Controversial call ends OV’s title chances
By Andy Kirkaldy
An Otter Valley Union High School baseball team led by seven multi-year senior starters compiled an outstanding 18-win season this spring.
But on Friday night the 19th, and most important, victory slipped out of the top-seeded Otters’ grasp in the Division II final in Burlington at Centennial Field.
There, the Otters’ Marble Valley League rival Fair Haven, the No. 3 seed, rode the stellar pitching of Aubrey Ramey, strong defense, timely hitting, and one much debated umpiring decision past OV, 3-1.
Ramey went the distance and allowed four hits, all in the first three innings, walked just one, and struck out 10. Over the final four innings he surrendered just a fifth-inning walk to Reilly Shannon.
OV Coach Mike Howe praised Ramey, who won three playoff games for the 15-5 Slaters. Ramey threw hard and mixed in a sharp breaking ball.
“I thought Aubrey pitched well. He really settled down the last three or four innings, kept us off balance,” Howe said.
Aubrey outdueled OV senior ace Josh Beayon, who allowed six hits, four walks, and one earned run, and struck out four. Howe also said Beayon tossed a good game, and probably deserved a better fate.
“It’s really unfortunate. You can’t be awarded extra outs and expect Josh to stay out there and keep doing his job, and I thought he pitched pretty well,” Howe said.
The OV coach was referring to the hot topic among many observers, the vocal OV fans during the game, and on social media afterward: the Slaters’ third inning, during which they scored their three runs.
Slater left fielder Austin Beayon led off the inning with a triple, and then took off for home with the next batter at the plate. But either Beayon or the batter obviously missed a sign for a squeeze bunt or a steal, and Beayon was caught in a rundown. OV third baseman Nate Hudson apparently tagged him as he ran toward home, and Hudson stopped running, and Beayon turned toward the dugout.
The third-base and home-plate umpires made no signal, apparently screened from the tag by Hudson and Beayon respectively. Beayon finally turned around and bolted for the plate, and the umpire made a half-hearted safe sign. The run stood, the Otters were stunned, and the umpires did not gather with the rest of the crew to discuss the play. (It is possible no request was made they do so in the confusion.)
“They said nobody saw a tag,” Howe said. “The runner stopped running and runs off the field. Nate stopped and the runner stopped. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Then, after Josh Beayon retired the next two batters, the Slaters scored their final two runs with two outs. Parker Morse walked, and Aaron Szabo doubled to put runners on second and third. Brett Huntley then grounded sharply to shortstop Pat McKeighan’s right, and he opted to try for a tag play at third rather than a long throw to first. His throw bounced past the bag, and both runs scored.
To be fair, the Otters had chances to put runs on the board early. In the first they had two runners on when Hudson reached after he struck out on a wild pitch, and Josh Beayon singled. But Ramey struck out the next batter to work out of the jam.
In the second inning, Kollin Bissette singled to lead off, but OV could not move him around.
OV scored in the third. Shannon reached on an infield hit and moved to second on a wild pitch. Hudson, who delivered the walk-off hit in OV’s 2017 title win, rapped a single to put runners on first and third with none out, and then stole second. McKeighan followed with a well-struck fly ball to center field to plate Shannon.
But the rally fizzled when Ramey struck out the next two hitters.
“We missed some opportunities,” Howe said. “We talked about how you have to execute to beat that team, and they just executed better than us.”
Ramey then shut down OV the rest of the way as the Slaters avenged two late-season defeats to OV in hard-fought games.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, and hats off to a good Fair Haven team,” Howe said.
The Otters finished 18-2, an effort that Howe credits largely to seniors Beayon, McKeighan, Hudson, Shannon, Bissette, Marcus McCullough and Jack Adams.
“They love this game, and they’ve never take a day off in four years. They’ve worked their absolute hardest. And they always try to get better,” he said. “They’re humble, and they don’t expect anything, and it’s been a lot of fun the past four years.”