Hartford Literally Walks Off Against Otter Valley

  • Hartford's Austin Gaudette. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Valley News Sports Editor
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

White River Junction — Talk about doing something with nothing.

Junior Austin Gaudette took a high, tight 3-2 pitch for a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh inning on Wednesday night to deliver the Hartford High baseball team to a 6-5 win over Otter Valley at Maxfield Sports Complex.

After surrendering a 3-0 lead mid-game and needing two relief pitching stints from senior Jordy Allard to set the table, the Hurricanes (8-3) rallied for a run in the sixth and two more in the seventh to reverse a 5-3 deficit. OV largess played a large role: The Canes had just two hits in the final two frames, making full use of five walks, two hit batsmen and an Otter error to pull out a needed win.

Gaudette recalled a similar circumstance from last summer during the Vermont American Legion state tournament. In that instance, the Hartford center fielder took two-out, bases-loaded pitch off his body to bring in the winning run in a tourney elimination game.

Gaudette finished last night with a bizarre line: 0-for-0 with three walks, two HBPs and two RBIs. Hey, whatever gets the job done.

“I wanted to get a hit, but I’ll take a walk to win the game,” Gaudette confessed. “I like to hit the first pitch, and I was just waiting for one. I didn’t really see any good ones right down the middle, but it turned out good anyway.”

Two losses in the past week, to Rutland and Brattleboro, had Hartford slipping down a congested Vermont Division I ladder. The Otters (7-5) entered ranked second in D-II and were no slouches. Hartford coach Jarrod Grassi considered himself and his team fortunate for how the victory came about.

“We’ve played better in the games that we’ve won,” Grassi said. “We hurt ourselves today and put ourselves in a tough situation, but we bounced back. That’s the good thing. That’s the thing you like to see out of them this time of year.”

OV had to go to the bullpen after five innings because the Canes forced Otters starting pitcher Derek Aines to throw 110 pitches. Aines walked six, struck out four, hit one batter, allowed four hits and even pulled off an unassisted double play to kill a Hartford scoring chance in the fifth.

Relievers Nathaniel Hudson and Dominic McCullough both struggled to find the plate as Aines’ replacements. Hartford drew a run back in the sixth as Gaudette took a Hudson pitch off his back with the sacks full, plating teammate Tyler Hamilton from third base.

Hudson regrouped to strike out Kyle Hamilton and force a Riley Packard ground out to escape further harm, but the strike zone continued to elude the sophomore in the seventh. Hudson hit Hartford’s Nathaniel Robinson to open the inning and walked Tyler Hamilton with one out. McCullough took over on the bump, and Spencer greeted him with a ringing RBI single to right. Robinson scored to tie the game at 5-5, but a perfect throw from OV right fielder Payson Williams to catcher Daniel Allen caught Hamilton, the potential winning run, at home by a good 10 feet.

Walker Farley came on to pinch run for Spencer, Hunter Perkins drew a walk, and a booted Allard grounder loaded the bases. Gaudette took two balls, fouled off a McCullough pitch, took a strike, fouled another offering and drew ball three.

One pitch could decide the game. One pitch did.

“We’re a team that fights,” Gaudette said. “We don’t have that great of an offense, but our defense is pretty good. It let up a little bit … but we knew we had to come back and bite and scratch.”

Spencer pitched well enough to win, throwing three hitless innings to start. His teammates staked him to a 3-0 lead in the home third on an RBI double from Allard and a two-run double from Kyle Hamilton.

Two Hartford errors gifted OV three runs in the top of the fourth. Allard stemmed the tide, fanning two to end the threat before returning the mound to Spencer. Hudson put the visitors up in the fifth, tripling and scoring on a wild pitch. Allen made it 5-3 in the OV sixth with an RBI single.

Fungoes: Hartford had dropped from fourth in D-I at week’s end to ninth entering Wednesday night with its back-to-back defeats. … Allard got the win with two innings of relief, facing five batters and fanning all of them. The Southern New Hampshire University-bound senior also helped catch Aines in a rundown off third base on a failed squeeze bunt attempt in the fourth. … Spencer threw 78 pitches in five innings, 48 of them for strikes. The senior also scattered six hits, fanned three and walked two. … Aines pulled off his no-help twin killing to escape a one-out, bases-full jam in the Hartford fifth, inducing Cody Thayer to pop up a squeeze bunt, making the catch and jogging to third to complete the double play. … Hartford hosts Rutland on Friday at Maxfield. First pitch is 6 p.m.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.