Usually a walk-off win is the highlight of a high school baseball game. But on Thursday, Champlain Valley Union High School’s victory was just the cherry on top of an already great day.
CVU sophomore Storm Rushford, who has battled acute lymphoblastic leukemia for the last 10 months, returned to the mound for the Redhawks before Thursday’s game in a ceremonial capacity.
“They really have been by his side, they have gone to see him in the hospital, they have texted, they have called,” said CVU coach Tim Albertson. “You look at Storm and you think, ‘I’ve got it easy and I know that I can get through this.’”
CVU and Essex celebrated the annual Strike Out Cancer Game in Hinesburg and presented the family with a check for $6,500 that they had helped to raise, and then watched as Rushford took the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“I think it meant a lot to the guys, they have been there since the beginning,”
Albertson said. “This is an opportunity for them to give back to somebody that they have had faith in and support.”
Liam Reiner took the ball from Rushford and went the distance on the mound, pitching seven innings, giving up six runs and striking out 11. Tyler Skaflestad was responsible for the game-winning RBI, earning a walk to cap to score a run and cap off a seventh-inning comeback that resulted in a 7-6 win for CVU.
Aidan Johnson was 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Redhawks and Jake Boliba added an RBI double.
A pretty perfect ending to a great day.
“It was exciting, I think the guys loved it,” Albertson said. “When perspective is at your side every single day you are able to take a look at life and see that there are bigger things that being able to play a single game.”
And the story is not over for Rushford, who is working hard to be able to play for the Redhawks this season. He entered the game on Saturday, getting an at-bat and some time on the mound in the 6-3 over North Country.
“He works so hard, he has persevered through so many tough situations, you are rooting for him,” Albertson said. “It is all a matter of how he feels.”