While left-handed baseball pitchers are rare, left-handed softball pitchers are even more unique. But even more scarce is a school with a lefty starting pitcher in both softball and baseball.
Meet Riley Canty and Ian Parent of Champlain Valley Union High School. Left-handed Canty has started every game for the Redhawks softball team, which is 11-5 going into the playoffs.
And southpaw Parent is 5-0 with one save for the CVU baseball team, which is 15-1 after the regular season.
In the first round of the playoffs, Riley and her teammates on the CVU softball team faced Colchester at home in a game on Wednesday (May 29) which was not finished by press time
The baseball team has a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They will face the winner of the Rutland-Brattleboro matchup at CVU at 4:30 Friday (May 31).
Making the lefty situation even more rare is the fact that softball coach Mike Sullivan is also left-handed.
“I have a left-handed catcher as well, so I may be a little biased,” he admitted.
The left-handed catcher is Kiley McClure.
“I call it the Riley and Kiley show out there,” Sullivan said.
Lots of softball together
Riley Canty said that she has played with McClure, who’s a junior, for four years and she thinks that has helped this year. She attributes much of the team’s success to how long so many of them have played together. She’s played with many of her teammates since she was in elementary school.
Her mother Donna Canty helped start the softball program in Shelburne, and Riley started playing softball when she was 6. Riley said she and Kristy Carlson, who plays first base, have been playing together since they were 7 on the Shelburne Little League Riptide team.
Her father Joe Canty, who’s lived in Shelburne for at least 20 years, was a pitcher at Rutland High and went to Jacksonville University in Florida on a pitching scholarship.
Joe Canty said that he thinks being left-handed pitcher in softball is a particular advantage because batters so seldom face a southpaw.
“I haven’t seen one other left-handed pitcher in softball this year and I’ve been to all of the games,” he said. “And if you watch college softball on TV you won’t see many of them.”
Riley Canty comes from a family of athletes. Her late grandfather lettered in four high school sports and is in the Rutland High Hall of Fame, her uncle ran track at Castleton College and is in their Hall of Fame and her 15-year-old brother Ryan made the varsity in football, hockey and baseball at CVU as a freshman, said Joe Canty.
Leaning to the left on baseball
And the baseball team doesn’t need to feel … er … left out. Coach Tim Albertson and assistant coach Justin Teator are both lefties.
Albertson can appreciate a left-handed pitcher because he himself was one.
He said that it can be difficult for hitters facing a leftie because “the pitch comes in different. It rises on a curve and is coming up and into the batter.”
Another asset of a left-handed pitcher is that because they are facing first base as they throw, they can control the running game, more easily picking off a runner at first.
“Ian has got a really nice move to first,” Albertson said.
“Everything with Ian’s a little sharper this year. His curve has a little more bite,” said Ian’s father, Tom Person of Williston. “He’s doing a better job of commanding the zone.”
And he should know; Tom Person coached Ian and many of his teammates starting when they were 5 or 6 years old.
“Ian’s having a really good year and he was named Gatorade Player of the Year,” Tom Person said. “It’s really fun to watch.” (See accompanying story)
Although CVU took the same 15-1 record into the playoffs last year only to lose in the quarterfinals, Ian Parent said he likes their chances to go farther this year.
“This year we’ve got a better team chemistry. We’re clicking better,” Ian said.
Ian used a game he pitched against Rice Memorial High School on May 15 to illustrate how good this season is going for him.
“The majority of the time when I pitch, my worst inning is the first,” he said. And against Rice that’s the way it seemed it might be going.
Ian said his first two pitches were strikes. Then he hit the batter. However, his left-handed advantage against runners kicked in, and he picked off the runner at first.
He went on to pitch a no-hitter.
Ian Parent and Riley Canty are both seniors and plan to play in college. Ian’s headed to Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., which is on the coast and where you can see the ocean from much of campus, he said.
Riley is headed to the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, which also happens to be on the coast.
What are the odds: Two CVU lefties headed to the right coast for college?