ADDISON COUNTY — Once again the Otter Valley baseball team proved to be the best locally, even though a heartbreaking loss in the Division II final left the talented Otters one win short of the top prize.
Still, Coach Mike Howe’s Otters won 18 games. They were led by four members of the 2019 Addison Independent Baseball All-Star Team, including senior Josh Beayon, who repeats as the Addison Independent Player of the Year. The other three Independent all-stars teamed up with Beayon not only this year, but also during the past four years for an outstanding run that included the 2017 D-II title.
Coach Dwight Burkett’s young Vergennes team also excelled this spring, surging all the way to the D-III title game before falling and settling for a 14-6 record that included a Lake Division championship. Four Commodores made the Independent team.
Coach Charlie Messenger’s Middlebury group couldn’t match 2018’s 11-win campaign, but bounced back from a slow start to finish the regular season at .500 and almost knock D-I’s No. 4 seed out of the playoffs. Two Tiger standouts are honored here.
Coach Jeff Stetson’s Mount Abraham squad had good moments, including a four-game winning streak and a big first-round road upset of D-II’s No. 6 seed. But a lack of offensive consistency ultimately led to a seven-win season. A two-way Eagle is recognized here.
Choices were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
JOSH BEAYON, OV SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: The best pitcher and close to the best hitter among local players … Batted .431 with thump (eight extra-base hits, including a couple homers), driving in a 24 runs and scoring 20 while compiling an on-base percentage (OBP) of .514 … Struck out just eight times during his entire high school career … Lefty who this spring went 10-1 record on the mound, using a three-pitch arsenal keying off a strong fastball … Struck out 87 in 63 innings and finished with an earned-run average of 0.78 … Hard-working team leader who also played well at first base and will take his talents and 4.0 GPA to Keene State College.
Howe’s Quotes: “Most of Josh’s talent comes from his dedication. He just works so hard at being good … He’s the most humble 18-year-old kid I’ve ever been around in my life. Never takes credit, always gives credit to his teammates … He’s a special player, no doubt about it … The way he drives the ball to the opposite field and hits it where it’s pitched, it’s studying and learning … Obviously, he throws hard … He moves the ball around really, really well … He’s just a competitor … It’s been a lot of fun with Josh. He’s just a coach’s dream.”
JEFFREY STEARNS, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Team leader and excellent defensive catcher whose batting average of .545 and OBP of .649 were local bests … Pounded 13 doubles, a triple and a homer, stole nine bases, drove in 23 runs and scored 20 … Caught every inning of every game this spring, blocked balls effectively, improved his throwing to catch runners stealing regularly, and was entrusted by the coaches to call the pitches for the effective VUHS mound staff.
Burkett’s Quotes: “He was rock solid back there. Not much got by him … He called the pitches. He did an awesome job of that … Obviously the kid’s a real hard worker, and he kind of came into his own this year … This year in particular he particularly came into it (as a leader). We keep having to remind ourselves he’s only a junior.”
WYATT CAMERON, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Tiger ace on the mound who struck out 42 in 33 innings while allowing only four earned runs, 19 hits and 10 walks in five regular-season starts … Finished the regular season with an earned-run average of 0.85 and a 303 record and pitched an outstanding game vs. Rice in the playoffs, leaving after 10 innings in a 2-2 tie … Team leader who batted .302 with an OBP of .375, scored 10 runs, knocked in seven runs, stole seven bases, and did an outstanding job at shortstop.
Messenger’s Quotes: “He had big hits at the right time for us … He was lights-out on the mound. We had a lot of confidence when he was on the mound … He developed his curveball this year … He’d throw in the knuckleball. He had a change. When he used his off-speed stuff he was pretty devastating. His fastball set all the off-speed stuff up … He was a top shortstop defensively … He was a leader … He was a good captain.”
TUCKER STEARNS, VUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Excelled at the plate, on the basepaths, at shortstop and on the mound for the Commodores … Batted .476 with an OBP of 569 and led all local players by scoring 35 runs … Belted six doubles, a triple and a homer and stole 15 bases in 15 tries … On the mound went 4-4, usually facing stronger foes, with an ERA of 2.20, allowing 38 hits and 19 walks in 47.2 innings while striking out 55 … Showed range and a good arm at shortstop.
Burkett’s Quotes: “We definitely lined him up (on the mound) against the tougher teams … He was a solid defensive player … He definitely came into his own at shortstop … He’s a hard-working kid with a positive attitude … Tucker led by example. He came in early and left late.”
REILLY SHANNON, OV SENIOR. Notes: Fine outfielder who put his quickness to good use offensively and defensively and excelled at the plate this spring … Scored 27 runs and stole a local-best 27 bases while batting .403 with a .434 OBP out of the leadoff spot, and also drove in 17 runs from the top of the order … Showed a great first step in getting to balls in left field.
Howe’s Quotes: “I gave Reilly the green light on base … He’s just a great base stealer, and he reads the ball in the outfield tremendously well … I knew if he got on base there was a great chance he would score because he always turned walks and hits into doubles and doubles into triples … He is fast, but his reads and how quick his first step is are really good … He’s going to be missed at the top of the lineup.”
NATE HUDSON, OV SENIOR. Notes: Table-setter out of the No. 2 spot in the OV order who put up a batting average of .475 batting average and an OBP of .533 … Scored 25 runs, stole 20 bases and drove in 15 runs … Steady, reliable defender at third base who will always be remembered for his two-out, walk-off RBI single in the 2017 D-II final … Three-year starter and tri-captain who leads by example.
Howe’s Quotes: “He’s constantly in the right place and constantly makes very difficult plays look easy … He’s one of those kids who will give you every ounce of energy that he has … He’s really worked hard on becoming just a great overall high school baseball player … He’s just the epitome of what you look for in a baseball player … He always makes the big play in the big spot.”
PATRICK MCKEIGHAN, OV SENIOR. Notes: Came on strong his senior year on the mound, at shortstop and at the plate … Finished with a 6-1 pitching record and an ERA of 2.35, striking out 45 in 35.2 innings … Showed range, a strong arm and smarts at shortstop … Moved to the No. 3 spot in the order and batted .344 and drove in 23 runs, scored 16 times, and knocked out five extra-base hits.
Howe’s Quotes: “He pitched really well … He gets outs. He gets ground-ball outs, and he’s got an excellent change-up … He doesn’t walk a lot of guys and he just goes out and pounds the zone … He hit behind runners really well, hit balls in gaps … His confidence really grew from junior year to senior year … Defensively he’s excellent. His footwork is great. He does everything the way you want a shortstop to do … He just had an outstanding season.”
JARRET MUZZY, VUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: All he did on the mound was win, going 8-0 with an ERA of 0.70 while baffling batters with his sharp control and pitch mix … Struck out 72 and allowed just 31 hits and 12 walks in 53.1 innings … Also batted .304 with an OBP of .360, scored 20 runs, stole 11 bases and drove in six … Played a sound defensive shortstop.
Burkett’s Quotes: “Any other year he would have been our good, solid (starting) shortstop. He’s got a good arm over there … He didn’t leave much up and over the plate. He hit his spots well … What he had for a breaking pitch, I don’t know what to tell you what it was, except it was really deceptive … He’s another really good kid, hard worker, really positive attitude.”
NOLAN WHITCOMB, MT. ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Compiled a 3-3 pitching record over 33.3 innings, striking out 38 and walking 10 … An ERA of 2.52 was inflated by one tough outing at OV … Picked up the complete-game playoff-win by allowing only one run … Batted .268 with an OBP of .400 and led the Eagles with 12 RBIs … Drilled a two-run homer to spark a comeback at Spaulding in the final game of the regular season.
Stetson’s Quotes: “He was our most effective pitcher … He had an almost four-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio … He throws pretty hard. We’re really working hard with him to get a little more difference between his off-speed stuff and his fastball, and when he gets that he’s going to be really tough … Nolan’s a competitor. He battled everybody really hard.”
AIDAN GARDNER, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Fast centerfielder with excellent range and a powerful throwing arm … Stepped up offensively as the season progressed and added valuable length to the VUHS batting order … Finished with a .380 batting average and .483 OBP … Slugged three doubles, a triple and a homer; stole eight bases; scored 15 runs; and drove in 13.
Burkett’s Quotes: “Obviously those are good offensive numbers … He came on toward the end. He worked really hard to improve his offensive game, but defensively is where he really shone time and time again … He’s a big, tall kid, six-foot-three. He’s got a big wingspan and a hell of a stride, and he just got really comfortable running things down out there, plus he’s got a great arm. ”
SEAN DEERING, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Fast defensive center fielder who led the Tigers with a batting average of .325 and an OBP of .460 … Scored a team-best 13 runs, stole a team-high 13 bases and knocked in five runs from the top of the order … Had great range in the outfield and made just one error all season.
Messenger’s Quotes: “He ended up leading off for us because of his speed and his ability to get the bat on the ball … Once he got the bat on the ball it allowed him to use his No. 1 asset, which was speed … Offensively he was a threat at the plate and on the basepaths … Defensively he flagged down everything … He had Division I defensive skills, speed, catching, and a decent arm … He worked hard, had a good attitude.”