WEST RUTLAND — Black River has enjoyed turning its softball season on its head and the Presidents show no signs of slowing down. When Paige Kelley socked a three-run double in the seventh inning it provided a nice pad and the Presidents went on to defeat West Rutland 8-2 in the Division IV quarterfinals on Friday. Westside has been a problem for the Presidents in recent years — including a 12-9 Horde win in April — but not this time. Pitcher Andrea Stevens made sure of it, spacing three hits in a rock-solid performance for Black River. And now the Presidents, once 1-6, are 9-7 and headed to Proctor to play the Phantoms next week with a state title bid at stake. “That’s no seventh seed,” Westside coach Carl Serrani said. “I wouldn’t want to play them again.” “We really picked it up in the last week of our regular season when we won all five of our games,” said Kelley. “We knew we could do it. We’ve improved so much during the season and when we were 7-7 we knew could do this.” But there were moments of doubt Friday. When Westside starter Elizabeth Bailey was wild in the first two innings, the Presidents did little to capitalize, scoring just two runs and leaving five runners aboard. “One thing we really try not to do is get down,” said Kelley. “We’re always up on the fence cheering for our players. I don’t think any of us got down.” Westside freshman Kiana Grabowski would have been the hero had No. 2 Westside (12-5) rallied to win. She entered the game in a pressure-packed situation and fanned the side with the bases loaded in the second to minimize the damage caused by five walks and two hit batsmen. She also had two hits and scored a run. But after Westside pecked away to get within 4-2 in the third, Stevens became a rock. She struck out five and didn't walk a batter or allow an earned run. Grabowski singled and scored on Deanna Kenyon’s base hit and Shelby Grabowski scored on a hustle play; she tagged up at third base and scooted home on an infield pop-up to give Bailey Sevigney a ribbie. But Stevens got tough, at one point retiring nine straight batters and allowing just two base runners in the final four frames. Becca Rogers had an RBI single for Black River and Kelley made the Horde pay for a pair of walks and an error in the seventh. Kelley tagged a drive to center field to give Black River a comfortable lead with one Horde at-bat to go. “That felt amazing,” said Kelley. “What I did when I got up into the batter’s box — our coach (Zoe Trimboli) on the bus told us to stay in the moment — so when I got into the batter’s box right before that and I smiled and said to myself ‘relax.’ And I hit that and it felt awesome.” Kassie Niklasson and Stevens had two hits apiece as Black River collected seven. Now the Presidents go to Proctor to face a team with whom they split, losing 17-11 early in the year and winning 30-1 last week when Proctor went to Ludlow with less than a full compliment of players. Trimboli was well aware of Proctor’s status that day but she’s also mindful of what her team has done. “We’re the seventh seed so the pressure is on everyone else,” said Trimboli. “If we hit the way I know we can ... we’d love to go to Castleton (the finals site).” That would be a special trip for a school whose struggles to stay alive are well documented, as well as a special day for Stevens, a left-handed ace who has been kept off the field by a series of injuries. “The fortitude on that kid with three torn ACL’s?” said Serrani. “I give her all the kudos in the world. “Keep goin’, kid.” Follow Bob on Twitter: @Bob_Fredette bob.fredette@rutlandherald.com  

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