Thanks in part to a big relief appearance by freshman Jake Laware, Milton earned its first win of the season on its Senior Day on Monday afternoon.
Down a run, Andrew Harvey put the Yellowjackets ahead of visiting Vergennes with a two-run single in the fourth. Then Laware came in during the top of the fifth with one out and a pair of runners on, escaping the inning and shutting the Commodores down the rest of the way in the 8-5 Milton victory.
“We’re really proud of him,” Milton coach John Learned said of Laware, who came in to relieve starter Ian Hrynyszyn and give him the win. “That’s one of the freshmen that we really needed to come in and make an impact, and he’s accepted the challenge.”
The Division II rival Commodores (1-14) and Yellowjackets (1-14) swapped leads four times last Thursday. Vergennes went ahead with an early run only to have Milton come back with four in the bottom of the first. Vergennes tied it at four in the second and went ahead 5-4 in the third.
But in the fourth inning, Matthew Brault led off with a walk and senior Logan Bean, who went 3-for-3 with a pair of steals, two runs scored and a walk, singled. Commodore pitcher Hunter O’Conner (6 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts over five innings) was fortunate as the next two batters smoked liners right at the fielders in center and left, but with two outs, Harvey’s shot to right went over the fielder’s head, bringing Brault and Bean home for the go-ahead runs.
Hrynyszyn made it into the fifth but with one out he walked two batters, and after 104 pitches he left with five strikeouts, three hits and eight walks. Laware, with two different breaking pitches, a changeup he throws for location and a fastball used sparingly, struck out the first batter he saw and induced a grounder to second to end the inning.
Laware then struck out three in the sixth and, after two insurance runs by the Yellowjackets in the sixth, earned a pop-up to second, a quick grounder to the mound and a bouncer to second for the 1-2-3 finish and a much-deserved victory for a young Milton team that battled through a difficult Metro schedule.
“It’s not easy putting up goose eggs. It’s not easy to go home and sleep at night. But the thing is, they’ve been getting better from the first day on,” Learned said. “And not only have they been getting better, but they tend to put it aside and go back out the next game, which has been awesome.
“It’s probably been one of the most resilient teams mentally that I’ve seen at this level,” he continued.
Learned said the fifth inning has been the team’s undoing this year. But when the Yellowjackets made it through the jam in the fifth, they finally believed this might add up, finally, to a win.
Harvey finished 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBI and a run scored. Laware singled and walked, scored two runs and stole two bases, and Jordan Deep scored a run and drove in a run. Hrynyszyn and Cal Webb also drove in a run each.