Windsor knocks of No. 1 seed Leland & Gray
TOWNSHEND, Vt. — Seth Balch was nearly unhittable as Windsor knocked off top-seeded Leland & Gray 3-1 in eight innings in the VPA Division 3 semifinals Monday.
The senior hurler went the distance, chalked up 13 strikeouts and surrendered just one hit. In fact, he hit more batters than batters hit him. He put two Rebels on base after hitting them with pitches. Balch didn't issue a single walk and L&G managed to just eight runners on the bases, only three by Balch's hand. Four reached on Yellows Jackets errors and another on a fielder's choice.
“I feel amazing,” he said. “We went to the semifinals in basketball, but I don't know if anything's ever felt as good as this. I'm just excited to get back, play baseball on Saturday.”
Despite his impressive performance, Balch didn't feel he brought his best stuff to the hill.
“I don't know if I could say it's one of my better ones, but it's probably one of my biggest ones,” he said. “It's probably by far my biggest one.”
Windsor coach Jamie Richardson agrees that it probably wasn't his best showing on the mound.
“He really wasn't,” he said. “He's got a little bit off his velocity today. He was still able to spot balls. He never walks many guys anyway. He's usually right around the plate. His off-speed pitch was enough to fool guys.”
Despite a big opportunity to to score in the fourth — that ended in a double play after Nick Kapuscinski and Duncan Frazer hit back-to-back singles — the Jacks didn't hang their heads. While Balch was handcuffing the L&G batters, the Windsor hitters stepped up big in the late innings to push the Jacks into the championship game.
Down 1-0 heading into the top of the sixth, Kapuscinski led off with a line-drive double to the left-center field gap, but would end up at third following an error at the end if the play. The next batter up, Frazer grounded up the middle and L&G shortstop Patrick McDonald made a diving stop to save a base hit, but it brought Kapuscinski home to tie the score.
The Rebels' Nick Morrow would reach on an error in the bottom of the inning and Bryce Karg would break up Balch's no-hit bid with a single in the seventh. However, Balch countered with six Ks to erase any hope of a win in regulation for L&G.
Conner Gould got on when his ground ball got away from third baseman Max Cramp. Then, with Gould on second and one away, Duncan Frazer hit a rope that hit in font of center fielder Jeremy Bovat and got past him for a triple. That scored Gould to give Windsor its first lead of the day.
With courtesy runner Dakota Paige on third, head coach Jamie Richardson gave Rylan Richardson the suicide squeeze sign. The freshman didn't make contact, but the ball bounced off catcher Owen Beattie and out in front of the plate as Paige raced home to make it 3-1.
In the bottom of the inning, Balch induced an easy ground ball out to third baseman Brandon Tillman, then fanned the final two batters to put the W in the book.
The Rebels' only run was unearned as McDonald led off the bottom of the first on a towering pop fly into shallow right field that bounced in and out of the glove of second baseman Richardson. He would score on another error when a hard-hit ball got past Kapuscinski at first. And it was only McDonald's heads-up thinking that got the run in as the Jacks had him dead at the plate, only to see him leap over Frazer's tag.
Balch's faith in his defense never wavered, despite three Windsor miscues in the first three innings.
“I wasn't really nervous about support,” he said. “It's tough coming from behind, but we always preach on this team, nothing negative. We're always going to be 'if somebody does something wrong, pick them up.' I knew they had my back and I'd have their back and it all worked out.”
The Yellow Jackets finished with seven hits as Frazer went 2-for-4 with a triple and Kapuscinski was 2-for-4 with a double. Jake Meagher and Ryland Richardson each went 1-for-3, and Balch was 1-for-4.
“I couldn't be more lucky than to have such a great team as this. They all rallied behind me and it was just such a great game, said Balch.”
Windsor dropped five of its first seven games to start the season, but four losses came against D-1 opponents (two that are in the semis). That competition has paid big dividends in the postseason.
“When you play tough competition, these games, they're maybe a little bit easier," coach Richardson said.
The fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets feel they are ready for the next foe, which will be the winner of today's semi between No. 3 Randolph and No. 7 Williamstown. That game will be played Saturday at Centennial Field in Burlington at a time to be determined.