BRANDON – The Otter Valley Union High School softball team celebrated Friday afternoon’s dedication of the program’s field to longtime Coach Pattie Candon by thumping visiting Mill River, 27-0, in five innings as senior pitcher Taylor Aines tossed a no-hitter.
The 6-3 Otters’ 18-hit attack included two homers and seven RBIs by senior shortstop Cortney Poljacik, giving her six long balls in six games; two hits and five RBIs by Aines; four hits, four runs and three RBIs from second baseman Amy Jones; and at least two runs from every starter.
Nine OV runs came in the bottom of the first, 13 in the third, and five in the fourth. The only suspense was the hard-throwing Aines could toss what she said was her second no-hitter.
Aines — emotional after the ceremony honoring Candon, an OV physical education teacher and field hockey official as well as the winner of 309 OV softball games, and maybe distracted by the parade of Otter baserunners — said she did not know she had a no-hitter until told afterward.
“Me? A no-hitter? I didn’t even think about it,” she said. “I was just trying to strike them out and have my fielders make the plays.”
Aines struck out 11 and walked five, three in the first inning. She worked out of that jam by striking out the side, and admitted she was yet not fully focused.
“I guess it was a little a little nerve-wracking with the crowd here, and the ceremony for Miss Candon took time and we were all just kind of still happy for her,” Aines said. “So it took us a second for us to get into it. But once we did, we got the job done.”
Aines has better harnessed her control this season after walking too many batters in 2013. She pointed to an adjustment in her attitude, not her mechanics.
“I’m trying to stay consistent, not let my emotions get the best of me on the mound. Once one pitch is thrown and it’s not what I want, I can’t change anything, so the next one is most important,” she said.
Candon appreciates what Aines has done this season.
“I’m very happy for her, because it seems this year every time she steps in there she’s on a mission,” Candon said.
Once Aines worked out of trouble in the first, the OV bats went to work. Jones reached on an infield hit, and Aines doubled her home. Third baseman Megan Santell walked, and Poljacik singled in Aines. MRU pitcher Carly Ward threw the ball away as catcher Laura Beth Roberts reached on a fielder’s choice, with Santell scoring, and senior center fielder Olivia Bloomer singled two runs home.
Left fielder Maia Edmunds walked, and senior DH Brittany Bushey reached on an error, scoring Bloomer to make it 6-0. Jones poked another infield hit to score a run, and then Aines lined another hit to make it 9-0.
In the OV third, when the Otters scored 13 times on a dropped third strike, a walk, a misplay of an Aines pop fly, a Santell RBI single, Poljacik’s line shot over the right-center fence, singles by Roberts and Bloomer, walks to Edmunds and senior rightfielder Megan McKeighan, a two-run Bushey single, a two-run Jones double, an error, Santell’s RBI double, and Poljacik’s RBI grounder.
MRU came closest to a hit in the fourth. Taylor Worcester hit a dribbler to the left of the mound, but Aines made a strong throw to nip her at first. Chelsea Blanchard followed with a line shot at Jones at second, and she knocked it down and relayed to Kelli Jerome at first.
OV added its final runs in the fifth on singles by pinchhitter Maggie Smith and Bushey, an error, a Santell infield hit, and Poljacik’s three-run shot over the left-center fence. Aines then finished her no-hitter by striking out the side in the fifth.
The Otters appear to be one Division II’s top teams. Their only losses came early on to strong D-I squads when they were shorthanded, and recently at 8-1 Mount Abraham, D-II’s first-place team.
Aines said they will be confident moving forward.
“I think when we face those D-I teams again, it’s going to be a little different ballgame,” she said. “Whichever team we face should be ready for us to come at them.”
Aines also talked about honoring the team’s coach again — Candon won her 300th in 2013.
“We were part of her 300th win, too, and it’s awesome that we were the team that got to share that with her,” Aines said.
Candon prefers things low-key, but appreciated the tribute.
“It means a lot to me, but I wanted it to mean something to the kids,” Candon said. “That’s my focus. Why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I want them to feel good. I want them to have a quality facility. I want them to feel good about coming out here and playing ball, that they want to play ball here.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.