As Colin Hanson strolled to the plate in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s high school baseball game against Missisquoi, Matt Baechle gave his teammate these instructions: Just get on base.
“I turned to (Hanson) and said, ‘If you get on, I’ll clear the bases and it’ll be 10 runs and we can go home,'” Baechle said.
Hanson reached to load the bases and Baechle came through on his promise, connecting on a grand slam during South Burlington’s 16-run frame in a 19-4, five-inning triumph over the Thunderbirds.
Although their seven-game winning streak came to an end Thursday, confidence is running high for a Rebels squad that has turned into a hitting machine this spring.
Prior to Thursday’s defeat to BFA-St. Albans, the Rebels were batting .349, averaged more than 10 runs per game and drove in 86 runs as a team. Their lineup has seven players batting at least .300, including Hanson, a senior, leading the squad with a .571 average as the No. 2 hitter.
“Before we were trying to hit home runs, I’m not going to lie,” Hanson said. “Now, we are line drives, line drives, line drives. That’s what we’ve pretty much done all season.”
And moments like Tuesday’s 16-run outburst are the driving force behind a 9-2 record, pushing the Rebels into the conversation as Division I contenders for the first time in five years. SBHS has scored at least five runs in one inning five times this season, a burst of offense Baechle calls “the explosion.”
“We wait for it to happen every game because we know we are going to score and it usually happens all in one inning,” Baechle said. “Last year we wouldn’t have scored 16 runs in four games and now we do it one inning. It’s definitely fun to hit the ball.”
Fundamentals and patience triggered the Rebels’ resurgence, part of a long-term plan of fourth-year coach Luke Goyette.
“We started to relax, work on the basics and put the bat on the ball and stop overswinging and let it happen,” Goyette said. “Sometimes that’s the biggest thing — just let it happen. We are very capable of hitting.
Goyette also tweaked batting practice routine, making it more “game situational” for his players.
“We’ve been working with these kids in the summers and trying to teach them the game of baseball, trying to teach them how to hit,” Goyette said. “They are starting to understand the game.”
A handful of players from South Burlington’s Division I state championship hockey team are also on the baseball team, spreading that experience to their teammates.
“We know what the drive is to win a championship and we definitely want it. It’s a goal of ours,” said Baechle, who scored the game-winning goal in the hockey final.
“I’m expecting a championship. But we are not going to change our mentality once we get into the playoffs. It’s going to be the same thing all year,” Hanson said.