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Vermont’s Matt McDermott tags out New Bedford’s Sam Henrie trying to steal second base during their game Friday night.

As the Mountaineers continue their 18-game stretch and near the last few weeks of the regular season, things are starting to heat up. They’re 16-13 right now, and have a three-game stretch on the road coming up on Sunday. With 15 games left in the season and the NECBL All-Star Game yet to come, if the Mountaineers manage to get to third or higher by August they’ll be in playoff contention.

The Mountaineers have just come off a 6-5 win against the New Bedford Bay Sox on Friday night, and will host the Newport Gulls on Saturday evening.

Three keys have proven quite important for the Mountaineers’ success, and will undoubtedly be so for the remainder of the season. Here they are:

Pitching

The Mountaineers have a full lineup of 14 pitchers in their bullpen, all raring to get on the mound. Beau Keathley is one of those pitchers, and he knows that the guys are all looking to get innings. It’s more than just playing, though. It’s personal among the pitchers, in a good way.

“It’s a family atmosphere,” Keathley said. “Everyone’s just kind of wanting to get out there and do their job. Everyone’s ready to be called whenever they can — we kind of know who’s eligible and who’s not eligible before the game so everyone has that different mindset of when they know to throw and when not to throw.”

Luckily for them, the 18-straight night game schedule is giving them a good chance to get minutes on the field.

“There’s going to be a lot more opportunities,” Keathley said. “People are going to be stretched out longer for more innings, numerous innings, multiple innings at a time, and also will have to come back on shorter rests, too.”

With just about three weeks left in the regular season, Mountaineers pitchers are looking to get their place on the roster for the playoffs. That is, of course, dependent on whether the Mountaineers qualify for the playoffs, but being just shy of fourth place and having 15 games left, their chances are looking good.

“I think everyone wants to,” Keathley said about the goal of getting on the roster for the pitchers. “Everyone wants more innings, everyone wants to continue to grow, and I think everyone on our staff can throw. Everyone can compete at the highest level.”

Aggressive baserunning

As of Friday before the game against the Bay Sox, a total of 48 bases had been stolen. Out of those 48 stolen bases, 12 were by Mountaineers shortstop Austin Gauthier. Known for his confidence on base, Gauthier has stolen a base in over 10% of his plate appearances (102). He knows what it takes to be successful at it, too.

“I would say being aggressive,” Gauthier said. “Over the years, just learning to not be scared to get thrown out — it’s going to happen here or there. I like stealing on counts that we’re behind in, so I know off-speed’s coming. That’s certainly helped out a lot.”

Gauthier has a good trick that often fakes out the pitcher, too.

“My favorite thing to do is stealing second base,” Gauthier said, “and on the pitch after that stealing that bag ‘cause they’ll never know it’s coming. Pitchers will usually think you’re tired or something like that so it’s a perfect opportunity.”

As the playoffs near, one might think stealing bases often is a risky move. Gauthier, however, thinks differently.

“If anything, I think I’d get more aggressive,” Gauthier said, “to even get us a chance to score a little bit more runs ‘cause as the season comes to an end the games will start getting closer and closer and we’ve got to get more opportunities to score.”

Good fielding

Pitchers have struck out 233 batters so far this season, and have given up 205 hits in 28 games as of their July 11 game against the Valley Blue Sox. They’ve only walked 111 batters over those 28 games, which in comparison to the 233 struck-out batters is quite good. At first base, Brian Goulard has had 127 putouts and has committed zero errors. At second base, Matt McDermott has had 46 putouts and has committed just one error. At third base, Evan Giordano has had nine putouts.

At shortstop, Gauthier has had 25 putouts and 54 assists. In the outfield, Mountaineers left fielder Cameron DiLoreto has had 37 putouts. In center field, Curtis Robison has had 19 putouts and has committed just one error. In right field, Kevin Brenning has had 24 putouts and Cam Climo has had 10.

The statistics show a defense that’s put in strong work, and overall a group of Mountaineers ready to take on the rest of the season and maybe the playoffs.

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