Seniors Power Wildcats to Second Straight Top Seed

by Ken Brown

MONTPELIER – A special group of program-building seniors were honored last week by their Hazen Union baseball team and the Hardwick community as they helped lead the Wildcats to a pair of wins to clinch the top seed in Division III and a school record 14 regular season wins.

Senior ace Lyle Rooney delivered a complete game masterpiece under the lights to lead Hazen to a 6-0 road win over Montpelier last Monday night. Rooney struck out 13 Solons, allowing only a soft single in an eighty-nine-pitch effort. Tyler Rivard was a perfect 2-2 at the plate, including a triple and fellow senior James Montgomery drove in three runs to power the offense. Freshman Owen Skorstad also had a single and scored a run in the win. Andrew Tringe struck out six over four plus innings in the loss for Montpelier, as they fell to 8-8. With the win, Hazen Union secured the top seed in the upcoming Division III tournament for the second time in school history, matching their own feat from 2022.

“It was great to see the kids get to experience a game like this on a field like this under the lights,” said head coach Spencer Howard. “Lyle threw one of his best games of the year, throwing his breaking ball for strikes and working ahead in the count. The guys were engaged and we had great local support from the community at the game, which made it even more special,” added Howard.

Junior Andrew Menard twirled a gem of his own on Tuesday, striking out seven and allowing just two hits in a complete game effort to help the Cats hold down Thetford Academy 1-0 on Senior Night. Rivard and Montgomery supplied all the support Menard needed, combining for four hits and a pair of doubles in the win. Nolan Pepe and Liam Brooks had a hit apiece and Xander Oshoni was the hard luck loser for the Panthers as they wrapped up the regular season at 9-6. Seniors Jadon Baker, Rooney, Rivard and Montgomery were honored before the game for their spectacular high school careers on the diamond that has helped turn a spiraling baseball program at Hazen into a perennial power. They led the program to their first state title appearance in 15 years last season and will enter the upcoming postseason as the team to beat once again, sporting a 41-12 record with the four of them on the field the last three years. That is the best three-year stretch in the history of Hazen Union baseball.

“That was Andrew’s best game of the season, changing speeds, working ahead, and battling through some high-pressure moments. It was great to see him link together some things that we’ve been working on and building towards all season. This is a special team made up of some special kids, who turned around and played a tough baseball team in less than 24 hours without complaint. They just show up and do their jobs and it starts with the leadership from this group of seniors. Ethan Shopland, Aasha Gould, and Tyson Davison helped lay the blueprint for how we wanted to approach practices and games and these four seniors have continued to preach and show that same team first unselfish attitude. Lyle literally wants to pitch every day, Tyler can do anything in so many ways at different positions for this team, Jadon is just a special outfielder and leads the defense out there, and James’ growth as a catcher for this team has been amazing and he has full command over this pitching staff. Thetford has had our number a couple times in the postseason over the years, so this was one the guys wanted to get and it was a great team win,” said Howard.

Wyatt Mason struck out 13 in a complete game effort to help Lyndon Institute end the Wildcats seven game win streak 3-0 at home on Thursday. Austin Wheeler led the Vikings with a pair of hits, including a two-run double and Logan Wheeler added an RBI triple in the win. Andrew Menard had a single for Hazen and Tyler Rivard took the loss, allowing two earned runs over six innings. The Vikings will enter the division II playoffs with a 12-4 record as the third overall seed.

“Wyatt threw the ball well and I was impressed with his breaking ball. We struggled to pull the trigger against him, striking out seven times looking, but it’s just another good prep for us against a good pitcher with the playoffs coming up. Tyler pitched a hell of a game, we just didn’t support him with any runs. We’ll practice hard this week and take the earned days off to heal some nicks and bruises, but the guys are locked in and focused on the next game in front of them,” said Howard.

Hazen Union will have a bye in the first round of the Division III state tournament and will host the winner of the Vergennes-Woodstock matchup on Friday. If they advance, the Wildcats will also be at Hudson Fields in the semifinal round next Tuesday.

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