BRATTLEBORO -- As it turns out, Kelly Tompkins and Tammy Brassard have quite a bit in common.
They were teammates at Springfield College, they have each been the head coach of a varsity softball team for the past 14 years, and they will lead their squad into a state title game in Poultney next week.
And, yes, they both have a different last name now as well.
Tammy Claussen’s top-seeded Leland & Gray softball team will face No. 6 Oxbow in Sunday’s Division 3 finale at 4:30 p.m., while Kelly Markol’s Colonels could play Essex, MAU or Missisquoi in Tuesday’s Division 1 championship.
"These girls have absolutely believed in each other. They get along really well, enjoy being with each other, and they support each other," said Claussen of the 15-3 Rebels, who disposed of Thetford and Randolph to get to this point.
The team from Townshend can hit the ball. And that’s no surprise, as their coach was third on the Springfield College team with a .282 average in 1990.
Ashley Goddard leads the Rebels offensively with a .456 batting average, 21 runs batted in and 29 runs scored, while freshman Jordan Gouger is batting .333 and has knocked in 16 runs from the leadoff spot. Goddard and Gouger have belted three and four home runs respectively.
The Colonels, on the other hand, have the 2013 Gatorade Vermont Softball Player of the Year in the circle.
Kayla Wood, who pitched Brattleboro to state titles in 2010 and 2011, has an impressive 12-1 career record in the circle during the playoffs. This season, she has one perfect game, three no-hitters, seven shutouts, 200 strikeouts and has given up just seven earned runs in 127.2 innings.
"You know what, Kayla is the most humble person you will ever meet. There is no better teammate than her. She is a great player and a great kid," said BUHS coach Kelly Markol, whose 16-2-1 Colonels zipped North Country, BFA-St. Albans and Colchester to reach the Division 1 final.
Four different players are batting over .300 this season for the purple and white, including Alyssa Bezanson (.367), Bailey Paige (.349), Wood (.333) and Maddy Derosia (.314). Derosia has a team-high 12 RBIs, while Rissa Smith and Paige are next with 10, and catcher Mckinlie Carpenter has driven in nine runs.
"We really are the definition of a team. It’s been really fun to watch these kids gel together. Coaching is not just about softball...it’s teaching kids about life and to care about each other," stated Markol. "With Jeff (Rawson) being sick, we have really come together. It’s taught us that softball is just a game. That playing softball is so minute. We all really care about Jeff."
Assistant coaches Jeff Rawson and Al Wood are huge parts of their team’s recent success. And so are Leland & Gray assistants Deb Record and Kendra Brooks, who were scouting Thursday’s semifinal between Enosburg Falls and Oxbow.
With the victory, the Olympians will now have to go up against rising star Elizabeth Symanski.
"She continues to amaze me every time she steps on the field," said Claussen of her junior pitcher. "You never see her get flustered. I’ve been impressed with her work ethic and her ‘never say quit’ attitude."
In 18 games this season, the Leland & Gray ace has fanned 153, walked 83 and given up 113 hits. Claussen gives credit for a lot of Symanski’s results to catcher Elizabeth Gallup, who calls all of the pitches.
And Claussen knows a little something about quality batterymates, having caught for Markol at Springfield College.
"We’re both really competitive," noted Markol, referring to her and Claussen. "I remember when Tammy was catching for me at Springfield College and there was a pop-up between us. We both went after it, collided and the ball dropped onto the field. We both just looked at each other in disbelief."
Claussen’s best memory is from just before the ECAC Division 2 championship, when the Springfield coach asked Tompkins who she wanted to catch for her. The pitcher never hesitated when choosing Brassard.
"She had a gun," said Markol of Claussen. "She was a great teammate and is a great person."
The Colonels will be playing in their 17th finale in school history and are looking for their 11th gold medal. The Rebels are seeking their first ever softball state title, with their lone finals appearance coming in 1991.
Shane Covey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 163.