by Ken Brown
CRAFTSBURY – The Craftsbury Academy (CA) junior varsity baseball team wrapped up their first full season in nearly four years, dropping a pair of games to high powered Enosburg and U-32, while showing a lot of growth and promise for the future of the program in the process.
The Chargers fell to Enosburg 8-3 at home on Senior Night to start the week, in what was a much different game than the 22-1 introduction the Hornets gave out in CA’s season opener back in April. Senior Dalton Gravel pitched a gem through four innings, giving up just a pair of hits, before Enosburg’s offense got going. Freshman Grayson McNaughten went 2-3 for CA, including a triple and senior Will Patnoe added a line drive single in the loss. Cole VanWinkle, Gravel, and McNaughten scored all three Charger runs. Assistant coach William Garske was amazed by his team’s growth over the past two months.
“Dalton pitched an incredible game and to close the gap on a team like that from where we were as a team from the beginning of the year is exciting. We were very proud to see how much we have grown as a team throughout the season. Our seniors Dalton, Cole, Will, and Calvin Cacciamani will be missed and we’ll lose a lot of speed and experience in the outfield, but it was our first year of baseball here in quite some time and we’re excited for next season and still have a lot of room for improvement,” said Garske.
The Chargers wrapped up their season with an 11-1 loss to Division II U-32. McNaugten struck out three in the loss and junior Dylan Washer prevented three more runs from scoring with an incredible diving catch in a bases-loaded fifth inning. Head coach Shaun Allen is a ‘96 CA alum and played five seasons on the varsity baseball team. He still remembers the golden age of Charger dominance in Division IV from the late eighties to the late nineties that included CA greats: Duncan Simmons, Steve and Pete Richards, John Duffle, Nate Brown, and Jeff Davis. He wants that back for his alma mater and started laying the foundation three years ago, creating Craftsbury Baseball with the help of John Amell and Mark and April Royan. The reintroduction of youth baseball into the Common has been a resounding success, capped off with the 8-10-year-old District IV Little League Championship’s being held at Dustan Field last summer. Allen, Garske and CA athletic director Connor Bean believe the junior varsity team at CA this past spring is just another stepping-stone to bringing back Charger baseball at the varsity level as soon as next spring in the Mountain League.
“This season was a lot of hard work and development with some really good athletes who haven’t touched a baseball ball in a long time, but it was nice to show a team like Enosburg that we were not the same team they played at the start of the year,” said Allen. “Right now we are dedicated to the revival of the baseball program here at Craftsbury Academy. We have some good young talent coming back and more coming up through the pipeline and all of that development starts at the youth level. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’ll make sure our pitchers and catchers continue to touch a baseball in the off-season and keep providing the kids in the area and surrounding communities the opportunity to play summer ball. The nineties were the golden years of athletics at Craftsbury Academy and I want to help try to bring that feeling back to the community,” said Hill.
Craftsbury tee-ball, minors, and major Little League schedules start up this week and McNaugten will be playing summer baseball at the Babe Ruth level for Hardwick starting later this month.