Raptors baseball breaks long slide vs. Wildcats

Rivendell’s Robert McNelly (6) waits to catch the ball as White River Valley’s Brayden Russ (18) slides back to second base during a varsity baseball game at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Rivendell’s Robert McNelly (6) waits to catch the ball as White River Valley’s Brayden Russ (18) slides back to second base during a varsity baseball game at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report for America photographs — Alex Driehaus

Rivendell head coach Eric Reichert, third from left, talks to his players as they leave the field and prepare to bat during a varsity baseball game at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Rivendell head coach Eric Reichert, third from left, talks to his players as they leave the field and prepare to bat during a varsity baseball game at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

White River Valley’s Jacob Benoit (12) holds up the ball after diving to catch it during a varsity baseball game against Rivendell at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley’s Jacob Benoit (12) holds up the ball after diving to catch it during a varsity baseball game against Rivendell at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

White River Valley’s Brayden Russ (18) celebrates after hitting a triple during a varsity baseball game against Rivendell at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley’s Brayden Russ (18) celebrates after hitting a triple during a varsity baseball game against Rivendell at White River Valley High School in South Royalton, Vt., on Friday, May 17, 2024. Rivendell won, 4-3. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By BEN HOOKE

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-19-2024 7:12 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — Rivendell Academy baseball coach Eric Reichert has been coming to the diamond in South Royalton for close to 40 years since his early days coaching summer ball in the 1980s.

The nine-year wait his Rivendell team had to beat White River Valley, the team that plays there, might have felt nearly as long.

The Raptors built an early lead and held on through the tense final innings to win, 4-3, over the Wildcats on a cloudy Friday afternoon. The win marks the first Rivendell victory over White River Valley since the school’s founding. White River Valley’s predecessor, South Royalton High, last fell to the Raptors in 2015 despite yearly meetings between the rivals.

Rivendell’s Will Knowles went the distance for the Raptors, displaying accuracy with both his fastball and curveball to notch six strikeouts and induce weak contact for several flyouts.

“I just trust him to control games, and he does,” said Reichert of his pitcher.

“Nobody else I’d want on the mound.”

White River Valley split the pitching duties, with Ty Couture throwing the majority of the game following an early hook of their starter. Couture pitched well and the Wildcats fielded well behind him, forcing Rivendell to earn each of its runs with good plate discipline and baserunning.

Rivendell landed the early blows, scoring single runs in the second, third and fifth innings on two RBI hits and a bases-loaded walk before the Wildcats got going on their own. Playing with the typical aggressive baserunning that’s been a hallmark of their success, the Wildcats produced two runs on just a single hit to slice the lead down to 3-2 entering the final stretch.

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Parker Piper gave the Raptors an extra run of breathing room in the top of the inning with an RBI groundout, but the Wildcats still had some juice left.

Brayden Russ cracked the first pitch of the bottom of the inning deep to left field for a triple, then escaped a rundown to come home to cut the lead to just a run with no outs in the inning.

But after his heroics, the Wildcats ran out of juice, going down via strikeout, groundout and flyout to close the game out.

The Wildcats fell to 7-4 with the defeat. Graduation losses and opt-outs have put the team’s streak dating back to its South Royalton days of seven consecutive trips to Centennial Field for the state final in jeopardy, but the Wildcats have shown to be a tough out come postseason time.

Rivendell improved to 11-1, marking its highest win total since 2007. The Raptors have never reached a state final but see a strong chance in a wide-open field behind reigning champs Blue Mountain.

“I think we’re going into games thinking, ‘We’re gonna beat these guys,’ ” said Knowles. “And I don’t think we’ve had that before.”