Washington County has always been a hotbed for baseball talent, but it took a local team more than 40 years to bring home Division II gear.
Coach Dan Kiniry’s Spaulding team finally got the job done last week, following the program’s first ever U-32 title in the 2021 campaign. The evidence of a renaissance on the diamond is overwhelming in Vermont center, and top players were showered with praise as Capital Division coaches announced this year’s All-Star selections.
Spaulding junior receiver Danny Kiniry was named co-player of the year along with Lyndon ace Austin Wheeler. Seven members of the 18-1 Crimson Tide were honored after the team earned their 17th straight win with a 4-2 victory over Lyndon in the title match. Cole McAllister, Kieran McNamara and Trevor Arsenault represented the Tide on the first team. Teammates Averill Parker and Zack Wilson were named to the second team, while Grady Chase made the honorable mention list.
“We’ve had team meetings and we have (goals) on a whiteboard at school,” McAllister said. “And our goal was to win a championship – we talked about that from day one. We had to think about what we needed to do to get there, and that was to improve the defense, the throwing and roll the bats- mouse. And we got those three goals. And when you do that, we’re pretty hard to beat. It took a lot of hard work and we’re finally here and it feels good.
Spaulding won its first championship since 1990 despite being limited to five or fewer hits in each of its last three playoff games. McNamara pitched a full game on one hit in a 3-0 quarterfinal win over Missisquoi before Parker limited the U-32s to five hits in a 4-2 semifinal victory. Parker and McNamara joined forces to hold Lyndon to four hits in the final.
“Everyone likes to talk about our offense and our depth: No. 1-9 we can hit,” McNamara said. “And recently we haven’t been as good as we hoped. So we talked about balance: excellent throwing, defense and striking. And we did what we had to do to get four points on the board to get the “W”.
The elusive championship gave Spaulding its second title of any kind since 2010 and came on the heels of three runner-up results by Tide teams last winter. The Granite City baseball team also featured a handful of stars from a football team that reached the semifinals last fall. Four Tide baseball players flirted with a title chase during the basketball season, going 20-3 and qualifying for the Bar Aud.
“We have so many athletes, and that just helps with baseball games at the end of the day,” McNamara said. “Making plays, running bases, hitting the ball – the better athlete you are, the better baseball player you will be. And that really helps us to be a deep team.
A strong work ethic was also essential to the success of the baseball team. McNamara is a hockey star who has become accustomed to early morning practices in any sport.
“We had (baseball) practices at 7 a.m. on the track and we did some running and conditioning,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about getting fit – it’s about the commitment and the drive to be the best team. And it all paid off.”
Spaulding’s 16-3 campaign in 2021 ended in a 5-0 loss to the U-32s in the Championship. The Tide began their 2022 season with an 11-2 win over Enosburg before falling to St. Johnsbury, 17-4, in five sets.
“I was talking to coach (Dan) Trottier after that game and he was like, ‘You don’t know it yet, but this is going to be the best thing that’s happened all year,'” McNamara said. “And of course it was. We’ve won 17 times in a row after that, so it doesn’t get much better than that.
The Tide bounced back with a 9-2 victory over Mount Abraham before picking up a 23-0 victory over Lamoille, a 15-2 win at Harwood and a 16-2 win over Randolph. A 9-7 win at DI BFA-St. Albans proved that Spaulding could stand up to opponents in any division. The following day, Kiniry’s side blew Thetford up, 10-2. Two days later, Spaulding was the picture of efficiency in a five-set 13-1 victory over a Hazen team that went 15-3 and advanced to the D-III title match.
“(Hazen) was one of our best games all year,” McNamara said. “We pitched well, we hit well and ended up killing this team and it felt good.”
Spaulding fell behind early against Montpellier but left no doubt in a 20-2 defeat. The Tide went relatively unchallenged in a 10-0 win at Lake Region and a 14-3 win at North Country. Lyndon visited Granite City on May 23 and the Tide scored 11 runs in the fifth inning to win, 11-3. Spaulding closed out the regular season with a 5-3 win over the U-32s and an 18-2 win over Oxbow. The Tide fell behind early in the playoffs before dominating Lamoille, 23-5.
“We knew there were tough games and we had to get by,” McAllister said. “But we knew we were capable of doing it all year round.”
Danny Kiniry has paced the Tide with a .533 batting average and .621 on-base percentage this season. He contributed two homers, nine doubles, 21 RBIs and 26 runs scored.
“While Danny’s offensive production was excellent, it was his defense that really set him apart,” coach Kiniry said. “His ability to frame and block shots – as well as controlling the opposition’s running game with a strong arm – forced opponents to alter their attacking game plan.”
McNamara finished with a .432 batting average and .490 on-base percentage. He hit three home runs and had a triple and four doubles. McNamara had 28 points and scored 20 times. He went 5-0 on the mound, recording a 2.25 ERA during the regular season with 29 strikeouts.
“Kieran was an RBI machine,” coach Kiniry said. “He hit over .500 with runners in scoring position. And he also played an important role in the team’s pitching rotation.
McAllister ended up with a .455 batting average and .564 on-base percentage. He had a triple and four doubles while driving in 10 runs and scoring 28 times. He showed his wheels by recording 18 stolen bases and went 2-0 on the mound with a 2.80 ERA and 10 strikeouts.
“Cole has been the catalyst for the offense all season,” Coach Kiniry said. “As a first hitter, once he’s on base, it’s very hard to stop him. Beyond his offensive production, Cole had no errors at second base during the regular season.
Arsenault hit at a .452 clip and posted a .556 on-base percentage. He finished with one triple, seven doubles, 19 RBIs and 25 runs scored.
“Nobody on offense was hotter in the second half of the regular season than Trevor,” coach Kiniry said. “He hit .525 from May 14 to the end of the regular season and sometimes carried the offense on his back. Trevor is known as one of Vermont’s best defensive shortstops and consistently makes the toughest plays on the field a routine.
Shane Starr and Kevin Dowling were first-team selections for a 12-6 U-32 squad that powered the program’s fourth semi-final in six seasons. Carter Hoffman and Ben Bourgeois earned second team spots and fellow Raider Alex Keane landed on the honorable mention list.
The Raiders opened the season with a 4-3 loss to eventual champion DI Essex before bouncing back with a 20-7 win over semi-finalist D-II Hartford. The Raiders continued to prove their mettle in a 6-3 win at Lyndon, a doubles sweep over Harwood and a 6-5 win over Thetford. Starr paced U-32 with a .463 batting average and drove in 14 runs. He hit a triple and four doubles while recording eight stolen bases and scoring 20 runs.
“Shane’s defensive impact is as important as his attacking impact,” said U-32 coach Geoff Green. “He creates outs with his stretch and pick-up ability on throws from the infield. The quality of the defense at first base is very underrated, and Shane is as good as Vermont can be.
Dowling went 6-1 on the mound with a 1.64 ERA. He struck out 55 batters, walked 13 and allowed 27 hits in over 42 innings.
“Kevin had a number of dominating starts for us, including our win over Lyndon in the regular season and over Lake Region in the playoffs,” Green said. “In both games he took on the other team’s ace and simply outplayed them. He can throw multiple throws for strikes and brings infectious confidence whenever he’s on the mound.
Montpelier’s Andrew Tringe was also named to the first team, Solon Braeden Adams made the second team and Cabot Hart was selected with honorable mention for MHS. Tringe played a key role in the Solons’ 16-6 win over U-32 and a 7-6 win over Harwood during the regular season. He claimed victory on the mound in a 6-1 win over Woodstock before Montpelier were knocked out by two-time defending champions Peoples Academy in the quarter-finals. Tringe had a 2.68 ERA with 52 strikeouts after pitching 34 innings. Offensively, he found himself batting .359 with two home runs, 12 extra hits and six stolen bases.
“Andrew pitched really well in our first-round playoff game and he had a bunch of hits all season long,” MHS coach Logan Cooke said. “He was the kind of hitter this year that you knew no matter what, he was going to be a badass for the opponent. The better the throw, the better it would hit. He had two hits against Ben Alekson in the quarterfinals.
CAPITAL DIVISION ALL-STARS
Co-Players of the Year
Austin Wheeler Lyndon Jr. Danny Kiniry Spaulding Jr.
Shane Starr Junior U-32 Kevin Dowling Sophomore U-32 Andrew Tringe Montpelier Junior Trevor Lussier Lyndon Senior Luke Dudas Lyndon Senior Ethan Marshia Thetford Senior David Piers Lake Region Senior Tyler Rivard Hazen Junior Kieran McNamara Spaulding Junior Cole McAllister Spaulding Junior Trevor Arsenault Spaulding Junior
Braeden Adams Montpelier Senior Boone Fahey Thetford Freshman Jake Leblanc North Country Senior Nic Moran Harwood Junior Averill Parker Spaulding Sophomore Zach Wilson Spaulding Junior Carter Hoffman U-32 Senior Ben Bourgeois U-32 Junior Mack Briglin Thetford Senior Wyatt Mason Lyndon Freshman year Lyle Rooney Hazen Junior