VUHS calls off varsity baseball campaign

VERGENNES — Two years after the Vergennes Union High School baseball team won the program’s second Division II title in five years, the school will not field a varsity program this spring.
VUHS activities director Peter Maneen on Wednesday confirmed what school officials had feared since last spring: There are simply not enough experienced athletes in the program to field a varsity team this season.
Although 10 players signed up, Maneen said none are seniors, only two are juniors, only four have varsity experience, and none have ever pitched.
Compounding the problem is that two of the athletes plan to go on an academic trip this spring and would miss time, and state rules do not allow games to begin with eight players.
Maneen said he and the school administration had no choice.
“We are going to be a JV team this year,” he said. “We will not have varsity baseball this year at Vergennes.”
Maneen said Coach George Ringer, who led the Commodores to the 2007 and 2012 D-II titles, will stay on to lead the JV team and run what Maneen called “varsity-caliber” practices.
“George is going to remain on and teach the younger kids about high school baseball,” Maneen said. “We’re trying to keep as much consistency as possible and put our younger kids at a level they can develop and succeed.”
At the JV level, Maneen said he hopes other schools will give VUHS flexibility to start games with eight players, or even allow the Commodores to pick up players from opposing teams, when the team is shorthanded for a week.
Several factors have contributed to the slim turnout for VUHS baseball. A couple of players opted for lacrosse instead, and others developed work commitments. With low numbers, even those few losses were critical, Maneen said.
Eight seniors also graduated from what has been a successful program in recent years, and several of them had locked down starting positions for multiple seasons. Maneen acknowledged some other athletes might have been discouraged because they knew starting jobs would not open up during that period.
Also, for the past three years, there has been no JV team — no players were ready to step into that group’s cleats.
As a result, even though Maneen said turnouts at VUHS for track and field, softball and boys’ lacrosse are all solid, a baseball numbers crunch that officials had worried about materialized this spring. 
“We’ve been seeing it coming,” he said.
Maneen hopes the other 15 teams in the Metro Conference can fill the open dates by scheduling one extra game against another league foe.
“CVU and Essex and play each other a second time. Middlebury and Mt. Abe can play each other a second time,” he said.
And, Maneen hopes, sooner rather than later, VUHS will be back on those teams’ schedules. He said there are at least a half-dozen “kids who are baseball players” in the school’s eighth grade, and that it should be only a matter of time before VUHS fields a varsity team again.
“We’re hoping to rebound quickly,” Maneen said. “Vergennes has a proud baseball tradition. We don’t expect it to be like this for long.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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