The more things change, the more they remain the same:
An interesting example comes from the Marble Valley League. For the most part, the league has things right, as they allow schools to ask to compete in individual sports at the level they feel is most appropriate. Regardless of a teams’ status in the MVL, just as it should be at the state level, your classification is determined by student enrollment, by sport, but, the MVL allows a team in a school, which has trouble competing with their division, to compete down.
Some teams in the MVL drop down and stay down because they never excel, but… there are times a school has a group of students, who excel at the lower level and then when realignment comes around again (generally every two years), they are moved up, so they don’t become dominant of schools, not their size.
Unfortunately, often the catch is, the strong athletes in a program graduate and a much lesser ability group is left to face the iron. Bellows Falls softball has been in this situation in recent years. They had a couple years (the springs of 2014 and 2015) when they played a Division III/IV schedule in the MVL and finished 8-6 and 13-3 in back to back years. The 13-3 record was when they were actually classified by the state in Division III and were seeded third in the state tourney, but they didn’t win a post-season game.
However, when the new two-year cycle came out, based on their 21-9 two-year record and now Division II placement, the MVL powers that be decided, for the next two years, they needed to play a DII schedule, which even includes games versus DI schools.
Last spring, BF went 4-12 in softball and who knows what the record will be this time around. They are presently 1-2 and were headed out as we wrote to travel to Bennington to face Mount Anthony on Tuesday.
Among the seventeen Division II softball teams in Vermont, BF is the 11th largest. Union-32 has the largest enrollment in D II, with 272 girls and BF has 166. The 10th largest school has 186 students and the 12th has 157. Obviously BF is a small DII school.
BF played a pretty good game at Fair Haven Saturday without some vacationing bodies and fell 6-0. They walked off the field looking defeated, but they should have felt better about themselves. As we said, they played well.
BF has never won a state softball championship, and has a 14-27 lifetime play-off record in the sport. The last time they won a play-off game was 2008, when they advanced to the semi-final in DII and bowed to Harwood 4-2. The Lady Terriers were a seventh seed that season.
The reason for writing this was not to criticize the MVL and their set-up, but to show what a delicate balance this all is. The only thing I think I could suggest is, let a team spend a minimum of three years in a renaissance position before you move them up, unless the team still has a loaded roster returning. This scenario may be as difficult as the old proverbial line, which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
Pitching and defense – I am a big baseball fan. I don’t care what level the game is at from high school through the pros, I love pitching and defense. I am capable of oohing and aweing at a big hit or two, especially a home run, but pitching and defense is my thing.
Most of you readers, like Mr. Saxtons River Pirate Dave Moore, want plenty of runs and plenty of hits, but give me a baseball ballet with precision.
Kendall Heath has pitched for Fall Mountain for three years now. The junior has begun this season in extraordinary fashion. His coach Tom Stockton tells us, “he’s going to be special.”
Fall Mountain is currently 3-0 with 6-1 and 2-0 victories over Kearsarge and Newport respectively with Heath on the mound, and on Monday they defeated Mascoma 9-3 in a game. Heath’s junior classmate Justin Beauregard spaced eight hits in. FM has three more games remaining this week with home contests with Conant (Wednesday) and Monadadnock (Friday) and a road game at Belmont in between.
Heath pitched a no-hitter against Newport and allowed one-hit versus Kearsarge, (Stockton says “he shook off a pitch call on that one”) and in his fourteen innings, has allowed the one hit, while striking out 31 of the 42 batters he has retired.
New Hampshire has introduced a pitch count in baseball this spring, (Vermont already has played with one for a few years) and that limits Heath’s outings. If a pitcher tosses 1-25 pitches said pitcher needs no rest, if they throw 26-50 pitches, they will need a days rest, while 51-75 pitches means a pitcher will need two days rest and if they throw more than 76 tosses, three days rest will be needed.