This & That: 500 days

Now that Black River is counting down the days before its doors close for the final time, my thoughts have drifted to the school in a historical athletic prospective. What were its best teams; who were its best athletes? That type of thinking makes sense. Especially because in this case those teams and individuals are likely to stand forever.

While I am thinking out loud, why don’t I broaden those thoughts. There are six schools in our reporting area. They are alphabetically: Bellows Falls, Black River, Fall Mountain, Green Mountain, Leland & Gray, and Springfield. Each school has had great teams and many great athletes. I am sure discussions are held occasionally in each community about the “who” and “what” of those questions. I am going to attempt in the next 500 days to hold a public discussion in each of those communities about those exact items. In case you were wondering, 500 days is Oct. 30, 2020, otherwise known as Halloween Eve.

The purpose of these gatherings will be twofold. First, to have a meeting where anyone interested can state their opinion, but most importantly to record the session and make it a piece of that community’s oral history, preserving the discussion, so it can be treasured for generations to come. Secondly, to include each school or community’s Hall of Fame committee in the session to see if the two entities may be connected. Some schools don’t have Hall of Fames but possibly this can lead to the beginning of one in those communities without one. Athletic pride has a large position in our towns.

Today, the 500-day clock has started clicking. My first step will be to contact each school’s athletic director before school begins in the fall to gauge their interest. Community dates will be announced at least one month ahead of time in this column so that everyone would be able to take part. Interested parties who cannot attend sessions will be able to send in information to be presented. Let us know what you think about this idea by contacting me at bmurphy@vermontjournal.com.

  Legion baseball

Legion baseball is always the sport played at a higher level than the high school game around here because schools combine their players to form a team. Our local entry is Bellows Falls Post 37, but they have players from six area schools. Bill Lockerby is back to coach this year’s group, which has players from Springfield, Green Mountain, Fall Mountain, Vermont Academy, and Windsor on its roster in addition to host Bellows Falls.

athletes
Legion Baseball season takes off. Stock photo

There are seven teams in the Vermont Southern Division this year. Joining Bellows Falls will be Rutland and Brattleboro, who seem to be perennial favorites, along with Lakes Region for the Fair Haven area high schools, Hartford, Bennington, and Randolph. Lockerby sees his team as a contender, and I asked him, “Why?”

“I definitely think we will be playoff contenders because we have strong pitching and I think we will play good defense,” the Post 37 leader said. “Our offense still remains to be seen. We lost some good hitters, but we still have bats like Clayton Groenewold, McGregor Vancor, and Darwin Holcombe to lead us and hope others contribute too.”

The pitching should be good; however, it could have been much better. Kendal Heath and Seth Balch led the way last year and both were expected to return a year after graduation. Unfortunately, Heath had to undergo Tommy John surgery; and despite the fact some day he may be as good as ever, he will never throw another pitch for Post 37. Balch will claim ace honors and will have Jackson Brown and Rex Hill as his very steady number two hurlers. Lockerby also expects to see contributions from Ty Merrill, Dylan McCarthy, Vancor, son Grady Lockerby, Huxley Holcombe, and Ethan McNamara.

Darwin Holcombe is expected to handle the bulk of this staff’s catching duties with help from Gunnar Sawyer. Brown will man first base on Opening Night, but numerous players will land there depending upon who is pitching. Two strong players won’t always be available. McCarthy and Hill are a part of a high-level travel squad in Connecticut and will miss a number of games.

The rest of the infield will often see Griffin Waryas at second, Dylan Merrow at short, and Groenewold at third with Hill and McCarthy capable of playing most of the spots along with Andrew Pelosa. Huxley Holcombe could also see time at first base along with McNamara and a host of others. Lockerby will often be found in leftfield, Vancor in center, and Lucas Saunders in right. Balch and Merrill should also see a lot of time in the outfield. Infielder Reid Hyrckiewicz will see some time, but he also plays Babe Ruth baseball.

Thus, the likelihood is that Bellows Falls will be battling four other teams for one of the final two playoff positions. Lakes Region has already jumped out to a 3-0 start and Bennington is 0-4. Lockerby actually thinks it will come down to “three of us – Lake Region, Hartford, and us. It should be close.”

Post 37 opened their season at home Tuesday, June 18 versus Bennington in a night game at Bellows Falls. They will host Lake Region Wednesday, June 19 under the lights as well. Bellows Falls will then travel to Hartford Thursday, June 20 for another 7 p.m. game before playing a pair at Bennington on Saturday, June 22. All Legion games are seven innings.

In case you missed it

The Fall Mountain Babe Ruth League opened another season Monday night, June 17. There are 10 teams now for this league, which began play in the mid-60s and has passed its 50th anniversary. There are new teams, and there is a local team that has been in the league a long time who departed. Springfield was a late scratch this summer.

The teams that opened on Monday included teams that have been in the league beginning way back in year one: Bellows Falls, Charlestown, Chester, and Walpole, as well as those which have joined since – Sunapee with two teams, Claremont, Newport, Lebanon, and Hartford.

The Springfield boys track team may not have won a state championship, but their second place showing in the Vermont Division III State Meet was impressive. By now, track fans know Bellows Falls moved up a division from the one they have dominated for years, allowing perennial contender Thetford to capture that title with 141 points. However, the Cosmos’ 86 points beat out Oxbow’s 79, Windsor’s 68, Mill River’s 44, and every other contender.

New England fans were certainly disappointed with the Bruins not winning the Stanley Cup, but this team had a tremendous season. No question when it came down to the Bruins and the Blues, one expected the Bruins to win, but the second best of 31 teams is really something special to be cherished. Also note that the Bruins have played in three of the past nine Stanley Cup Finals. That’s an average of once every three years.

On a similar note, the NFL is the league that claims parity, but it’s really the NHL that has such a nice thing going. In the last decade, five long Cup droughts have come to an end. First in 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks won their first cup in 49 years. Then the next season, the Bruins captured their first one in 39 campaigns. Keeping the ball rolling, the Los Angeles Kings won their first cup ever in 2012 and it took their franchise 44 years. Then, one jumps to 2018 and the Washington Capitals captured their first cup after 43 years in the NHL, and then this year St. Louis did the same after 51 seasons.

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