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Otter pitcher leads Addy Indy all-star baseball team

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Posted on July 3, 2017 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



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OTTER VALLEY UNION High School senior Derek Aines is the 2017 Addison Independent High School Baseball Player of the Year. Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — Given this spring’s wet weather maybe we should all have expected it to be the season of the Otter, and the baseball season turned out that way: The Otter Valley Union High School nine bounced back from a combined total of four wins in the past two springs to claim the Division II title.

Many Otters stepped up through the course of the season, seemingly a different player every game. But one Otter senior pitched OV to three playoff wins, led them in regular-season pitching victories and was a tough out all season long at the plate: Derek Aines headlines the 2017 Addison Independent Baseball All-Star Team as the Player of the Year.

Coach Mike Howe’s Otters finished their playoff run at 14-6, and three more Otters joined Aines on the Independent team.

Coach Jeff Stetson’s Mount Abraham squad failed to repeat their dramatic 2016 run to the D-II title, losing in extra innings to finalist U-32 in a quarterfinal and finishing a respectable 8-10 that included a win at OV. Three Eagles are honored here.

Coach Dwight Burkett’s Vergennes team struggled in Metro play and finished with three wins, but could lay claim to the mythical Addison County crown — the Commodores defeated both Mount Abe and Middlebury. Three Commodores deserved spots here.

Coach Charlie Messenger’s inexperienced MUHS nine never got the bats going this spring and won just once. Even the Tigers’ best players, those who have appeared here in the past, did not have seasons that measured up to their typical standards. With plenty of young talent returning, Messenger said he is confident in the team’s future.

Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:

DEREK AINES, OV SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Capped off an outstanding year on the mound for OV with three postseason wins, including a complete-game five-hitter in the final … Finished 7-2 with a 1.59 earned-run average, striking out 69 in 66 innings while allowing 57 hits … Earned a pitching victory against D-I rival Rutland … At the plate raised his average almost 200 points from 2016, batting .358, driving in 13 runs, scoring nine times and cracking six doubles.

Howe’s Quotes: “He pitched against the toughest competition for us … Picking up three wins in the playoffs is a pretty remarkable feat … He really competed hard for us this year … At the plate he really turned it around for us this year, and really had a lot of big hits for us, too … He’s definitely a competitor. He wants to win. He puts his team first … He’s done everything that we’ve asked of him the last four years … His senior leadership was huge for us this year.”

HUNTER O’CONNOR, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Lefty hurler who enjoyed another good season on the mound and a breakout campaign at the plate … Batted a local-best .477 with two doubles and two triples out of the No. 2 spot in the order, scoring 11 times and driving in 11 runs … Compiled a 2-3 pitching record with an ERA of 3.08 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.3-to-1 … Tossed a complete game shutout vs. Mount Abe.

Burkett’s Quotes: He was really tearing the ball up at the end ... This definitely was a much better offensive season for him ... There were games when he didn’t get a lot of offensive support or we didn’t hit behind him ... He was as good as just about everybody’s No. 1 pitcher.”

CHRIS WOOD, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Continued his assault on Metro pitching this season while cutting his errors at shortstop in half from a year ago … Led the Eagles with a .400 average while driving in 14 runs out of the No. 3 hole, scoring nine times, stealing eight bases, cracking three doubles and a triple and striking out just seven times in 70 plate appearances … Quiet team leader with range, quickness and a strong arm at shortstop.

Stetson’s Quotes: “He was much improved in the field … He hit the ball wicked hard … I’ve had a lot of really good infielders over the years, and he might be the best at catching that Texas Leaguer that the shortstop’s got to go get between him and the outfield … He really set a good example, and you could tell he had an intensity and a fire about him … When we needed a kick in the butt or needed to pick up our intensity or focus, he was the guy.”

COLBY MCKAY, OV SENIOR. Notes: Hit .476 while striking out just three times all season … Tied for the team and local lead with 15 RBIs and scored eight times … Poked two doubles, one to lead off the bottom of the seventh of the championship game that would have been a walk-off homer anywhere else, and then scored the title-winning run … Three-year starter at second base who played errorless baseball this spring.

Howe’s Quotes: “From a leadership standpoint and a work ethic standpoint, I haven’t seen anybody like Colby since I’ve been coaching … He continually did everything we asked of him. He went above and beyond … He really turned himself into a solid middle infielder … He was continually in the right place in the right time, and collected more big hits than I can remember … He really excelled this year for us and seized every opportunity we gave him and just had a dynamite season.”

PAYSON WILLIAMS, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Batted .385 and tied McKay with 15 RBIs, scored nine times, and drilled two doubles and a triple out of the No. 3 hole … Played a solid centerfield and showed off a strong arm … Compiled a 5-2 pitching record including a quarterfinal playoff victory and a win vs. D-I Brattleboro … Finished with an ERA of 2.03 and 34 strikeouts in 38 innings.

Howe’s Quotes: “He’s a solid, solid player … He battled. He won a couple big games for us … In center field he was great … I don’t think he made one error in the outfield … He’s another kid that just loves to compete and play baseball and does everything that we ask.”

DUSTIN WHITCOMB, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Versatile player who batted .373 with an on-base percentage of .422, scored a local-best 18 runs and picked up eight RBIs … Filled in elsewhere, but when not pitching mostly played right field, where he played errorless ball … On the mound compiled a 2-2 record and earned a save in 35 innings pitched with an ERA of 3.96.

Stetson’s Quotes: “He’ll be my starting shortstop when he’s not pitching next year … He had a real good solid year … He will be our captain and main man, I would assume, next year … He was very good in right field … He got to a lot of balls … He really could play anywhere except maybe catcher. He’s very versatile … He put the ball in play a lot.”

CASEY KIMBALL, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Batted a loud .410 with four doubles and three triples, scoring nine times and driving in nine runs despite missing several games … Reached base at a .500 clip and slugged .615 … Agreed at Burkett’s request to help the team by playing shortstop and did a solid job.

Burkett’s Quotes: “He did it (played shortstop) because I asked him to ... Those balls he got to, he did a good job getting his feet set and making a good throw ... Offensively he was a rock the whole year ... He was pretty consistently in the No. 4 spot because not only was his average high, but he seemed to be good hitting when the chips were down.”

JOSH BEAYON, OV SOPHOMORE. Notes: After impressing as a freshman first baseman as a late call-up in 2016, picked up where he left off by batting .362 as OV’s cleanup hitter with 14 RBIs, belting four doubles and a home run and scoring eight times … Chipped in on the mound with 3-2 record and an 0.99 ERA in 14 innings, striking out 27 and walking only four … Made only one error at first base.

Howe’s Quotes: “He started producing for us late last year, and it certainly carried over … Josh’s success comes from the effort he puts in … He is not outworked and continues to impress the coaching staff with his selflessness and doing whatever it takes for the team to be successful … He’s a quiet leader.”

JEFFREY STEARNS, VUHS FRESHMAN. Notes: Introduced himself to Metro play by batting .395 and drawing 12 walks in 14 games for a .549 OBP ... Drove in seven runs, scored 11 and knocked out three doubles … Played well defensively and showed composure at third base and behind the plate.

Burkett’s Quotes: He’s a solid catcher ... He really anchored third base for us ... He’s a (hockey) goalie, which I think helped him immensely at catcher and as a corner infielder. He’s fearless ... He’s a gifted athlete ... You wouldn’t look at him and think he’s a freshman out there ... He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he’s a good teammate.”

GEORGE BAILEY, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Helped the Eagles with his bat, pitching arm, defense at third base and attitude ... Patient leadoff hitter who batted .315, took a number of walks, drove in 12 runs, scored seven times despite often being lifted for courtesy runners, and hit two doubles and a triple ... Won two games on the mound with a respectable 4.10 ERA despite often drawing tough assignments, striking out 33 in 43.2 innings.

Stetson’s Quotes: “George had a really solid year for us … He also got inserted into the leadoff role this year and embraced that and did a great job … He had the ability to take a lot of pitches and still have a productive at bat, so he gave everybody else behind him a chance to see three or four pitches … There was a need at third base and he filled it admirably … He always had a smile on his face … He just loved playing high school baseball, and it showed in his attitude.” 

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