Prep Baseball Report

2024 Spring Team Preview: Champlain Valley (VT)

Bruce Hefflinger
New England Senior Writer

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2024 Spring Team Preview: Champlain Valley (VT)

HINESBURG, Vt. - While there are definitely some key losses from last season’s Division 1 state championship team, strength up the middle brings plenty of optimism to Champlain Valley Union in 2024.

“We have a lot of impact players who had a big impact returning,” noted head coach Nicky Elderton, who in his first season at the helm led the Redhawks to their third state crown in four years.

The four captains of this year’s team - pitcher Stephen Rickert, catcher Calvin Steele, shortstop Russell Willoughy and center fielder Travis Stroh - are being counted on to lead the way. Rickert, who threw a one-hitter in a 6-0 win over Mount Anthony in last year’s state championship game, is an Eastern Connecticut commit while Stroh, who hit a three-run homer and drove in four runs in the title contest, is signed with Fairleigh Dickinson.

A pair of pitchers, Bard College commit Elise Berger and St. Joseph’s commit Aaron LaRose, are other key returnees from a 16-2 team that brought home the sixth state title in school history.

“Our program is known for fostering excellence in both athletics and character development,” Elderton noted. “We prioritize teamwork, discipline and continuous improvement to ensure our athletes reach their full potential. Beyond the field, we instill values of community engagement and leadership, aiming to produce well-rounded individuals who make a positive impact in all aspects of life.”

Champlain Valley has made eight state championship appearances and won six Vermont Metro League titles and the 2024 edition of the Redhawks is looking to add to the notable accomplishments of past teams at the school.

“We are going to be led by a strong-character senior class, many of them returning from the state championship run last year,” Elderton said. “Pitching will be one of our strengths, as well as defense. We have a lot of potential at the plate as well.”

Success is not a given, however, with the graduation of leadoff hitter Kyle Tivnan, two-hole hitter Robbie Fragola and cleanup hitter Zach Santos. Also gone are pitchers Chris Robinson (St Michaels) and Jack Richburg (Springfield) along with outfielder Colby Galipeau (Gordon) and first baseman Lewis Kerest.

“There are nine new players on the team this year,” pointed out Elderton. “All will have an impact on the success of the season in a variety of ways.”

The second-year Champlain Valley head coach sees a lot to like in the 2024 squad.

“What I admire most about this team is their unwavering dedication, relentless work ethic and strong sense of camaraderie,” Elderton explained. “They consistently push each other to excel and support one another through challenges, creating a positive and motivating environment.

“Our success this season relies on teamwork, continuous improvement and discipline,” Elderton continued. “By building strong chemistry, staying dedicated to growth and maintaining focus, we believe we can achieve our goals.”

As always, winning a Vermont Metro League title is one of the aspirations for the Redhawks.

“We're excited for the upcoming season and ready to face tough competition,” Elderton concluded. “There are a lot of great teams and coaches around the league. Our goal is to stay consistent, work hard every day and leave everything on the field in every game.”

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