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The Mitts Fit the Wasps

Woodstock Rides Sharp Defense To Victory Over Thetford

  • Woodstock’s Bradley Lewis prepares to make a throw to first base during yesterday’s game at Thetford Academy. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Thetford’s Jordan Eastman jogs out to the field yesterday. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Woodstock’s Conor Joyce pitches yesterday in Thetford. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Thetford's Andrew Cawley pitches against Woodstock. (Valley News - Libby March)

Thetford — While helping junior pitcher Conor Joyce earn his first varsity win yesterday, the Woodstock Union High baseball team’s defense was sharp and efficient while committing no errors in a 7-2 win at Thetford.

Make no mistake — the Wasps’ effectiveness is by design.

“(Defense) is something we really emphasize,” Woodstock coach Jason Tarleton said. “We tell our pitchers to throw strikes and make (opponents) put the ball in play. To play with that style, you have to play strong defense, so we do a lot of reps at practice. We hit the ball hard at our kids, and they love it.”

Woodstock’s “D” sure appeared comfortable yesterday, going 8-for-8 on infield assists, 3-for-3 on fly-ball putouts and turning a double play to help silence a Thetford rally in the sixth inning. All of that helped Joyce, who tossed a complete game to go with just one walk and one hit batter. He added seven strikeouts, but those were more incidental than intentional.

“We talk all the time about how the point isn’t to make guys strike out, it’s to make them hit it,” said Joyce, who issued just 40 balls from his 101 pitches. “The fielders made the plays for me. It’ll be a good season if we keep playing like that.”

The Wasps, who play in Vermont Division II, evened off at 2-2 while bouncing back from Thursday’s 13-5 loss at Marble Valley League rival Otter Valley. Thetford, a D-III team, played its home opener and slipped to 0-2.

Woodstock’s offense was no slouch, either, with juniors Dougie Avellino (2-for-2, RBI double, three runs) and Zach Cole (3-for-4, two doubles, RBI, run) leading the way at the plate. Eight of the Wasps’ starting nine reached base at least once against Panther pitchers Henry Nichols (three innings, six hits, five earned runs, three strikeouts, no walks) and Andrew Cawley (four innings, four hits, two earned runs, five strikeouts, one walk).

Avellino, a co-captain, is excited about his team’s offense this season.

“One through nine, we can hit,” he said. “Getting on base is one of our strengths.”

Even when they didn’t, the Wasps were productive, advancing five runners on groundouts. That included RBI grounders from Bradley Lewis, Joyce and first baseman Jack Fitzpatrick, which helped account for a 5-0 Woodstock lead after three innings.

Woodstock plated two in the first, as Avellino was plunked by Nichols to start the game and reached second on the pitcher’s wild throw to first in an attempt to pick him off. Avellino stole third and came home on Lewis’ ground ball to Thetford second baseman Jack Sweet (seven assists).

Zach Cole singled to left and stole both second and third before coming in on an RBI infield single from Sam Cole with two outs. Joyce had another infield single, but Nichols got Fitzpatrick to strike out looking.

The Wasps went up 3-0 in the second on back-to-back, one-out doubles from No. 9 hitter Levi Vigh and Avellino. Then they chased Nichols with two more in the third, with Joyce and Fitzpatrick issuing back-to-back, run scoring groundouts to plate Alex King (hit by pitch) and Sam Cole (single), respectively.

Woodstock added an insurance run against Cawley in the fourth on Lewis’s RBI single to score Avellino, who walked to lead off the inning. That made it 6-0 before Cawley recovered to strike out six consecutive batters, stranding Sam Cole at third in the fourth and retiring the side in order in the fifth.

Woodstock got to Cawley with one out in the sixth, Zach Cole’s ground-rule double in left field plating Avellino.

The top of Thetford’s order helped the Panthers get on the board in the home half of the sixth. No. 1 hitter Jordan Eastman led off with a double into left center and came home one pitch later on Nichols’ opposite-field single to right.

Joyce plunked Cawley to put runners on first and second with none out, but Woodstock quickly retired the side from there. Avellino, Woodstock’s shortstop, snagged a liner by Thetford’s Nolan Howard and doubled up Nichols at second before Vigh gathered Colby Richardson’s fly ball to left.

Aidan Cleaves led off the seventh with a triple for Thetford, coming home when Sweet hit a grounder to first base to make it 7-2.

The Panthers, who have eight freshmen or sophomores on their 13-player roster, lost two would-be starters to defections and a third, pitcher and catcher Matt Bach-Lombardo, to a transfer.

Thetford coach Phil Chaput still has high hopes for this season after returning five starters from last year’s 4-12 team.

“We do a have learning curve this year with a lot of young guys,” said Chaput. “We’re filling some voids and it’s trial by fire for some of the guys, but I think it’s only a matter of time before we start putting some base hits together and winning some games.”

Extra Bases: It was a busy day on the TA campus, which also hosted the Woodstock-Thetford softball game as well as a “Touch the Truck” event to benefit the nearby Maple Leaf Children’s Center. Participants paid an entry fee to get access to vintage automobiles and motorcycles, race cars, emergency vehicles and a gilder plane. ... Woodstock was 7-for-8 on stolen base attempts. ... Real-life wasps pestered Thetford fans sitting on the wooden bleachers behind home plate. ... Both teams play at home Tuesday, Woodstock hosting Leland & Gray and the Panthers taking on rival Oxbow.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.