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Multi-talented Tiger leads baseball all-stars

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Posted on June 23, 2014 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



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MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School senior Aaron Smith, seen here making a diving catch in a game in late April, is the 2014 Addison Independent high school baseball player of the year. Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — While softball stole most of this spring’s headlines in Addison County, the local high school baseball teams also enjoyed high points and excellent individual performances, the latter of which are recognized here in the 2014 Addison Independent Baseball All-Star Team.

Headlining the 2014 squad is Middlebury Union senior Aaron Smith, whose work on the mound, in the field and at the plate merits his selection as the 2014 Addison Independent Player of the Year.

In all, Coach Charlie Messenger’s Tigers compiled a 7-8 regular season record in the tough Metro Conference, the program’s best in several seasons, and one that included wins over eventual Division I champion Rice and perennial power Essex. Three other MUHS seniors join Smith on the Independent squad.

Coach Tim Mitchell’s Otter Valley nine failed to repeat 2013’s D-II dream season, but won one playoff game and finished a respectable 10-8, including an extra-inning win at Rutland, despite significant graduation losses. Three OV seniors and one junior earned Independent recognition.

Coach Jeff Stetson’s Mount Abraham squad picked up four wins in the challenging Metro league before losing a one-run playoff game on the road. Two seniors who enjoyed productive seasons merited spots on the Independent team.

Selections were made based on observations, as many statistics as were available, and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:

AARON SMITH, MUHS SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: On the mound, used an improved fastball and excellent breaking balls to compile a 3-2 record with wins over Rice, Essex and Mount Abe … In 36 innings pitched allowed 33 hits, 10 walks, struck out 32 and compiled an earned-run average of 1.77 … Tossed a six-inning three-hitter and allowed one unearned run in 1-0 playoff loss … Showed great range and played errorless ball in center field … Four-year varsity player compiled a .431 on-base percentage batting leadoff… Hit .339, scored 11 runs and drove in five.

Messenger’s Quotes: “He actually had a little velocity this year. He had a nice off-speed pitch, and great location … If you don’t hit your spots, you’re in trouble … He also shut down the running game, which was key … He made some really nice catches out in center field, some phenomenal catches, and he took control in the outfield. He was a great leader … Toward the end of the season his bat started to heat up.”

SHANE QUENNEVILLE, OV SENIOR.Notes: Batted .417 for OV and scored a local high of 19 runs out of the leadoff spot in the OV order … Excellent baserunner who put pressure on opposing defenses … Also had some pop in his bat and lined the first pitch he saw this season for an inside-the-park home run … Hard-working player who covered a tremendous amount of territory in center field and also chipped in a pitching win.

Mitchell’s Quotes: “He’s just an all-star center fielder and leadoff batter … He has good speed on the bases … He loves to compete and play the game … He’s a competitor from day one. He takes it as seriously and emotionally as anyone on the team, and not just our team either ... He’s just an overall great player.”

JOSH STEARNS, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Batted .391 while getting on base at a .462 clip and showing some thump with three doubles and a go-ahead homerun vs. Milton … Drove in 11 runs and scored 15 as the Tigers’ No. 3 hitter … Committed just two errors in a season spent mostly at third base.

Messenger’s Quotes: “He was a cornerstone, I thought … He was definitely one of our best infielders … He just hit the ball hard all season … He gave us timely hits and good defense … He was a good leader. He was quiet, but I think he led by example … He worked hard … He was just a good teammate.”

SAWYER KAMMAN, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Pitching against the Eagles’ most difficult foes, compiled a 3-5 record with an ERA of 3.90 in 41 innings, many of them extended by defensive mistakes, while allowing 11 walks and 53 hits and striking out 50 batters … Also batted .304 with two doubles, a triple, five RBIs and eight runs …Three-year varsity team member.

Stetson’s Quotes: “He was obviously my best pitcher, and has been for two years … He drew the tough assignments … He’s been an outstanding player and an outstanding leader … He really did almost everything I could ask … He’s a great competitor and gave his heart and soul to everything he did to baseball here for four years.”

JOHN WINSLOW, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Already a three-year varsity player, batted .418 with plenty of pop and scored 16 runs this spring … Returned for his second year as the everyday shortstop, but took over as the No. 1 pitcher down the stretch when injuries sidelined two starting hurlers … In all, picked up three pitching wins, one in the playoffs.

Mitchell’s Quotes: “I can’t even remember an error. He was steady at shortstop … He did extremely well on the mound … He picked up velocity as the season went on. He had a neat curveball and never seemed to get into trouble … He was certainly the premier power hitter on the team … He’s a super kid.”

MIKE WINSLOW, OV SENIOR.Notes: Provided a one-two punch with brother John by batting .423, also with some thump, and scoring 11 runs … Dangerous baserunner … Took over at catcher this spring and did well to handle a variety of different pitchers as injuries struck … Worked hard to become a good defensive catcher.

Mitchell’s Quotes: “He got thrown into the catching position this year. I asked him to step up, and he did ... He’s a tough competitor … He’s solid behind the plate … He hits the ball hard … He’s probably the fastest kid on the team. He’s got incredible wheels.”

JOSIAH BENOIT, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Versatile fielder who played shortstop, right field and first base for the Tigers as well as started five games on the mound and relieved in another … Batted.345 with two doubles and a triple, drove in 13 runs and scored six. Compiled a 2-4 pitching record in 41 innings with an ERA of 4.10, beating St. Johnsbury and Missisquoi … Had key hits in wins vs. St. Johnsbury and Rice.

Messenger’s Quotes: “He was all-around for me, wherever I needed him ... He was Mr. Everything … He was ready and willing to do whatever I asked him. I thought that was a great team attitude … All the seniors were great leaders, great teammates and all worked hard and stuck together … He had some really nice performances out there.”

AARON BENWAY, MOUNT ABE SENIOR.Notes: Batted .319 with an on-base percentage of .372 and a slugging percentage of .404 as the No. 2 hitter in the order … Drove in three runs and scored five runs … Hit a home run vs. Missisquoi that was the only one hit at Mount Abe this spring … Made only one error while starting at first base all season.

Stetson’s Quotes: “He was very adept at hitting the ball the other way, moving guys around … He was one of our top three guys all year at the plate … Defensively he did a nice job for us at first base … He knocked down a ton of throws … He’s absolutely a tremendous kid to have on the team, hustling around in practice and in the games.”

SAM MESSENGER, MUHS SENIOR. Notes:Batted .314 with an on-base percentage of .357 … Drove in 11 runs, scored five and came up with several key hits and big games over the course of the season … Excellent fielder at first base who also filled in at catcher for two games due to injury … Son of Coach Messenger.

Messenger’s Quotes: “He did a really good job over there for me … Sam gave me everything he had … He didn’t leave anything in the dugout … He had some good games. He had two or three games where he had multiple hits … He had some clutch hits.”

WILL CLAESSENS, OV SENIOR.Notes: Slick fielder who batted .271 and scored 15 runs … Fixture at second base in recent seasons, but moved to shortstop when John Winslow pitched without skipping a beat … Started the year as OV’s closer but became a starting pitcher when injuries struck … In all, tossed two complete games and earned a win and two saves.

Mitchell’s Quotes: “He turned into an all-around great player ... He had the slickest hands and tools … You just didn’t expect him to make an error. You expected him to make the play every time … He improved enough where he went from the No. 9 batter up to the No. 2 … I wish I could have nine more just like him.”

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