BURLINGTON – Getting ready to head to the Division I state championship, the Champlain Valley Union (CVU) baseball team watched a victorious boys lacrosse team roll into the parking lot.
The Redhawks watched their schoolmates celebrate their seventh straight state title and got inspired.
“We got a boost from that,” said CVU coach Tim Albertson. “I think they were just ready, they were comfortable, confident and ready.”
The top-seeded CVU team carried that momentum into Centennial Field on Saturday, defeating No. 10 Mount Mansfield 5-2 to capture the D-I state championship.
“It was definitely a spectacular feeling,” said CVU senior Aidan Johnson. “We had always wanted to win a championship together. We never let up this season.”
It was the program’s fourth state title and their first in six years.
Ian Parent struck out 10 and allowed just four hits in a complete game effort, while Johnson was 2-for-3 with three RBIs and Jonah Roberts scored three runs to lead the Redhawks (18-1).
“The guys were determined,” the coach said. “We were not leaving the field without a win.”
The title is the culmination of a couple of years of tough postseason performances for CVU, who has fallen in the quarterfinals the last three years.
“I think the big one was we got over the hump in the quarterfinal,” Albertson said. “When we got through the semifinal the guys were like, ‘we got through, we are going to do this.’”
With seven seniors on the team, the Redhawks were determined to break through this season, and with leadership from that core, they pulled it off.
“They led this charge at the end,” Alberston said. “Our seniors were awesome, I think that’s what set this for these guys.”
While the offense got CVU the early lead, it was pitching and defense that sealed the win for them.
“We got that first run and established that lead in the first inning, that was the first time I thought that we could do this,” Johnson said.
In the fifth inning, Mount Mansfield – who handed the Redhawks their only loss of the season – threatened to tie the game.
“We played for the team, we didn’t focus on ourselves,” Johnson said. “That was huge, the four cap-tains, all seniors, we have all been friends for a very long time.”
The Cougars got a run in the inning, then had runners at second and third base with no outs. But CVU threw out the runner at home as Mount Mansfield attempted a squeeze play, then Parent struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.
“We got those breaks, that was the turning point,” Albertson said. “We came out in the bottom of the sixth and added some insurance.”
CVU added two runs in the sixth to snuff out any chance of a comeback. It was a special win for the Redhawks, who dealt with suicide, a cancer battle and other off-field issues both during the season and outside of it.
“They had some internal hopes that they were playing for, two lost classmates, a teammate, another baseball friend,” Albertson said. “I think that they were playing for more than just themselves – they were playing for the community.”
Capping off the season with a win was everything the Redhawks had hoped for in a season that saw them lose just one game and run to the No. 1 seed. They were not going to be denied, not this time.
“It is one of the closest teams that I have coached,” Albertson said. “They were looking to improve every day, they wanted to get better, but they had fun doing it. They deserved everything they got. It was the icing on cake, the cherry that went on top.”