BRANDON — Harwood is a team to watch next season but for what’s left of this Division II campaign, keep an eye on those efficiency experts at Otter Valley.
And the rest of the season would be the championship game.
Josh Beayon twirled a complete-game four-hitter on a mere 75 pitches and Otter Valley capitalized on Highlanders miscues in a 6-1 victory in the baseball semifinals Tuesday.
The Otters go for their second title in three seasons this weekend against rival Fair Haven, a 1-0 victor over Enosburg. The top-seeded, 18-1 Otters swept the No. 3 Slaters in a two-game series this season.
Defeats have been few and far between for Harwood since early in the season, but the No. 4 Highlanders didn’t bring their “A” game to Brandon, as they committed an error every inning the Otters scored.
None of the game’s runs were earned.
OV scored three times after an error in the first, with one run crossing on Marcus McCullough’s squeeze bunt and Kollin Bissette’s two-out single chasing in two more.
That was more than enough support for Beayon, a senior lefty who pitched his second straight playoff gem.
“That was as efficient as I’ve ever seen him,” said OV coach Mike Howe who, thanks to Beayon’s staying in the strike zone, will be able to go back to his ace at the earliest a finals game can be played, which is Friday.
Beayon worked the edges and “Alex (Polli, the catcher) called a great game,” Howe said.
“We had a game plan. We knew they like to swing at the first pitch so we wanted to hit the corners and man, was Josh sharp,” he said.
OV smacked eight hits, with Beayon, the pitcher/first baseman bound for Keene State, collecting two.
Charlie Zschau had two singles for Harwood but the Highlanders, who start four freshmen, never got the big hit.
Their best chance came after Zschau and Chase Reagan singled back-to-back to start the third with the score still 3-0. But Beayon bore down, escaping the jam without a sweat on a strikeout sandwiched around two comebackers.
The Otters tacked on a run in the bottom of the third against Skylar Platt. Beayon singled and scored on the second of two Highlanders errors, for the fourth unearned run charged to the freshman lefty.
A second freshman, Chris James, finished and retired nine straight players in relief before the error bug bit Harwood again in the sixth, when Pat McKeighan made it 6-0 with a two-run single.
“That’s what everybody says: Otter Valley takes advantage of errors,” said Harwood coach Scott Lamson.
James’ pitching notwithstanding, the Highlanders could not finds an opening for a rally as Beayon seemed to get stronger and was retiring eight straight at the same time.
Beayon struck out four and walked one, getting all of his strikeouts in the last four innings.
Harwood scored in the seventh, when Bobby Kelly singled and eventually scored on an error.
The Highlanders graduated nine seniors from a team that went to the finals last year and came within a game of going back.
They started the season 0-2 and finished 10-4, playing an inspired season in part for their assistant coach Mitch Casey, who is fighting cancer.
“These kids have been just phenomenal,” Casey said.
“We have two freshmen who had never thrown in a playoff game,” said Lamson. “For us to get this far with this team ... I told the kids don’t hang your heads; you’ll be back.”
But that’s next year. This season it’s an all-Marble Valley League finale with Otter Valley and Fair Haven on center stage.