s third hit of the game and her third and fourth RBIs.
“She knows her role so well,” Westside coach Laurie Serrani said of Sanderson.
Sanderson and Kiera Pipeling each had two hits in that inning.
The day did not start well for the Horde. The Bucks nabbed five runs and five hits off starting pitcher Kiana Grabowski in the top of the first. Morgan Beck, Alivia Crum and Lauryn Alley had three hits in a row and Alley’s was an RBI double.
The Horde got one in the bottom of the first when Pipeling singled and came around to score on an error.
Serrani sent Bailey to the circle to start the second and she calmed things down considerably.
“She (Bailey) was on when we were warming up before the game,” said Pipeling, the catcher. “We had both pitchers warm up in case anything like that happened.”
“Kiana is a good pitcher but Blue Mountain was finding the sweet spot,” Bailey said. “I knew I couldn’t walk many because we were already down 5-1.”
Blue Mountain extended its lead to 7-1 with two in the second, the big blow an RBI triple by pitcher Libby Bogie.
The Horde pushed one across in the third but Antonia Munson’s RBI triple in the fourth padded the Bucks’ lead to 8-2.
Things got tighter in the bottom of the fourth when Bailey Sevigny had a double, Kasey Serrani a single and Madison Guay a two-run single. The three runs closed the lead to 8-5 and suddenly the game had a much different feel to it.
Then came an eventful fifth when Crum and Alley banged consecutive shots off Bailey for base hits. The first one knocked her mask off before the ball also hit off her collarbone. She went down and remained motionless for a few seconds. The second was drilled off her knee.
“I was nervous but I know she is really strong,” Pipeling said.
“It was a little scary getting the ball off my face mask,” Bailey said.
The Bucks got just one run in the inning but it gave them a 9-5 lead.
It shrunk to 9-7 in the bottom of that inning when two costly errors by the Bucks helped the Horde score twice.
Then came the Bucks’ nightmare — that sixth inning when they had to watch a merry-go-round of Horde base runners.
The hard-throwing Bogie went the distance for Blue Mountain and deserved better. The defense collapsed behind her, physical and mental errors quickly adding up. She struck out eight against three walks but surrendered 17 hits.
Bailey struck out seven and walked four. Only one run of the four she allowed was earned.
Alley led the Bucks at the plate with three hits and two RBIs. Crum and Munson added two safeties each.
Leading the Horde was Sanderson with three hits and four RBIs. Pipeling and Alissa Covurrubias had three hits each. Bailey had two hits and drove in two runs.
Coach Serrani explained the decision to change pitchers in the second, saying, “Kiana was throwing the ball well but they were jumping on it. We didn’t expect that. They have been working very hard on their hitting and it showed.”
Serrani was impressed by the way Bailey bounced back after getting drilled by the line drives.
“Last year, I don’t think she would have finished the game. She has matured so much and she is only a sophomore,” Serrani said.
She also marveled at the way her team stayed together when things looked dire, facing deficits of 5-1 and 8-2.
“I looked at the faces in the dugout then and I didn’t see any that looked discouraged,” Serrani said.
It might not have shown on their faces, but there was some fluttering inside.
“We were a little stressed,” Bailey said about the early hole the Horde had dug themselves.
Westside left fielder Kasey Serrani caught the final out of the game and raised her arms high in a signal of triumph. The Horde’s fourth state softball championship, and second in three years, was in the books and the fire trucks were waiting on Route 4A for the escort of champions back to West Rutland.