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Otter boys play strong against tough baseball teams

BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School baseball team continued through its early-season gauntlet last week, splitting two home games against undefeated teams.
The defending Division II champion Otters knocked off Windsor on Wednesday, 4-3, on yet another Nate Hudson walk-off hit, and then came up short on Saturday, 7-0, against D-I Brattleboro and standout pitcher and University of Connecticut recruit Leif Bigelow.
The Otters are 3-2, with their only other loss to defending D-I champion Burr & Burton. They have also given Fair Haven its only setback of the spring, and D-I Mount Anthony is set to bring a 3-2 record into Brandon on Monday.
It’s no accident the Otters are facing so many tough teams, according to Coach Mike Howe.
“There’s a reason we schedule as many Division I games as we can, because hopefully they’re going to be better than what we see in the playoffs, or at least comparable. We want to challenge ourselves as early in the season as we can,” Howe said after the Brattleboro game. “If we can squeak out some wins, great, but what we saw today, that just makes us better.”
Howe said he was mostly happy with the Otters’ effort against Bigelow, a hard-throwing righthander who can also find the strike zone with sliders and curves.
Bigelow struck out seven, walked one, and allowed five hits. But the Otters made contact and mounted threats consistently, leaving nine men on base.
“I thought we really swung the bats pretty well. That’s one of the better pitchers we’re going to see, and I thought we took advantage of a couple mistakes he made,” Howe said. “We just didn’t produce enough with runners in scoring position.”
One chance came in the first on two-out singles by Josh Beayon and Payson Williams, but Bigelow induced a grounder to the short stop to end the threat.
In the fourth, with the Colonels leading 5-0, OV loaded the bases. Beayon had legged out an infield hit, and Bigelow hit Williams with a pitch. Then Patrick McKeighan reached first on a one-out error to load the bases, but Bigelow struck out the next two hitters.
Williams joined Beayon in poking two hits for the Otters, while leadoff hitter Reilly Shannon singled, walked and stole a base.
Beayon, a lefty, got the start for OV, and the Colonels hurt him with the long ball in his 4.2-inning stint. In the second inning Beayon walked a batter before Ben Betz drilled a hanging curve over the fence in left center to make it 2-0. In the third Jeremy Rounds walked and Tyler Millevick pulled a homer down the left-field line.
Bigelow then walked, stole second and scored on a Dan Patrick single to make it 5-0, but Beayon worked out of trouble with help from a double play turned by McKeighan at short. OV made just one error, and several good plays included a running catch by right fielder Jack Adams. Howe noted the sound defense.
“We’ve cleaned up a lot from the mistakes we made early in the season,” Howe said.
 
REILLY SHANNON HELPED break up a double play after hitting a single.
Independent photo/Angelo Lynn
The Colonels added their final runs in the fifth. Bigelow lined a homer to center, and Beayon walked Kam Pelkey, who scored on a Kris Carroll single. That ended Beayon’s day. He struck out eight, walked three and allowed eight hits. Kollin Bissette tossed 2.1 scoreless relief innings.
Howe said Beayon showed well other than a few mistake pitches against a team that had scored 35 runs in its prior three games.
“Top to bottom they can put the ball in play, and they did that today. I thought Josh actually pitched pretty well, left the ball up a couple times and they took advantage of it. But otherwise I thought he kept them off-balance pretty good,” Howe said.
On Wednesday, the Otters edged visiting Windsor, 4-3, when Hudson singled home pinch-runner Alex Polli with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
It was Hudson’s second walk-off hit of the season (the first came against Fair Haven), and helped OV deal the 5-1 Jacks their first loss. The winning rally started when DH Marcus McCullough walked. Polli stole second before scoring on Hudson’s hit.
Beayon threw the final two innings, retiring six straight batters and striking out three, to earn the pitching win. His two-out, two-run homer in the fifth also tied the score at 3-3.
After a scoreless first three innings Windsor took a 1-0 lead in the fourth off Williams, the starting pitcher. Justin Smith’s two-out single plated Windsor’s run. Williams then scored the tying run in the bottom of the inning on a Bissette squeeze bunt. Williams walked, stole second and reached third on a ground out before Bissette brought him home.
Before Beayon’s blast in the bottom of the fifth, Williams surrendered two runs in the top of the inning on two walks and a Robert Slolom double. Williams walked seven, but allowed just three hits and struck out three in five innings.
Overall, Howe expects more good things as the Otters’ season progresses.
“We have a great group of kids, kids that just love the game of baseball. They don’t want days off. They want to be here every day. They want to work hard on getting better,” Howe said. “And it shows on the field.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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