Thetford baseball has big goals for ’23

By BENJAMIN ROSENBERG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-15-2023 8:59 PM

THETFORD — Coming off three straight trips to at least the VPA Division III semifinals, the Thetford Academy baseball team looked every bit the part of a unit ready to make it four in a row in Saturday’s season opener.

The Panthers scored 10 runs over their final three times at bat to make short work of visiting Windsor, 11-1, in a five-inning game with the run rule in effect. Thetford only managed four hits but took advantage of eight Yellowjackets errors.

“For an Opening Day, I thought we did pretty good,” Panthers coach Phil Chaput said. “We fielded the balls hit to us, and we had a couple timely hits there.”

Thetford may have just two seniors, but the Panthers returned seven players who saw regular time in the starting lineup on last year’s squad that finished 11-5. Some of those players have moved around on the diamond, but positional versatility could well be this group’s biggest strength.

Sophomore Boone Fahey started on the mound Saturday and allowed one run on just one hit over four solid innings, walking two and striking out six. His battery mate? None other than his older sister, sophomore Mason Fahey, who mostly played the outfield last season.

“They’ve been working together forever, and they call every game together,” Chaput said. “It’s good they know each other, and it’s a good relationship to foster.”

The hosts struck immediately in the bottom of the first — senior Jacob Gilman’s fly ball to right field was misplayed and went for three bases, and Gilman scored a batter later on fellow senior Nolan Pepe’s sacrifice fly to left. Thetford’s first hit didn’t come until the third, but freshman Xander Oshoniyi made it count with a single up the middle to drive in two runs.

Windsor is a bit more of an upperclassman-heavy team, but the Yellowjackets also have several holes to fill after graduating a five-member senior class. Senior Maison Fortin, also the quarterback of Windsor’s state champion football team and the Yellowjackets’ leading scorer in basketball, went three innings on the mound and gave up just the one hit, and three of the four runs charged to him were unearned.

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The visitors got their lone run in the fourth as juniors Trevor LaGrow and Nathan Griffin were both plunked with one out, and pinch-runner Travis McAllister later scored on a fielder’s choice. Windsor fell to Vergennes in its playoff opener last year and has not experienced a winning season since its 2018 state championship.

“We’ve got some young guys out there, some guys in positions they haven’t played before, so of course there are going to be some hiccups and some mistakes,” Yellowjackets coach Jamie Richardson said. “We had a few guys today who were a little intimidated, a little bit scared. I know it can be a frustrating game, (but) we had some leaders who didn’t lead.”

Windsor’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, with a visit to Hartford up next on Tuesday. Thetford’s slate toughens up considerably — the last three non-league games for the Panthers have them face Blue Mountain twice and travel to White River Valley. Those two teams played for the Division IV championship last year.

After that, Thetford will be into Capital League play, going up against the likes of Spaulding, Montpelier, U-32, Lyndon and Hazen. It’s certainly a schedule that will have the Panthers ready for anything come playoff time.

“Those non-league games are hopefully going to prepare us for a very rigorous Capital League schedule,” Chaput said. “We’ll be in a good spot entering that stretch moving forward.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.

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