VERGENNES — Vergennes Union High School junior third baseman Kate Mulliss had a first inning to forget in Tuesday’s home softball game vs. Mount Abraham, but a seventh inning to remember.
Mulliss made three first-inning errors that helped the Eagles to five runs. But she capped a three-hit day by drilling a line drive homer over the left-field fence in the seventh to snap a tie and give the Commodores an 11-9 win over their local rivals.
Afterward, Mulliss recalled the first inning.
“The start of my game wasn’t so hot,” she said.
But what the Commodores will remember will be what happened when Mulliss came to the plate with one out in the seventh and the winning run on second, courtesy of sophomore catcher Caitlin Chaput’s second hit of the game and a passed ball.
Mulliss entered the batters’ box just hoping to move pinchrunner Megan Saithoff along. Then she knew she had hit a pitch from Eagle reliever Leah Norris well, but not exactly how well.
“I wanted a base hit so we could advance the runner and get Megan home, and I got more than I was asking for,” Mulliss said. “At first I was glad I hit it and didn’t strike out, and then when I saw it go over the fence I started getting very excited.”
VUHS coach Mike Sullivan said he was happy the 3-4 Commodores bounced back not only from the early deficit, but also from the 7-5 lead the 4-4 Eagles took in the fifth inning after his team had tied the game earlier.
“We definitely have some resolve,” Sullivan said. “After that first inning I saw something.”
Eagle coach Gene Bell credited Sullivan’s Commodores for swinging the bats well — they had eight hits and drew four walks in six innings off starter Amber Fay before their two-run, two-hit seventh off Norris.
“They hit the ball really hard. They put the ball in play. There are a lot of good hitters on that young team of his,” Bell said.
At the same time, Bell believes his veteran Eagles — eight starters on Tuesday were seniors or juniors — are not playing up to their potential, especially defensively.
“We just didn’t seem to bring it with the defense today, but that’s the way we’ve been bringing it the last three or four ballgames,” Bell said.
Early on, VUHS was charitable defensively. The Eagles parlayed first-inning field miscues and hits by Fay, second baseman Courtney Jipner, third baseman Ashlie Fay, shortstop Kate Brown and catcher Rachel Zeno into their five runs. Right fielder Alyssa Charbonneau and first baseman Allison Hayes picked up ground ball RBIs, but no runs were earned off VUHS freshman starter Taylor Paquette.
The Commodores tied the game in the third, in part because Amber Fay briefly lost her control. Left fielder Nicole Brown walked, and center fielder Tabby Danyow reached on the second of her three singles, and second baseman Megan Paquin walked to load the bases.
A wild pitch brought home one run, and Chaput walked to reload the bases. Singles by right fielder Alyssa Kilburn and Mulliss made it 5-4, and an infield error tied the game.
The Eagles added two more unearned runs in the fifth. Jipner singled, and Charbonneau reached on an error that scored Jipner and allowed her to reach second. Center fielder Kristen Ouellette then singled her home.
VUHS took a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Mulliss singled to lead off and reached second on a passed ball. Paquette singled, and Mulliss scored on a throwing error. Saithoff pinchhit and walked. A passed ball and two throwing errors on the same play allowed Paquette to score. Danyow singled in Saithoff, and she scored on two wild pitches and a passed ball.
The Eagles were not through. Charbonneau singled with one out, and Ashlie Fay (three hits) legged out an infield hit with two out. Brown reached on an infield error on a tough play, and pinchhitter Hillary Ryan delivered a clutch two-run single to tie the game.
But Paquette (12 hits, six Ks, no walks) got a ground ball to Paquin at second base to end the threat, and a few minutes later the Commodores were celebrating Mulliss’s clutch hit.
The Commodores have been a team on the rise in recent years, and Mulliss said they believe they are once again better than their 3-4 record in the tough Metro Conference, because of both talent and chemistry.
“I feel like we have a lot of potential, and we’re obviously putting that into play this year,” she said. “I think it’s a really good team because there’s no drama.”
Sullivan said positive results against good teams like the Eagles show the Commodores are learning how to win.
“The kids are starting to hit the ball. They’re starting to understand what it takes,” he said. “Against a really good team, you have to play from start to finish, or it’s not going to happen.”
Meanwhile, Bell hopes the Eagles will relearn that lesson and focus for seven innings.
“That’s what we were just talking about, a five-run lead in the first inning and we couldn’t put them away,” he said. “We didn’t even have good opportunities until the game was tied again. We just assumed the game was over.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.