Otters thwart BBA in final

BURLINGTON -- Otter Valley senior pitcher Brett Patterson sure picked the right time to throw one of the best games of his life.

On the biggest stage -- Centennial Field for the Division II state title -- Patterson baffled the top-seeded Burr and Burton Academy hitters, tossing a one-hit shutout and leading the No. 2 Otters to a 9-0 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday night.

It is Otter Valley's first state championship since 1976.

"They're a great hitting team, solid in the field. [Their] pitcher [was] throwing strikes all night, he located well, just a great baseball team, we didn't falter as much as they're just very good," said BBA senior first baseman Jake Stalcup.

The teams were even through the first two innings, with Patterson and BBA starter Noah Rizio each allowing a single hit. But the Otters (19-1) broke through in the top of the third with six runs, starting the rally at the bottom of the lineup.

"I knew after the first time [we faced them], they were a very good hitting team, but today they hit with some authority," BBA coach Tony Cirelli said, referring to an 8-1 loss in the regular season. "I thought if we could break scoring first, that might have changed things, given us momentum. When we gave up the six in the third, that was a huge hole to climb out of."

John Winslow started the inning beating out a ground ball to third base. A steal put him in scoring position for No. 9 hitter Chad Lonergan (three hits), who singled past first base to drive in the first run. Leadoff man Ryan Kelley doubled to right-center to drive in the second run and Patterson then dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line.

Jim Winslow (three hits) was next, hitting an RBI single and Mike Winslow, batting in the cleanup spot, blasted a 2-run double to left.

"We put the bat on the ball, [Rizio's] throwing 80-82, he's not going to continue doing that ... they're a fastball team, it was just a matter of time ," said Otter Valley coach Tim Mitchell.

Making things worse for the Bulldogs, Otter Valley was aggressive on the basepath with four steals in the inning and seven overall.

"We tried to keep the runners close but once they're on, they're going," said Cirelli.

With a six-run cushion firmly in hand, Patterson, who struck out five and walked one, got stronger. He retired the final 15 batters in a row after the third inning. The sole BBA hit was a second-inning bloop single by senior Weston Muench.

"They're the best team we played this year by far, they pounded me last time, they pounded Riz this time," said Stalcup.

Rizio, a junior, bounced back after the game-changing frame, allowing only three more hits in his six innings of work. He finished with four strikeouts and one walk.

Otter Valley added a run in the fifth and two in the sixth for a 9-0 lead, but BBA wouldn't go down without a fight. Dalton Blackwell came on to pinch-hit to start the sixth, rocketing a shot between first and second but the second baseman made a diving stop and recovered to make the put-out.

Then Robert England drove the ball deep to right field and the outfielder misjudged the ball but recovered and jumped up at the last second to snag the fly.

Patterson kept the Bulldogs silent in the seventh, ending the game with a called third strike.

"It doesn't look like on the scoreboard, but we never gave up," Stalcup said. "Everyone was up in the dugout, everyone had their heads up, we all played as hard as we could."

Burr and Burton wrapped up the season at 17-3, reaching its third championship game in four seasons --the most successful four-year run in program history.

"That's still a great season," Cirelli said. "Our goal was to make it to states at our first practice. I told them [after the game], keep your heads up and that I love every one of you guys it was a pleasure to coach them."


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