CVU downs Rice, moves to second round in playoffs on Friday

As the regular season came to a close, the Champlain Valley Union High baseball team was not able to hang onto its No. 1 ranking in Division 1, so unlike last year the Redhawks did not get the advantage of beginning the postseason with a bye in the first round.

Instead, South Burlington which had assumed the first-place ranking took the bye, and CVU played host to visiting Rice Memorial on Tuesday, June 4, in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Redhawks touted a 12-1 record until it faced South Burlington on June 28, the lone team that had beaten them, and in the rematch the Wolves prevailed again. But still the Redhawks held the No. 1 ranking.

Photo by Judy Stroh. 
Champlain Valley catcher Calvin Steele and Rice hitter Wyatt Wolpert wait for the ball during Tuesday night’s 6-0 Redhawks’ victory in the first round of the state playoffs.
Photo by Judy Stroh
Champlain Valley catcher Calvin Steele and Rice hitter Wyatt Wolpert wait for the ball during Tuesday night’s 6-0 Redhawks’ victory in the first round of the state playoffs.

But then two more losses dropped the team to 12-4. CVU entered the postseason ranked No. 2 with Mount Anthony at No.3 and Burr & Burton at No. 4, both sporting 13-3 records, according to the Vermont Principals’ Association.

Colchester 1, CVU 0
On Thursday, June 30, Champlain Valley traveled to Colchester for a game that turned into a low-scoring, pitching duel.

CVU’s starting pitcher Aaron LaRose gave the Redhawks six strong innings, allowing four hits and walking just one, but he gave up the game’s one-and-only run in the second inning.

With two outs, Rishon Robenstein hit a single to right field that scored Jackson Pecor from second to give the Lakers all the offense they would need.

Colchester’s Zach Davis took the win from the mound, giving up a hit, striking out eight and walking five.

LaRose and Riley McDade got CVU’s only hits in the game.

St. Johnsbury 3, CVU 0
The Redhawks were able to find their missing bats on Saturday, June 1, outhitting the St. Johnsbury seven to five, but unfortunately, they couldn’t find the plate, falling to a third shutout in three games.

This game was after most other schools had finished the regular season, as it was a makeup of a game rained out earlier in the season.

In the top of the second inning, a Redhawk error put Cage Thompson on base and Landon Robinson scored.

With Rex Hauser on first, Jason Mitchell Jr. homered to put the Hilltoppers up 3-0.

For CVU, Elise Berger threw for four innings, giving up three hits and the three runs. She struck out four and walked one. Stephen Rickert pitched three innings in relief, giving up two hits, striking out four and walking one.

The Hilltoppers got five innings on the mound from Thompson, who gave up four hits, struck out four and walked one.

Besides their scoring woes, the Redhawks did not have their usual adept fielding skills, committing five errors.

CVU 6, Rice 0
Despite the sports trope that it’s difficult to beat the same team three times in a season, Champlain Valley prevailed over Rice Memorial for a third time this Tuesday, June 4, in the first round of the Division 1 baseball playoffs.

The shutout win propelled the Redhawks into the second round, and another home field matchup, this time at 4:30 this Friday, June 7, against Brattleboro.

No. 11 Brattleboro comes to Hinesburg thanks to a 2-1 win over No. 6 St. Johnsbury on Tuesday.

No. 3 CVU had beaten Rice 8-4 at its home field on April 25 and 13-3 at home on May 23.

The Redhawks jumped out to an early lead in the second. With one out, Adam LaRose hit a ground ball that was caught, but he was safe when the first baseman dropped the ball while trying to make the tag.

LaRose subsequently stole second and third and then scored on a wild pitch. John Deyo doubled to drive in Andrew Nunziata.

A Travis Stroh triple scored Deyo to put the Redhawks up 3-0.

In the fourth, CVU added another run when Russell Willoughby scored from third on a passed ball.

A nifty Deyo line drive to left field, scored Calvin Steele to add another run in the bottom of the fifth and put the Redhawks up 5-0.

Two wild pitches with Stroh at the plate moved Deyo to third and then home to add another run for the final score of 6-0.

The top of the sixth inning featured two spectacular catches by Stephen Rickert, getting out two batters in a row.

“He just goes out and gets it. That’s the mentality we’ve got to show each and every inning — that we want the ball,” coach Nicky Elderton said of Rickert’s fielding. “You know, he’s a captain for a reason.”

Elderton also had praise for Rickert’s and LaRose’s performances on the mound.

Rickert pitched the first four innings, giving up no runs and only two hits, while striking out seven and walking one. LaRose pitched the final three innings and kept the shutout intact. He gave up a hit, struck out three and walked four.

Deyo led CVU offensively with two hits in four trips to the plate.

The Redhawks continued their aggressive base-running approach, stealing six bases. Willoughby stole half of that total and LaRose added two.

Almost every time a hitter reached base, CVU brought in a courtesy runner. This is part of the team’s strategy for base running, so that as often as feasible, there’s a fresh runner, not winded and eager to steal.

“We got caught a couple of times stealing. We knew that might happen with a lefty on the mound, but that was the game plan, and we stuck to it,” Elderton said.

At least for this game, CVU appeared to have solved its spate of fielding mishaps, playing error-free ball against Rice.

Before the three-game-shutout skid, the Redhawks did very well in the error department. For the first 13 games of the season, the team averaged less than 1.6 errors a game. During the three loses, the Redhawks committed 10 errors, an average of more than 3.3 errors a game.