by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – The Hazen Union baseball team’s top two senior stars were on their game early to start the season last week in a pivotal Capital League win over Division II Montpelier.
Lyle Rooney pitched five no-hit innings and Tyler Rivard belted a solo homer to lead the Wildcats to a 6-2 home win over the Solons on Saturday. Rooney struck out seven and walked a pair to earn the win, Rivard added two hits and two runs, and fellow senior Jadon Baker went 1-4 with an RBI and a run scored in the win.
“It was good to see Lyle extend into the fifth inning and work his way out of some trouble early. He had good stuff, mixed his pitches well, and we played some really solid defense at key moments in the game behind him. Tyler and the whole team did a great job working long at bats and his homer in the sixth was tattooed almost all the way to the tree line in left center. We were a little heavy in the strikeout department, but it was our first time out and it was a solid first win against a good ball club,” said head coach Spencer Howard.
The Wildcats scored three in the bottom half of the second inning off of a pair of Montpelier errors and increased their lead to 5-0 in the third off another pair of Solon miscues. “Looney” battled out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the third inning and Baker made a sensational running catch in center field to end another Solon rally in the top half of the fourth. Rivard relieved Rooney in the top of the sixth and Nate Groff and Andrew Tringe scored to cut the lead to three, before Rivard put the game out of reach with his solo blast. Rivard earned the save, striking out one, while allowing a pair of hits. Keegan Smith was the hard luck loser for the Solons, striking out 11 Wildcats, while allowing just three hits over five innings. Colden Hollingsworth and Clayton Foster had a hit apiece in the loss as Montpelier fell to 1-2 on the season. They were coming off of a dominant 15-5 win over Division III state champion Peoples Academy just two days earlier.
“Smith kept us off balance for most of the day and it is always tough to start the season against a lefty, you just can’t replicate it in practice. James Montgomery did a nice job for us behind the plate and he and Lyle were on the same page for most of the day. The ground Jadon covered on that catch in the fourth inning was amazing and he truly is a defensive weapon for us in center field. Brendan Moodie is one of our three new starters this year along with Jake Davison and Owen Skorstad and his sacrifice bunt in the second inning really set the tone and got our offense going. Jake’s a junior and plays a solid first base and Owen’s only a freshman and his communication with our other outfielders is only going to get better as we get more games under our belt,” said Howard.
Howard steered Hazen Union to 15 wins last season and their first Division III title game appearance since 2007. Rivard was one of the top offensive players in the Capital League last season and Rooney is a true ace on the hill, throwing his second no-hitter in as many seasons last spring. With Montpelier and Peoples Academy moving up to Division II this season, Hazen is one of the favorites in Division III to make it back to Centennial Field in June.
“You can’t ask for a better start this early in the season from Lyle and Tyler is one of the best hitters in the state. We are a different team this season however, and we have some chemistry to build and some new players to develop along the way. We have a lot of upperclassmen on this team that knows what it takes to get ready for meaningful games later in the season, but it is a long way away and we are just working at getting better as a complete baseball team each and every day,” said Howard.
The Wildcats are working on rescheduling their postponed match-up with Danville, while preparing for Williamstown to come to Hudson Fields this coming Saturday.