Early signs good for CVU to repeat as state champs

Although the baseball preseason was challenging with the team stuck inside much of the time because of the weather, it hasn’t slowed the Champlain Vallley Union High team down so far. The season has started just as last year’s Division I champs would like.

Champlain Valley is unbeaten in early regular season play, after putting up a 4-0 record with wins over Mt. Abraham, Rice, Burr & Burton and Middlebury to begin its 2024 title quest.

Needless to say, the Redhawks are ranked first in the state.

“We have a great mix of returners and newcomers,” said assistant coach Sam Fontaine. “It’s been awesome to see the competitiveness at different positions on the field and in the lineup.”

CVU 10, Mt. Abraham 3
John Deyo put CVU on the winning path right away at Mt. Abraham on April 23. In his first at bat of the regular season, Deyo singled. He followed that up with a double in the fourth and another single in the sixth.

Photo by Al Frey
The Redhawks’ Aaron LaRose drops his bat as he begins to run on Saturday at home against Burr & Burton.

The sixth inning was gravy time for the Redhawks, as the team put up six runs in that frame for a 9-2 lead.

Although Mt. Abrahams added a third run in the bottom of sixth to make the score 9-3, it was way too little, way too late.

Stephen Rickert took the win on the mound, pitching into the sixth and striking out nine, while only giving up two hits. Elise Berger finished the sixth and closed it out in the seventh. Although she gave up two hits and walked one, Berger didn’t give up any runs.

Russ Willoughby went 2-for-4 at the plate for the Redhawks, getting three RBIs.

CVU 8, Rice 4
Champlain Valley was on the road again on Thursday, April 25, for its second tilt of the season, traveling to the Green Knights’ home for a brutally cold contest. It was baseball played in football weather, but the Redhawks stayed hot.

Rice got on the board first in the bottom of the second when the Green Knights pulled off a double steal, ending up with runners on second and third.

Rice’s Sebastian Parent singled to right to score Coleton Merchant from third. Although Landon Merchant followed by hitting a grounder into a double play, JD Raleigh was able to score, putting his team up 2-0.

CVU tied it up in the top of the third, and then broke the game open in the top of the fifth with four runs to take a lead the Redhawks never relinquished.

Calvin Steele hit a line-drive single to center to score Russell Willoughby. Later in the fifth, Aaron LaRose hit a double to right field that scored Riley McDade and Rickert.

LaRose was the winning pitcher, giving up four hits and four runs, but striking out seven.

CVU 5, Burr & Burton 1
On Saturday, Champlain Valley celebrated its first home game of the season with a 5-1 win over the Burr & Burton Bulldogs in much more baseballish weather.

Rickert was once again on the mound, pitching a complete game, striking out 12 batters, while giving up four hits, one run and a lone walk.

Photo by Al Frey. The Redhawks’ Stephen Rickert pitched a complete game, striking out 12, in a 5-1 win over Burr & Burton.
Photo by Al Frey
The Redhawks’ Stephen Rickert pitched a complete game, striking out 12, in a 5-1 win over Burr & Burton.

The Redhawks got on the board in the fourth, scoring four in a contest that had been scoreless until that point.

Steele got things rolling with a single and then stole second, scoring on a single by Willoughby.

Willoughby scored on a wild pitch and Declan Cummings scored on a single by Travis Stroh.

CVU 10, Middlebury 2
CVU was back on the road on Monday, traveling to Middlebury for a game that was moved up from Tuesday because of the weather forecast.

The Redhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead, right off the bat, so to speak, with two outs in the first inning.

Stroh hit a sacrifice fly to score Willoughby, a balk scored Steele and Cummings scored on a Tiger error.

The Redhawks scored five runs on two hits in the fifth to go up 8-1 and the rout was on.

Freshman Andrew Nunqata took the win with four innings on the mound, giving up two hits and a run.

Berger came on for three innings of relief work, giving up five hits and two runs while striking out five.

CVU follows the Middlebury game with what head coach Nicky Elderton called a gauntlet of away games.

The Redhawks will be at Mt. Mansfield at 4:30 p.m. this Thursday (May 2), at Essex at 2 p.m. Saturday (May 4) and at South Burlington 4 p.m. next Tuesday (May 7). If you are going to a game, it’s a good idea to check the website at this time of year, with schedules changing at a moment’s notice.

Elderton does not consider this a rebuilding year for CVU. Even though the Redhawks lost a good number of seniors to graduation, they had a lot of returning players.

“We’re a very veteran team. There’s a lot of great leaders,” Elderton said. “It’s a much different team than last year, but we’re just finding our identity.”

He has three underclassmen who are getting a good bit of playing time, and he is excited to see the impact they could have.

“We’re CVU. We’re a very deep team year in year out,” Elderton said.