Pitching Continues to Fuel Wildcats Hot Start
by Ken Brown
MORRISVILLE – Senior ace Lyle Rooney exacted some revenge for his Hazen Union baseball team last week against rival Peoples Academy (PA), but junior Andrew Menard stole the show with a five-inning no-hitter against Northfield to help run his team’s record to 4-0 on the season.
Rooney fired six innings of one-hit ball to power the Wildcats to a 4-1 road win over the two-time Division III defending state champion Wolves last Tuesday. Senior Ben Alekson has pitched PA to its last two titles, including a 9-0 win over the Wildcats at Centennial Field last June. He was equally as tough on Tuesday, allowing just two hits and striking out seven in the loss. Tyler Rivard and James Montgomery gave Rooney all the breathing room he needed, with a hit and an RBI apiece to help break open a one-run game with three unanswered in the top of the sixth. Montgomery led off the fifth with a single, stole second, and was driven in by Menard for the first run of the game.
“Ben is one the best pitchers in the state and we let him dictate things early on, but the guys adjusted, made him battle some long counts, and did a great job of focusing on putting bat on ball,” said head coach Spencer Howard. “Lyle was great for us, working around six walks, and just never giving in. He has taken it to another level in his senior season and has developed himself into a complete pitcher. This was our first big test this season and it gives us a lot of confidence going forward. Brendan gave me a little bit of stress there at the end, but he battled through it and we got a good team win,” added Howard.
Sophomore Brendan Moodie, who transferred from PA over the summer, walked a pair and gave up a hit in the seventh, before inducing a deep fly ball to earn the save and end the game. Alekson recorded the Wolves only hit of the day off Rooney and was relieved by Chandler Follensbee with two outs in the fifth inning. The loss dropped PA to 4-2 on the season.
Menard was nearly perfect over the weekend at Hudson Fields, striking out 13 Marauders without allowing a hit in a 10-0 win. He walked only one batter and helped his own cause with a 3-3 performance at the plate. Montgomery continued to swing a hot bat with three more hits, including a double and two RBIs. Senior Jadon Baker and Jake Davison added two hits apiece and Rivard belted a double, scored four runs, while being walked once and hit by pitches twice. James Preston took the loss for Northfield, giving up seven runs in three plus innings of work and striking out four. The loss dropped the Marauders to 1-3 on the year. With Menard’s gem in the books, Hazen pitchers have allowed just five hits in 24 innings of work this season, giving up just three runs along the way.
“You just couldn’t ask for a better first start of the season for Andrew. He commanded the strike zone, located and changed speeds well, and got ahead early in counts after battling a couple of long counts early on. It just shows the pitching depth we have on this team and I’m very thankful to have it and it gives us a huge advantage as we ramp up into the busy part of our schedule. I love our competitiveness, defense, and pitching through the first four games and we’ll keep grinding at putting together good at bats. We have seven games to play the next two weeks and none of them are pushovers. We’ll play five Division II teams and a Division I team during this stretch and I’m excited to see how the guys approach the challenge. There’s no looking ahead on this team and we’ll continue to take it one pitch, one at bat, and one game at a time,” said Howard.
The Wildcats traveled to Montpelier on Tuesday and are scheduled to welcome Lake Region to town on Thursday. They wrap up their week on the road with a match-up against Lamoille on Saturday afternoon and will host Danville and North Country on Monday and Tuesday.