by Craig Beck
BURLINGTON - For the second straight year, the Oxbow baseball team is the Vermont Division II champion. On Saturday at the University of Vermont's Centennial Field, the fourth-seeded Olympians used flawless defense and the bunt to overwhelm sixth-seeded Windsor, 6-2.
Division II Finals
A beautifully executed squeeze play in the fourth inning helped deliver the Olympians back to Bradford, championship trophy in hand.
The Yellow Jackets threatened to score early in the game, but Oxbow's defense held them at bay. With one out in the first inning, Joe Holloway hit a shot to right center field that rolled to the 346 sign for a triple. The next batter, Chris Harrington, hit a shot to short. Evan Kingsbury fielded the ball cleanly, held the runner at third and threw Harrington out at first. Oxbow starter Isaac Clogston then got cleanup batter John Harrington to ground out to Kingsbury at short.
Windsor's Owen Morin mowed the Olympians down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame, getting the last batter on a called third strike.
The Yellow Jackets threatened again in the second, drawing three free passes to load the bases but coming up short again. In the bottom of the inning, Oxbow third baseman Justin Smith led off with an infield single up the middle and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sam Calley, but that's where he stayed as Morin K'd the next two batters.
Both teams went down in order in the third, but both teams had baserunners. Clogston hit Windsor's Chris Harrington and then picked him off first, while Oxbow's Joe Longmoore reached first via an infield single, only to be cut down at second base as the Jackets turned a 4-6-3 double play.
In the top of the fourth inning, Windsor leadoff batter Chris Jarvis drew a free pass off Clogston and moved over to second base when Ted Bjorkman walked, which brought Oxbow coach Al Barber to the mound to talk to his pitcher.
Barber stayed with Clogston and it looked like they might get out of the inning unscathed when Luke Avery hit a ground ball to second, but it took a bad hop and went over the glove of Matt Lyman into right field to plate Jarvis. Adam Bevis then singled to right, allowing Bjorkman to cross the dish. The next batter up, Justin Townsend, hit a line shot at Justin Smith at third that he turned into an easy double play to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, the Olympians came roaring back. Clogston started the rally with a single up the middle and moved over to second base when Pat Haviland singled up the middle. Barber then signaled to Justin Smith to lay down the sacrifice bunt, which he did, moving both runners up a base.
Then came the play of the game. Barber from his third base coaching box called for a squeeze bunt and it was performed perfectly, with Sam Calley laying the bunt down the third base line and Clogston scoring as the third baseman picked up the ball. The third baseman overthrew first, allowing Haviland to score and moving Calley all the way over to third. Calley then scored the winning run on Ryan Smith's fly ball to right field, giving Oxbow its first lead of the game.
After Clogston mowed the Yellow Jackets down 1-2-3, the Olypians plated three insurance runs. Kingsbury led the fifth inning off with a single to right and Longmoore followed with a single to left. Matt Lyman then drove both runners home when he hit a shot to deep center field for a triple. Lyman strolled home on Justin Smith's fly ball to center field.
In the top of the sixth, Justin Smith replaced Clogston on the hill for Oxbow. Windsor once again loaded the bases, but came up empty as Smith recorded the final out on a strikeout.
After Oxbow went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, Smith got the Yellow Jackets in order for the Olympians to preserve the win.
quot;Clogston gave us five good innings. Even though he struggled, he kept us in the game,quot; said Barber. quot;Then a very nervous sophomore (Smith) came in and closed it out for us. As I was going out to talk to Clogston on the mound, I was thinking I might have to go to Justin earlier than I wanted to, but I knew I had the luxury of still having Kingsbury as a backup if I needed him.
quot;The last five or six games, our defense really came together,quot; Barber added. quot;Once we shored up the left side of the infield with Justin Smith at third and Kingsbury at short, we did an excellent job.quot;
Clogston, who gave up three hits over his five innings of work, picked up the win, with Morin absorbing the loss.
The win ends Oxbow's season with a record of 15-4. The Olympians will lose Chris Billard, Lyman, Jason Horniak, Ryan Smith, Calley, John Perry and Clogston to graduation.