VERGENNES — There’s no older adage in baseball than pitching and defense wins games.
The Vergennes Union High School baseball team has Exhibit A to prove it’s true: The Commodores’ 1-0 win over visiting Missisquoi on Thursday.
Junior pitcher Devin Hayes tossed a two-hit shutout, striking out 11 and walking none, while his teammates played flawlessly in the field.
Thursday’s win followed a complete-game pitching win on Wednesday by junior Charlie Stapleford, who struck out nine in the Commodores’ 3-1 victory at BFA-St. Albans.
The two wins over Division I foes pushed the D-II Commodores to 5-3. Hayes said they believe they can go far in the D-II playoffs this spring.
“We always play D,” Hayes said. “We’ve kept every team to under three runs every game besides two, so we’re going to keep it up, and keep pitching.”
On Thursday, only one ball hit off Hayes left the infield, a fly to junior center fielder Zach Ouellette to end the first inning. Senior shortstop Collin Curler (three assists) and junior second baseman Nick Richer (four assists) vacuumed up everything else put in play.
The best plays came from Richer, who ranged far to his left and flipped the ball directly from his glove to retire one hitter, and Steele, who made a running grab on a foul pop.
The first Thunderbird hit came in the top of the fourth, when Matt St. Amour (also the losing pitcher) beat out a bunt. But Steele caught him stealing, and through six innings Hayes faced the minimum number of hitters.
St. Amour was also tough, allowing six mostly soft hits, walking none, and fanning 10. Hayes reached on an infield hit in the first, but that was it until the third, when VUHS pushed across its run.
Justus Sturtevant led off by singling into short right field. Ouellette tried to bunt him up, but St. Amour forced Sturtevant at second. Senior left fielder Colin Babcock then bunted for a base hit, and the runners reached second and third when the T-Bird third baseman threw wildly to first base.
Curler then hit a popup behind first base that the T-Bird second baseman dropped, allowing Ouellette to score. Hayes reached on an infield hit, but St. Amour struck out two batters to end the threat.
VUHS threatened in the fourth on a Richer single and an Ouellette infield hit, but St. Amour worked out of trouble.
“St. Amour from Missisquoi pitched a great game,” said VUHS coach George Ringer.
Missisquoi got its second baserunner on in the seventh. Leadoff hitter Caleb Lothian grounded deep to the shortstop hole, and Lothian beat the throw easily.
He soon stole second, putting the tying run a base hit away with the heart of the T-Bird order — St. Amour and Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Turner Ede and Josh LaRoche — coming up.
An unfazed Hayes struck out all three.
“I just hit my spots and it worked out,” Hayes said.
Hayes said he just wanted to do his job for the Commodores.
“I always try to keep my team in the game,” he said. “And I did today, so I’m happy with that.”
The Commodores were back at full strength for the two games after missing players, including Curler, who were on a school trip abroad.
Ringer was happy his roster was complete, but happier that the Commodores were playing defense the way they can.
“We’re back to where I thought we would be. We had a couple blips there, the Essex game and the Burlington game we didn’t play well defensively,” he said. “I think we’re totally capable of playing this kind of defense pretty much every game.”
Ringer said he believes the Commodores will also start to be more productive offensively, and he is happy with what he saw last week.
“You never know what to expect in this game and this league,” Ringer said. “But I’m very encouraged with the way we’re playing.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org