OV senior top pick on Independent’s baseball all-star squad

ADDISON COUNTY — For high school baseball programs used to competing for state titles, 2015 will not go down in history as the most memorable in these parts: Collectively, Vergennes, Mount Abraham, Otter Valley and Middlebury won nine games, just one in the postseason.
Still, individuals on each of the four teams enjoyed springs worthy of recognition on the 2015 Addison Independent Baseball All-Star Team — none more so than OV senior John Winslow, the 2015 Independent Baseball Player of the Year. Winslow becomes the lone representative on the Independent team from first-year Coach Mike Howe’s one-win Otter squad.
That one local playoff win came from Coach Dwight Burkett’s Commodores, who went on the road to knock off a No. 3 seed and overall won four times. Two senior mainstays, a sophomore hurler and a speedy freshman who helped make VUHS competitive as the program returned to the varsity level, are honored here.
Coach Jeff Stetson’s Eagles also prevailed four times, including a sweep of their three local rivals. Two Mount Abe seniors and a sophomore earned Independent recognition.
Coach Charlie Messenger’s MUHS squad started out young, suffered a key injury early on, and failed to break into the win column. Two Tigers, a senior and a junior, made the Independent team.
Selections were made based on statistics, observation and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
JOHN WINSLOW, OV SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Outstanding four-year, three-sport athlete who capped his OV career by batting a loud .472, with local highs of six doubles, three triples and three home runs … Drove in 14 runs and scored 11 times … Excellent defensive shortstop who also earned OV’s only win on the mound, started six games and tossed three complete games in the regular season, and, after a rough first outing, compiled a 2.71 earned-run average the rest of the way.
Howe’s Quotes: “John hits for power to both sides of the field, and rarely is fooled by a pitch … John can steal bases and with his speed and aggressive baserunning keeps the defense focused on him … John made very few mistakes, and worked hard to perfect his game … His tremendous athletic ability is only enhanced by his effort and attitude both on and off the field. He is a great team leader and member of the community … He will be very difficult to replace, and will be missed.”
CHRIS LEACH, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Strong defender at catcher and third base who led all local players with a .500 batting average that included .579 with runners in scoring position … Drove in 11 runs and scored eight and reached base at a .536 clip … Drilled five hits in two postseason games … Provided steady, valuable leadership to the young Commodores as they stepped up to the varsity level after a year as a JV program.
Burkett’s Quotes: “Chris is your stereotypical catcher-captain … He’s a rock back there. He plays solid defense, leads by example, has a very calm demeanor … The emotional intelligence always sticks out with Chris. He doesn’t get rattled very easily, and that’s a big help when you have a young team … At the end of the season and in the playoffs he was a big factor at the plate.”
ERNIE BROUILLARD, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Batted .462 against tough Metro pitching while striking out just four times in 52 plate appearances … Drove in 10 runs, scored five times and stole three bases … Played solid defense at shortstop, and fared increasingly well on the mound as the spring went on, striking out 14 in 16 innings with a 5.40 ERA overall … Allowed just two runs at BFA-St. Albans in the regular season finale.
Stetson’s Quotes: “He was one of our most effective pitchers down the stretch … He changed speeds extremely well and could change his arm slot … He had extremely good range, very nice hands … He really knows the game of baseball and understood what was happening out there at all times … Overall, he was probably the best athlete on the team.”
DYLAN RAYMOND, VUHS SENIOR.Notes: Led all local batters with 16 RBIs while splitting his time between shortstop and the mound as the team’s No. 2 starter … Batted .315 with a .383 on-base percentage and hit .417 with runners in scoring position … Pitched 28 innings with a 4.87 ERA and earned the save in the Commodores’ playoff victory … Became an emotional team leader.
Burkett’s Quotes: “Dylan stepped up and had a really great senior season … I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get pitching-wise from him, but he stepped into the two-spot … He went from being a power pitcher to being a pitcher. He had a great curve ball this year and pitched rather than threw … Dylan was the one who could spark some enthusiasm in practice and fire the young guys up … He liked to hit when the game was on the line”
OAKLEY GORDON, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Batted .353 and scored nine runs out of the No. 2 hole in the Tiger batting order … Drove in seven runs, stole five bases, and knocked out three doubles and a triple … Displayed soft hands and an accurate arm at shortstop.
Messenger’s Quotes: “He was one of my best fielders. He was pretty solid … He’s one of the few shortstops I’ve seen who can field coming in and throw on the run … He was one of the bright spots this year … He worked well with the young kids. He showed good leadership. He’ll be a real asset next year.”
HUNTER O’CONNOR, VUHS SOPHOMORE.Notes: Lefty hurler who burst on the scene with four wins and a 3.53 ERA against challenging Metro competition, striking out 68 in 52 innings … Poised pitcher with excellent mechanics, a good fastball and curve, and an improving changeup … Also held his own at the plate, hitting .275 with eight RBIs, and in the field, eventually earning the shortstop job when Raymond pitched.
Burkett’s Quotes: “It was a great performance for a sophomore in the Metro, and, again, only a sophomore … He’ll mature more physically and mentally. He’s going to be fun to watch over the next couple of years … It was a great year for him … Hunter threw good games even in some of the losses that he ended up taking.”
CAMDEN SIMPSON, VUHS FRESHMAN.Notes: Speedy centerfielder who provided a spark for VUHS in front of the big bats by batting .310 and reaching base at a .367 clip, thus scoring a local high of 16 runs … Stole an area-best 10 bases and put pressure on opposing defenses with his quickness … Blossomed when moved into No. 2 spot in the order … Became a fine outfielder after a little extra early-season work.
Burkett’s Quotes: “He was just a real pleasant surprise for a freshman. He has all kinds of physical ability … When he was on the basepaths, it really changed the defense … Speed is a powerful weapon … He turned into a fly-catching machine … He made a couple catches this year that are some of the best catches in center field that I’ve seen in my 13, 14 years in the Metro.”
CHRIS WOOD, MOUNT ABE SOPHOMORE.Notes: Quick, versatile athlete who handled left field well and also saw time in center field and in the middle infield … Adjusted well to Division I Metro pitching in his first varsity season and hit .312 out of the No. 2 spot, scoring eight times, driving in four runs and stealing four bases … Struck out only five times.
Stetson’s Quotes: “He’s going to be the shortstop of the future … He played outfield because he could track fly balls … He’s very athletic, got great jumps on the ball in the outfield … He didn’t seem overwhelmed by stepping up to varsity ball … He batted no. 2 in the lineup because he made contact … He put the ball in play and did a nice job for us.”
BRYCE BURRELL, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Hit .289 and drove in nine runs in the middle of the Tiger order … Split time behind the plate and on the mound … Sound defensive catcher with a strong throwing arm … Held his own as a first-time pitcher in the Metro Conference.
Messenger’s Quotes: “He was just a workhorse … We used every bit of his arm we could … He worked real hard … They respected him (throwing) back there … It was the first time he ever pitched. I couldn’t ask for any anything more … He always wanted the ball … He had a good attitude.”
MIKE JEROME, MOUNT ABE SENIOR.Notes: Hurler who earned all four of the Eagles’ victories this spring, finishing with a 4-3 record and a 5.70 ERA against Metro competition, striking out 44 in 41 innings … Tossed shutouts vs. OV and MUHS and outdueled O’Connor in a 4-3 decision … Hardest to hit when he had his breaking pitches working in concert with his fastball.
Stetson’s Quotes: “When he could command location of his fastball and throw any sort of offspeed pitch for a strike, he was really tough … His fastball was good enough to be dominating with another pitch … When he had those good games he was throwing his breaking pitches well located and he was moving his fastball in and around the strike zone.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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