Things coming together for Mt. Abe baseball as team defeats OV, 10-5

BRANDON — In a duel between two Division II baseball teams off to good starts, visiting Mount Abraham took advantage of early Otter Valley miscues to take the lead and then broke the game open with some timely hitting to win, 10-5.
The result moved the Eagles, the defending D-II champions, to 3-0 — a better start than in 2016, when the team gelled only after opening 0-6.
Senior shortstop Chris Wood, who handled five chances cleanly, doubled and scored twice, and drove in two runs, said the Eagles did not have to wait this spring to become a true team — and play better.
“Everything is much more positive this year. We’re much more together, keeping each other up. We hold each other accountable,” Wood said. “That’s pretty much it. We’re all just hitting the ball. That’s really helping us.”
Longtime Coach Jeff Stetson agreed.
“This year we came in with the expectation that we could be competitive in every game all year long. And last year I don’t think until about game 7, 8 or 9 we didn’t feel like we were going to be competitive,” Stetson said. “This year’s group is positive. They pick each other up, and they come in expecting to play well.”
Despite watching his team fall to 2-2, Otter Coach Mike Howe sees positives, too. Before Saturday, OV opened with 7-1 and 12-1 wins over good competition before losing to D-I Burr & Burton on Thursday, 7-0, when the Bulldogs scored five in the seventh.   EAGLE SENIOR ADAM Whitcomb drives in a run with a hit during Saturday’s game against Otter Valley.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
 Howe said his Otters would learn from their mistakes on Saturday, when three second-inning miscues led to three Eagle runs. Pitcher Josh Beayon also threw well, striking out seven and allowing four hits in four innings, but had trouble at times finding the strike zone and walked four.
“Physically we didn’t play bad, just a few mental mistakes. We’ve got to get ahead of hitters, and we ran ourselves out of a couple innings with baserunning mistakes,” Howe said. “But overall we played OK. There are just a few things we’ve got to fix.”
He credited the Eagles, and said games like those late last week would help the Otters improve.
“They always swing a good bat. They always put pressure on, and they always move around the bases,” Howe said. “They’ve always played the game the right way, and it’s good to face these kinds of teams. Especially when June comes around, we’ll be ready. We’ll be prepared. We’ll be a better team.”
The Otters took a 1-0 lead off Eagle starter Dustin Whitcomb in the first. Payson Williams doubled, moved to third on Beayon’s deep fly ball, and scored on a wild pitch.
   OTTER SOPHOMORE JOSH Beayon can’t control the ball during a rundown and Eagle junior Eli Rickner scores from third during Saturday’s game in Brandon.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Then came the second inning. Eagle left fielder Zach Hines reached on an infield bobble, and Whitcomb bunted him to second. Eagle catcher Eli Rickner was awarded first when OV catcher Daniel Allen’s glove touched his bat during a swing.
Eagle first baseman Coleman Russell laced an RBI single to score Hines. Rickner and Coleman moved to second and third on a throwing error, and Rickner scored when OV botched a rundown on a failed squeeze bunt. Right fielder Adam Whitcomb then singled in Russell to make it 3-1.
OV cut it to 3-2 in the bottom of the inning. First baseman Derek Aines singled, stole second and third, and scored on third baseman Dom McCullough’s single. But then McCullough, stealing second on the play, was doubled off first by Adam Whitcomb when second baseman Colby McKay lined to right.
Mount Abe added a run in the third on a two-out walk to Dustin Whitcomb and a Rickner double. In the fifth DH George Bailey walked, Wood doubled and both scored on a two-out infield error, and it was 6-2.
In the fifth, the Eagles scored four earned runs off reliever Kollin Bissette. He Dustin Whitcomb and hit Rickner to open the frame. Russell singled in Whitcomb, and a Keion Correll single loaded the bases. Bailey plated a run with a fielder’s choice, and Wood doubled in Russell and Bailey to make it 10-2.
Eagle third baseman Jon Jennings made a fine stab of a grounder to end the OV fifth with a runner on, a play that loomed larger when the Otters got to Whitcomb in the sixth.
Williams singled to lead off, and move to third on a Beayon hit. Aines reached on a fielder’s choice that erased Beayon, and McCullough and McKay singled home runs. Patrick McKeighan singled to load the bases, and Whitcomb walked Nate Hudson to force home a run to make it 10-5. A fly ball ended the rally.
Hudson had relieved Bissette with the bases loaded in the sixth and induced a double-play ball to McKeighan to kill the threat, and he tossed a scoreless seventh — with help from two outstanding plays from McKay at second base. Adam Whitcomb nailed down the win for the Eagles with a hitless seventh.
The Eagles are excited about the start, but know Division I Metro Conference scheduling challenges await.
“We are keeping a level head. But so far we’re doing pretty well,” Wood said. “I don’t know how good we can be, but we’re off to a pretty good start and we’re just going to try to keep rolling with the momentum.”
Stetson believes his team has the right amount of confidence and perspective.   
“We have to just realize we have to work hard and practice hard every day and keep that going,” Stetson said. “A 3-0 start is great, but we’ve got Burlington. St. Albans and Essex next week.”
Howe is pleased with his team’s spirit despite Saturday’s mistakes.
“The guys, they battle,” Howe said. “It’s just once you make too many compounded errors, it’s tough to fight back.” 

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