BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School baseball season got off to a promising start on Monday, when the Otters doubled up visiting Green Mountain Union, 10-5, on a cold, blustery afternoon in the opener for both teams.
OV snapped a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fourth on a two-out, two-run single by junior catcher Thomas Roberts, and then broke the game open with five runs in the bottom of the fifth.
OV’s 10-hit attack — three from junior left fielder Ryan Kelley and two each from Roberts and junior shortstop Jimmy Winslow — made a winner of junior starter Justin Owen. Owen tossed 5.1 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits and three walks and striking out five by mixing in a breaking ball with his fastball.
Coach Tim Mitchell said Owen pitched into hard luck a year ago, and Monday’s result should give him a lift heading into 2012.
“This was a big boost for him,” Mitchell said. “He just got stronger as the game went on.”
Mitchell was also pleased with the production from up and down the order: Eight of the nine Otters who started got hits.
“I was certainly happy with the way we played and swung the bats,” he said.
The Otters did commit four errors on a day the temperature dipped down to 40 degrees and a swirling wind blew up to 30 mph, and the Chiefs took advantage to score four unearned runs, all charged to Owen.
But Mitchell said the Otters generally played good defense in their preseason scrimmages, and he didn’t sound too concerned about miscues that were committed by some of his team’s normally more reliable defenders.
“We tell the guys over and over physical mistakes are going to happen,” he said. “It’s the mental mistakes we’re worried about.”
OV took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Kelley singled, junior third baseman Brett Patterson walked, and a Roberts single and a Winslow groundout plated them. Walks to Owen and senior first baseman Colton Aines loaded the bases, but GMU pitcher Logan Little picked up two strikeouts to end a major Otter threat.
An infield error, a walk and a single by GMU’s Jake Walker made it 2-1 in the second, and the Chiefs tied it in the third on an error, a hit batter, a groundout and a wild pitch.
OV went back on top in the bottom of the third after Winslow doubled with one out. With Winslow stealing on the play, Owen laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Winslow scored on a throwing error.
The Chiefs knotted the score at 3-3 in the top of the fourth with their only earned run off Owen. With two out Owen walked No. 8 hitter Kyle Kemp and then threw a wild pitch to move Kemp to second. Ryan Williams singled in Kemp, but Roberts ended the threat by throwing out Williams trying to reach second after the throw home.
In the bottom of the inning the Otters rallied with two out to take the lead for good. Kelley lined a double to left, and Patterson reached when the Chiefs misplayed his windblown pop fly into an infield hit. Patterson reached second when Little threw a wild pitch, and both runners scored on Roberts’ clutch single.
Owen set the Chiefs down in order in the top of the fifth, and then the Otters roughed up Williams, who came on in relief of Little. With one out, consecutive singles by Aines, junior outfielder Chad Lonergan, sophomore second baseman Will Claessens, senior center fielder Nate Fitzgerald and Kelley produced a pair of runs and made it 7-3. Claessens and Kelley picked up the RBIs.
A two-out error on a Roberts fly ball scored two more, and Winslow capped the rally with an RBI single to make it 10-3.
GMU scored twice in the top of the sixth to make it 10-5 on Tyler Francouer’s leadoff single, two errors and Walker’s RBI fielder’s choice, and Mitchell made the pitching change to Patterson.
Patterson, who also made several nice plays at third base, surrendered three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings, but did not allow another run and struck out one to preserve the OV victory.
The Otters will hit the road for their next two games, at Springfield on Friday and at Green Mountain on Monday. Mitchell noted they will do so with an opening-game win under their belts.
“It’s always good to win that first one, especially under those conditions,” he said. “We’ll take it.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]