Eagle junior tops Independent baseball team

ADDISON COUNTY — When the dust settled on the local high school baseball season, Mount Abraham was still standing tall. The Eagles bounced back from their 0-6 start to win the Division II title — and earn the best representation on the 2016 Addison Independent Baseball All-Star Team.
Led by 2016 Independent Player of the Year Adam Whitcomb’s three playoff pitching wins, Coach Jeff Stetson’s team finished 9-11 and earned four berths on this squad, all taken by juniors.
Coach Charlie Messenger’s Middlebury nine earned some bragging rights, claiming the Addison County crown by defeating Mount Abe and Vergennes on the way to a five-win season — one that represented a five-win improvement over 2015. Two Tigers are represented here, a junior and a sophomore.
Coach Mike Howe’s Otter Valley crew won just three times, but were often competitive: Seven losses came by three runs or fewer. Two Otters made the Independent team, one of them the only senior to be honored here and the other the only freshman.
Coach Dwight Burkett’s young VUHS group never gained traction this spring and despite several close games won just once. Two Commodore juniors earned Independent recognition.
Selections were made based on statistics, observation and consultation with the coaches.
Congratulations to the following:
ADAM WHITCOMB, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Lefty who started on the mound and won two games in the D-II playoffs, and relieved and won another to help spark Mount Abe to the title … Tossed a two-hitter in the championship game … Overall went 6-3 with an ERA of 2.88, striking out 51 and allowing 48 hits and 15 walks in 51 innings … At the plate hit .281 with three doubles, a triple, 14 RBIs and seven runs … Delivered the walk-off hit in the Eagles’ first-round win, and the go-ahead, two-out bases-loaded triple in the quarterfinal victory at No. 1 Lamoille.
Stetson’s Quotes: “Adam found himself this year, both as a hitter and a pitcher … He kept working hard, and this year he really discovered how to change speeds and locate pitches, especially in the second half of the season, and that made him tremendously effective … He could throw his fastball, curveball and changeup for strikes … He’s a big, strong kid and just started squaring the ball up consistently in clutch moments. He came up with big hits for us. He had a great year.”
TYLER ALLEN, OF SENIOR. Notes: Knocked in a local high of 17 runs out of the No. 3 hole and batted .400 with five doubles after missing most of 2015 with an injury … Reliable, steady third baseman who compiled a .990 fielding percentage … Had a fine year pitching, earning one of OV’s wins, vs. Fair Haven, coming back to the mound to earn a save in the same game … Tossed 30.1 innings with 30 strikeouts and a 2.48 ERA … Plans to play football for Castleton University.
Howe’s Quotes: “He’s a great kid with a great attitude … He’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve been around in a while. He’s a lot of fun to watch play because I enjoy watching people who play that hard … He developed some really good off-speed stuff … He can hit his spots … It seemed every time out he gave us an opportunity to win … It was fun to watch him develop, because I knew he could hit, I knew he was powerful, but I didn’t expect him to pitch that well for us.”
DEVON KIMBALL, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Batted .342, best among the three local teams’ players in the Metro Conference, despite the tough job of fulltime catcher … Showed a good eye at the plate, drawing 14 walks to earn a .429 on-base percentage … Drove in a team-best nine runs, scored seven times, and popped four doubles and a triple … Worked hard on his defense and played well behind the plate.
Burkett’s Quotes: “He was such a competitor. He wore his emotions on his sleeve … He caught every inning of every game and he did hit the ball well … He was definitely the best hitter on the team … With the way he was swinging the bat, I moved him to cleanup … He improved his defense. He blocked more balls and threw some people out.”
PATRICK MESSENGER, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Hit a team-best .320 after working on his swing in the offseason, striking out only six times this spring … Drove in 12 runs, scored 11 times, rapped two doubles and a triple, and showed good patience at the plate, drawing enough walks to earn a .393 on-base percentage … Had good range and an accurate arm in center field.
Messenger’s Quotes: “He adjusted his swing from last year. He had an uppercut and we got rid of it … He played well. His arm strength really improved by the end of the year … Defensively he was above average … He got on base. He had key hits in RBI situations. That was the important thing.”
GEORGE BAILEY, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Versatile fielder who batted .322 with an on-base percentage of .429, driving in nine runs and scoring 16 … Pitched against tough competition, especially early on, and finished 2-3 with a 5.02 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 37.1 innings … Tossed a three-hit shutout at Harwood in the Eagles’ semifinal victory, and won at D-I power Champlain Valley in the regular season.
Stetson’s Quotes: “He was getting all the tough assignments on the mound. Until the tournament I don’t think he pitched against a D-II opponent … He kept his attitude up and kept pumping strikes in and giving us everything he had … On the mound he had a couple of huge performances for us when we were right in the middle of trying to turn our season around … He would put the ball in play and have solid hits … He was certainly a valuable asset as a hitter and a pitcher for us.”
REILLY SHANNON, OV FRESHMAN. Notes: Moved from a part-time role to a starter in right field and eventually took over the leadoff spot … Batted a local best of .417 with an on-base percentage of .475, scored 10 runs, stole nine bases, drove in five runs, and struck out just twice … Speedy, steady outfielder (and backup catcher) and smart, aggressive baserunner.
Howe’s Quotes: “He played a solid right field … He just did everything we asked of him all year … He’s a very good baserunner … In the summertime he’s at the field hitting and throwing … His plate discipline is incredible … In the first few at-bats he did struggle, but how quickly he did make adjustments at the plate was incredible, and he puts the bat on the ball … I’m looking forward to the next three seasons with him, for sure.”
WYATT GENDREAU, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Surehanded second baseman who contributed to the Eagle offense by batting .304 with an on-base percentage of .429, a number that allowed him to score a team-high 17 runs … Showed pop with six doubles and a triple and drove in five runs … Committed just five errors in the middle of the diamond.
Stetson’s Quotes: “Wyatt had a great season … He had very good hands and feet … He has probably the quickest bat speed on the team, and when he hits the ball, he hits it hard, and he hit it quite often … He just made some outstanding plays at second base … He really showed a lot.”
CALEB BONVOULOIR, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Batted just .246, but poked five doubles and made his hits count, driving in 14 runs and scoring 14 times … Fine defensive third baseman with good range, quick reactions and an accurate throwing arm … Made several spectacular plays in the Eagles’ tense semifinal win at Harwood.
Stetson’s Quotes: “He put together probably the best defensive season at third base that I’ve seen in a lot of years at Mount Abe. Day in and day out he just made all the routine plays and a bunch of tremendous plays … He could always shorten up his swing and put the ball in play in key situations and put pressure on the defense … He got some key hits and always did something to keep the inning moving in the right direction.”
HUNTER O’CONNOR, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Enjoyed a solid season on the mound despite a lack of wins, tossing 48.1 innings, striking out 67, walking 21, allowing 51 hits, and tossing just one wild pitch while compiling an ERA of 3.62 … Improved his secondary pitches and remained poised on the mound … Batted .250, scored a team-best nine runs, stole five bases and knocked in four runs.
Burkett’s Quotes: “He’s definitely an all-star caliber pitcher … When he was on, he had better command of his fastball … His change-up, when he was effective with the fastball, was really effective. That was a plus … He just was an intelligent baseball player, and emotionally intelligent. I think he was a leader in that regard.”
BRIAN FOOTE, MUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: First-year varsity catcher who improved dramatically during the course of the season at bat and behind the plate … Hit .286, second-best on the team, drove in eight runs and scored five … Developed into a solid defender and threw out three runners trying to steal in the Tigers’ final four games. 
Messenger’s Quotes: “He changed his batting stance and his swing at the beginning of the year, quieted his swing down, and he started hitting the ball pretty hard. And he hit it hard against good pitching … By the end of the year we were stopping the running game … Once the pitchers started keeping the runners close, he had shots at everybody … By the end of the year he was an above-average catcher, did well blocking (pitches), did well calling pitches.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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