Hansen tosses complete-game shutout to lead Montgomery past Hillsborough on Opening Day

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Montgomery High School pitcher Cole Hansen fires a pitch to the plate during a game played against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman. Hansen threw a complete-game shutout to lead Montgomery to a 6-0 victory over Hillsborough. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Montgomery High School first baseman Andrew Rubayo slaps an RBI single up the middle during a game played against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman. Montgomery defeated Hillsborough 6-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School starting pitcher Jayden Bloch delivers a pitch to the plate during a game against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman. Bloch had three strikeouts and a single in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Montgomery High School second baseman Adam Neufeld helps turn a 5-4-3 double play during a game against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School shortstop Luke Crawford throws out the runner at first base during a game against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School second baseman Vinny Versaci reaches base on an error during a game against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Montgomery High School baseball team stands for the Pledge of Allegiance before its season opener against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Hillsborough High School baseball team stands for the Pledge of Allegiance before its season opener against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Montgomery High School pitcher Cole Hansen fires a pitch to the plate during a game played against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman. Hansen threw a complete-game shutout to lead Montgomery to a 6-0 victory over Hillsborough. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Montgomery High School first baseman Andrew Rubayo slaps an RBI single up the middle during a game played against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman. Montgomery defeated Hillsborough 6-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School starting pitcher Jayden Bloch delivers a pitch to the plate during a game against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman. Bloch had three strikeouts and a single in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Montgomery High School second baseman Adam Neufeld helps turn a 5-4-3 double play during a game against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School shortstop Luke Crawford throws out the runner at first base during a game against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School second baseman Vinny Versaci reaches base on an error during a game against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Montgomery High School baseball team stands for the Pledge of Allegiance before its season opener against Hillsborough on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Hillsborough High School baseball team stands for the Pledge of Allegiance before its season opener against Montgomery on April 20 in Skillman.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The two-year wait for Opening Day finally came to an end for both the Montgomery High School and Hillsborough High School baseball squads.

Both Skyland Conference Delaware Division teams saw their players lace up their cleats and take the field on April 20 at Montgomery’s field in Skillman with pure joy, soaking in every moment on the diamond after having it taken away from them in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ironically, the last time both Montgomery and Hillsborough played an NJSIAA regulated contest, it was against each other in 2019 when the Hillsborough Raiders topped the Montgomery Cougars, 1-0.

Six hundred nintey-nine days later, Montgomery and Hillsborough were back on the diamond together, this time with the winning result favoring the Cougars.

A complete-game shutout thrown by senior right-hander Cole Hansen gave Montgomery a perfect ending to Opening Day with a 6-0 victory over Hillsborough.

“These kids have been chomping at the bit to play for a long time,” said Montgomery varsity baseball Coach Peter Mueller. “They were really eager and excited to play. To come out and play the way they did was very special to watch.”

Hansen, a Rutgers University commit, was brilliant on the mound in his first start of the season for Montgomery.

The senior racked up seven strikeouts and also helped himself out at the plate, knocking in a game-high two runs in the season-opening victory.

“I was able to use my breaking ball and establish it as a pitch that I could throw in any count,” Hansen said. “It was big in the offseason to work on that pitch and I’m going to be using it more now.”

Montgomery jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning off an RBI double by Hansen and then an RBI single by junior Andrew Rubayo, all of which happened with two outs in the frame.

Hillsborough starting pitcher Jayden Bloch held the Montgomery bats at bay for the next five innings, striking out three batters to keep Hillsborough in striking distance.

The Raiders had a good chance to get on the board in the fourth inning with runners on first and second with one out, but Hansen barreled down to escape trouble by striking out Tejas Patel and then got Rocco Viscel to pop out to short to end the inning.

Hillsborough only managed five hits off Hansen in the contest.

Montgomery broke the game open in the top of the seventh inning, which began with Adrian Hansen hitting his first career high school home run over the left-field fence to make it 3-0.

With another run scored and the lead out to 4-0, Cole Hansen delivered his second RBI of the day with a bloop single to left field to give Montgomery a 5-0 advantage.

Senior Liam Kendall followed Hansen in the next at-bat with an RBI single of his own to cap a four-run seventh inning for the Cougars.

“The guys had good at-bats,” Mueller said. “They worked the count and were able to hit the ball where it was pitched. Fortunately for us, we had a couple of balls find grass.”

Leading by six runs and three outs away from victory, Mueller let Hansen go back out to the mound to finish off his season-opening masterpiece.

The senior took advantage of the opportunity by pitching a perfect frame, striking out the final two Hillsborough hitters to clinch his complete-game gem and celebrate a long-awaited victory on the field with his teammates.

“Being able to be around the guys and win is really awesome,” Hansen said. “It’s pretty awesome to come back and play baseball again after having last season canceled.”

Montgomery is scheduled to host Ridge High School on April 22 and then will travel to play Madison High School over the weekend.

Hillsborough will also be in action April 22 when they travel to play Somerville High School.

Coaching a young and inexperienced group in his first year at the helm for the Raiders, Coach Tom Augello is looking for his squad to get better over the course of the season with more time on the diamond.

Seeing veterans like senior captain Vinny Versaci get back on the diamond and make plays to help the team was a lot of fun for Augello to see during Hillsborough’s first game of the 2021 campaign.

“It was good to get the boys out there on the field, especially with them losing all of last year,” Augello said after the game. “Losing a whole year of baseball is very hard. It was just fun to be out here. ”