Aines tosses second no-hitter in 3-1 Otter Valley victory
OTTER VALLEY — With one out in the top of the first inning of Wednesday’s softball game, Springfield No. 2 hitter Chelsea McCallister lofted a fly ball to shallow left center that an Otter Valley Union High School outfielder saw hit off her glove for an error.
The next batter, Meghan Courchesne, grounded back to OV pitcher Taylor Aines, who air-mailed her throw over OV first baseman Kelli Jerome to put runners on second and third. K.K. Haskell then lofted a fly ball to center fielder Olivia Bloomer to score McCallister.
That out proved to be the first of 20 straight recorded by Aines. The senior tossed her second no-hitter in two weeks on the newly dubbed Candon Field as the surging Otters went on to defeat the Cosmos, 3-1; post their ninth win in 10 outings; and improve to 9-3.
The Otters also improved to 8-1 in Division II play, with their only loss coming on the road in eight innings to 10-3 Mount Abraham. Since then, OV has taken five straight, including this past Monday’s 2-0 win over defending D-1 champion Brattleboro. Aines and the OV defense have allowed only three runs in that span.
Aines said the Otters are playing with confidence.
“Brattleboro was a big win for us. We lost to them the first time. It was nice to come back and get them the second time,” Aines said. “We’re playing well. We’re fielding well. We’re hitting well.”
Junior catcher Laura Beth Roberts, who had the best seat for Aines’ four-strikeout, no-walk performance on Wednesday, said Aines is a big reason OV is confident.
“She made my job pretty easy. She didn’t throw many balls today, and we got them to swing the bat,” Roberts said. “She’s having a fantastic season.”
As was the case in Aines’ five-inning no-hitter vs. Mill River on May 2, she and her catcher were not aware afterward what had occurred.
Roberts was almost stunned.
“Wow. No, I didn’t know,” Roberts said. “Now I can see it. But I didn’t think of it. That’s great.”
Aines correctly credited her defense. Third baseman Brittany Bushey ended the third inning with a nice throw after fielding a slow roller, shortstop Cortney Poljacik and second baseman Amy Jones handed chances cleanly, and rightfielder Megan McKeighan made a nice catch on a second-inning ball hit down the line.
The closest the 6-6 Cosmos came to a hit was in the fifth, when Aines fielded Sara Locke’s nubber and fired to first base, where Jones had moved over to cover. Jones held onto the ball as Locke collided with her on the bang-bang play.
“My team was there behind me making all the plays. It was not like they didn’t make contact,” Aines said.
Meanwhile, Cosmo hurler Heather Sanborn also pitched well, allowing only three hits and four walks. But the Otters got all the runs they would need in the first inning.
Bushey walked to lead off, and Jones bunted her to second. Aines then lined a single up the middle to plate Bushey. Aines scored when the ball got past the center fielder and the Cosmos added a throwing error on the play.
OV scored again in the second. Bloomer led off and reached on an error, and got to third on a McKeighan single. Bushey plated Bloomer with a squeeze bunt.
Sanborn then shut down OV, allowing only two walks and a Bushey single the rest of the way. Sanborn received help from McCallister — the Cosmo third baseman robbed Aines twice and Jones once and also alertly tagged out McKeighan in the OV second on a delayed squeeze play.
D-I Mount Anthony was set to visit Candon Field on Friday (after the early holiday deadline for the Independent), and OV is scheduled to visit Fair Haven on Tuesday and host Hartford on Thursday as the regular season ends.
The Otters believe they have established themselves as title contenders, but Roberts said they will focus on taking care of business.
“We definitely have confidence in our skills, and we always make sure to practice everything every day,” Roberts said. “We don’t want to forget our basics. We have our confidence, but we’re going in playing hard against every team.”
Aines hopes the Otters can win those games and move up in the standings to earn more home playoff games. After Wednesday, they stood in fifth in D-II according to the Vermont Principals’ Association website behind Lyndon (9-1), Fairfax (12-0), Vergennes (9-2) and Mount Abe (10-3).
“We’re feeling pretty good actually,” Aines said. “Hopefully we can get all our games played at the newly named Candon Field and put on a show for our fans.”