OV junior tops Addison Independent baseball team

ADDISON COUNTY — In 2017 Otter Valley owned the local high school baseball spotlight, rolling to the Division II title and posting the area’s only winning record.
And the Otters excelled again this year, although upstart Lake Region upset them in the quarterfinal round on the way to the crown. Led by a pair of pitching aces, including junior Josh Beayon, the 2018 Addison Independent Player of the Year, Coach Mike Howe’s Otters posted a 13-5 record that included a number of dramatic wins. Three more Otters, including a senior who tossed a perfect game, join Beayon on the 2018 Addison Independent Baseball All-Star Team.
Unlike 2017, a second team joined OV on center stage. Coach Charlie Messenger’s Middlebury squad bounced back to win 11 games, including a first-round playoff contest, and claim a share of first-place in the newly formed Lake Division. Three Tigers are Independent all-stars.
Coach Jeff Stetson’s Mount Abe group faced a rebuilding season after many seniors graduated who had helped the Eagles win the 2016 title. A three-game midseason winning streak was a highlight, but a five-win season was the reality despite flashes of good baseball. Two Eagles are honored here.
Coach Dwight Burkett’s Vergennes nine also won five times, but finished strong with three wins in five games, two over D-I foes, and then won a first-round road playoff-game before running into D-III juggernaut Windsor. Two Commodores round out the Independent team.
Selections were made based on statistics, observation and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
JOSH BEAYON, OV JUNIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Slugging first baseman and hard-throwing lefty pitcher who excelled at both roles … Batted a local high .550 with 10 doubles and three homers while striking out just twice and driving in a local high 26 runs … Contributed a number of clutch hits … Compiled a 6-4 record on the mound while facing many of the tougher teams on OV’s schedule … Finished with an earned-run average of 2.21, struck out 81 batters (another local high) in 44.2 innings, and tossed a five-inning no-hitter.
Howe’s Quotes: “He got a lot of our big starts, D-I opponents … He works so hard at everything he does, not just baseball. He’s a near-straight-A student. He’s got a great opportunity to get his 100th win in wrestling … He studies the game … He always pays attention to everything that’s going on. He picks up pitchers’ tendencies, which is really difficult to do … He doesn’t swing at bad pitches … He’s just so focused on hitting the ball where it’s pitched … Some of the stuff he does is hard to teach … He just obviously loves the game of baseball and works really hard at it … I’m glad I got one more year, too.”
PAYSON WILLIAMS, OV SENIOR. Notes: Excellent defensive center fielder and four-year starter who thrived at the plate and on the mound for OV … Used a four-pitch mix to go 3-1 with an ERA of 1.51 and 30 strikeouts in 36.2 innings, including a perfect game vs. Bellows Falls … Batted .530 while fanning just twice, homered once, doubled six times, drove in 17 runs, and stole 12 bases … Covered plenty of ground in center field and showed a strong arm.
Howe’s Quotes: “It was a fantastic year … Obviously going out and tossing a perfect game, it was something I’ll never forget and Payson will never forget. It was just an incredible achievement … He has the ability and he loves the game of baseball … He became a really good baseball player, and it was really fun to watch. He’s a great kid, very smart, hard worker, right near the top of his class … The last 14 games of the year he was just unstoppable, both pitching and hitting.”
DUSTIN WHITCOMB, MT. ABE SENIOR. Notes: Batted .370 with a team-best 14 runs and .465 on-base percentage … Did not strike out in 63 plate appearances, drove in eight runs, and added a double and a triple … Went 3-2 on the mound with an ERA of 1.93, striking out 49 and allowing 37 hits in 40 innings … Steady, sure-handed shortstop who was named the Lake Division Player of the Year and became the only local player named to the Vermont Twin-State team.
Stetson’s Quotes: “He put the ball in play every time … Just shy of half the time he got on base … Overall he was certainly, between fielding, hitting and pitching, our most consistent and best player … He provided great leadership for us in trying to get everybody going down the right path and working hard … He was just a pleasure to coach and just a really good baseball player … It was appropriate he was in the conversation for Lake Player of the Year and won it.”
WYATT CAMERON, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Excelled on the mound and at shortstop for the Tigers and contributed offensively … Used an improved fastball and a tricky knuckleball to compile a 6-1 pitching mark with an ERA of 1.65, striking out 54 in 51 innings while allowing 33 hits and 11 walks … Showed excellent range, a good arm and soft hands at shortstop … At the plate scored 12 runs, drove in seven, and belted three doubles and a triple while hitting .232.
Messenger’s Quotes: “He started coming on … His hits were pretty key … But where he excelled for us was on the defensive end and obviously the pitching … He was very efficient. He finished games with 68, 70 pitches going seven innings. He threw a lot of strikes, got in front, and then he has that knuckleball … The knuckleball goes right at you, and then it comes back right over the plate … When he was on the mound we had a lot of confidence.”
BRIAN FOOTE, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Led the Tigers with a .352 batting average while striking out just four times … Compiled 10 RBIs, including two go-ahead runs and a walk-off hit … Reached base at a .422 clip and scored 12 times … Three-year starting catcher who improved defensively behind the plate and particularly excelled at calling pitches and pick-off plays … Worked with the Tiger pitchers to allow only three stolen bases.
Messenger’s Quotes: “He did a great job of calling pitches, and also calling my pickoffs. Every time I went to call a pickoff he’d beaten me by a pitch … He managed the game. He was a good game manager back there … He led by example. He left everything out there. He was a headsy ballplayer … I was really pleased with the mental aspect of his game.”
JARED FORAND, MT. ABE SENIOR. Notes: Batted a loud team-high .382 out of the No. 3 slot in the Eagle order with six doubles, three triples and a team-high 17 RBIs … Reached base at a .443 rate and scored eight runs … Solid, versatile defender who because of injuries and other circumstances was asked to play first base, catcher and outfield this spring and more than held his own at each position.
Stetson’s Quotes: “He played multiple positions and was above-average at all of them … He did a lot of things for us just to make us the best that we could be this year … He got into some spots as a senior he hadn’t played at all before and did very well with them … He hit No. 3 all year long, which is typically where I put the guy who is hitting the best for us, and had the best numbers.”
PATRICK MCKEIGHAN, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Smart, reliable shortstop with good range and an accurate arm … Hit well and moved up from lower in the order to the No. 5 spot by the end of the season … Batted .315 with four doubles and nine RBIs … Also started several games on the mound and finished with a 3-0 record, an ERA of 2.10, and 18 strikeouts in 20 innings.
Howe’s Quotes: “Patrick works really hard defensively to control the game … When you have a shortstop that pays attention to the game, knows situations, knows what to do wherever the ball goes, it takes a lot of pressure off the pitcher … He put the ball in play, and he did get a lot of big hits for us this year … He’s another guy who controls the strike zone. At this level if you’re going to throw strikes you’re going to get outs.”
CASEY KIMBALL, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Senior who batted .368 and drove in a dozen runs out of the cleanup spot, many in crucial times, in the Commodore batting order … Compiled an on-base percentage of .415, a slugging percentage of .474, and pounded three doubles and two triples … Senior captain, three-year starter and team leaderwho had good moments in the field at third base.
Burkett’s Quotes: “He had a really good year … He had some good plays … The games we did hit well and did score some runs he did well with runners in scoring position … There was never a question in my mind of taking him out of the 4 spot … He was a good captain and had good leadership qualities … He definitely had a positive attitude. He’s a good kid, very inclusive.”
REILLY SHANNON, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Speedy leadoff hitter who batted .305 and showed good patience at the plate, drawing enough walks to reach base at a .427 rate … Led all local players with 18 stolen bases and also drove in 13 runs from the top of the order … Three-year starter in the outfield with good range.
Howe’s Quotes: “He’s one of the more aggressive offensive guys and baserunners I’ve been able to coach … He takes a lot of pressure of the batter by forcing the defense to keep track of him … He gets on base and scores runs … He’s got a good arm in the outfield. He plays a great outfield. He can track a ball extremely well … He’s always done everything we’ve ever asked of him.”
HALE HESCOCK, MUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Reached based at a .402 clip as the Tiger leadoff hitter by drawing seven walks to complement a .259 batting average … Scored a team-high 15 runs and drove in five, and poked a home run and two doubles … Played excellent defense in the middle infield, especially at second base … Tossed 16 innings on the mound, compiling a 2-0 record with an ERA of 2.19 while striking out 15 in 16 innings.
Messenger’s Quotes: “Obviously, he was strong defensively, probably the best second baseman in the league, and then filled in and played short really well when Wyatt was on the mound … He did what we wanted him to do as a leadoff batter, got on base … As a leadoff hitter you’re looking to get on base and create some havoc out there, and I think he did that for us … He’s a great athlete, and only a sophomore.”
THOMAS RICHARDS, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Senior second baseman who was voted the team’s most improved player after a breakthrough season … Batted .326 with an on-base percentage of .400, hitting a triple and a homer, tying for the team lead with five doubles and 12 RBIs, and leading VUHS with a .543 slugging percentage … Improved his fielding in the course of the season through dedication and hard work and delivered big hits.
Burkett’s Quotes: “He was clutch in a few key situations … He works harder than anybody on the team … I can’t tell you the nights after he stayed to work on his defense … He willed himself to be better, which is an admirable quality in a high school kid … He was an inspiration to everybody … Those are the guys coaches really want to see.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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