BRANDON — Otter Valley Union High School softball fans on Monday got their first look at a new era in the program — several of the athletes who helped the Otters win the Division II title a year ago graduated, including ace hurler Ashley Sanderson and four-year starting second baseman Sam Hansen.
OV coach Pattie Candon saw her team play excellent defense against visiting D-I Brattleboro, but said her team did a little too much looking, too.
Colonel pitcher Kayla Wood whiffed 14 Otters, five of them on called third strikes, and allowed just three hits and three walks in her team’s 3-1 win over OV. Many OV hitters also watched while Wood’s fastballs and sneaky change-ups crossed the plate earlier in the count.
Candon — whose team will host Fair Haven on Thursday — didn’t want to take anything away from Wood’s performance, but at the same time said the Otters must be more aggressive at the plate.
“That’s the bottom line. We’re just not going out and getting that pitch,” Candon said. “I tell them you’ve got a dollar bill before every game. You’ve got to use it up when you go to that plate. Don’t come back with any change. And we’re coming back with plenty of change because we’re just standing there taking that third strike.”
OV senior pitcher Kaylee Pinson allowed five hits and four walks while striking out four. The Colonels bunched three of those hits and one of those walks to plate two runs in the second inning, and added the third score in that inning on a rare OV fielding miscue, a two-out passed ball.
A play more typical of OV’s day in the field came in the first inning, when a two-out walk and a single put a runner in scoring position. But senior catcher Amanda Sanderson picked the runner off third base, and junior third baseman Kristy Pinkham tagged the runner out in the rundown that followed.
The Otters mounted one of their two biggest threats in the bottom of the first. With two outs, freshman left fielder Meranda Bassette singled in her first varsity at-bat, and senior first baseman Michelle Lefebvre and junior shortstop Erin Trombley both walked. Sanderson then fouled off several pitches before grounding out to end the rally.
Brattleboro erupted in the top of the second. Sydney Santor singled to lead off, and Kelsie Carpenter bunted her way on. Cassie Rawson then drilled a double to right center, scoring both runners. Pinson retired the next two hitters, but Rawson moved up on a groundout and scored when a high fastball got past Sanderson.
Wood only allowed two OV baserunners between the second and sixth innings — Bassette, who singled and stole second in the third, and Sanderson, who walked in the fourth.
The Otters broke through in the seventh. Rightfielder Kelsey Poljacik singled with one out and advanced on an errant pickoff attempt by the Colonel catcher. Poljacik moved to third on pinch hitter Chelsea Bruce’s hard-hit grounder to first and scored on a wild pitch.
Pinson also settled in after the second inning, with help from her defense. In the third, Bri Moore doubled, but Trombley snared Santor’s line drive and dove to tag Moore. In the fifth, Sanderson threw out a runner stealing, and in the seventh, Pinkham speared a liner and doubled a runner off first base.
The OV infield handled all their chances cleanly. Lefebvre recorded 10 putouts, Trombley had an assist and two putouts, Pinkham recorded four assists and two putouts, and second baseman Ashlie Delphia totaled three assists and a putout.
Although Sanderson, Pinkham, Lefebvre and senior centerfielder Michaela Harrington return, Candon had been concerned about her defense’s lack of experience and was pleased on Tuesday.
“Defensively, we came up and made some key plays. It’s always good seeing that out there first game of the season,” Candon said. “It’s a good jumping-off point.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.