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Tiger senior tops Independent softball all-star squad

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Posted on June 26, 2017 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



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MIDDLEBURY UNION HIGH School senior Payton Buxton is the 2017 Addison Independent High School Softball Player of the Year. Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — The Mount Abraham Union High School softball team made history this spring, and is deservedly well represented on the 2017 Addison Independent Softball All-Star Team.

But the top nod goes to a Middlebury player. Senior Payton Buxton excelled on the mound, at the plate and in the field and deserved her third straight selection as the Addison Independent Softball Player of the Year.

First-year Coach Don McCormick’s Eagles staked a solid claim as the best of the area teams, finishing 15-5 after winning the Division II championship, Mount Abe’s first-ever title in the sport. Senior Rachael McCormick’s pitching and hitting sparked Mount Abe, and she leads a group of four Eagle Independent All-Stars.

Coach Polly Rheaume’s 13-5 Tigers saw another excellent season end with heartbreak, an extra-inning loss to a D-I finalist for the second straight spring. Two Tigers join Buxton on the Independent squad.

It wasn’t a vintage season for Coach Pattie Candon’s Otter Valley group, but the Otters finished strong in the regular season to end up with a winning record at 9-8, including a home playoff victory. A hard-hitting junior third baseman earned a spot here. 

Coach Mike Martin’s three-win, D-II Vergennes team lacked the pitching experience to compete in the D-I Metro Conference this spring, but featured a number of dangerous batters, two of whom are recognized here.

Players were selected based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:

PAYTON BUXTON, MUHS SENIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Capped her stellar four-year pitching career with an 11-5 won-loss record in the tough Metro Conference with an earned-run average of 1.74 … Struck out 170 batters and allowed just 75 hits and 19 walks in 108.2 innings, finishing with more than 600 career whiffs … Offensively, batted .518 with a .600 on-base percentage, scored 26 runs, drove in nine, stole nine bases, poked four doubles and tied for the local lead with three homers … Committed just three errors in her varsity career — all as a freshman — while making any number of terrific, heads-up plays … Smart, knowledgeable, all-around player who was voted by Vermont coaches as the state’s Gatorade Softball Player of the Year. 

Rheaume’s Quotes: “She wanted to get better, and all the effort that she put into it definitely paid off for her … She’s a great team leader, and tried her best all the time … Payton worked hard all the time and wanted the team to do as good as it could, too … She’s a great all-around kid, all-round, not just on the field, but off the field, too … Her mental game was just as good as defensive game. She was definitely confident, and that’s what you’ve got to have … (In the outfield) she could just track them down because she had the speed to go with it and the knowledge of where to go with the ball … She’s well deserving (of the Gatorade honor). Four years of working hard paid off.”

RACHAEL MCCORMICK, MOUNT ABE SENIOR. Notes: Helped Mount Abe with her arm, bat and glove … Compiled a 10-3 pitching record, including 3-0 in the playoffs, with a 2.46 ERA and 105 strikeouts and 23 walks in 91 innings … Led the Metro with a .667 batting average to go with a .695 on-base percentage, drove in 19 runs, scored 23 times, drilled two homers, led all local players with 38 hits, and stole 13 bases without getting caught … Excellent fielder who made a number of fine plays in the title game … Plans to play at Castleton University next spring. 

Coach McCormick’s Quotes: “Rachael is one of the top players in the state … She is at her best in big games, as was the case with her pitching and defense in the playoffs … She is a fierce competitor who will not back down when challenged … She works every day at the game of softball … She struggled a little with nagging injury all season. To lead the Metro in batting average to me was incredible and to win 10 games as a pitcher as well just made me real proud of all the effort she puts in … I’ll be proud to watch her play at Castleton next season.”

GABBY PAOLINO, OV JUNIOR. Notes: All-around talent who hit .490 with pop, ripping two homers, three doubles and five triples … Drove in 16 runs, scored 21, stole eight bases, and drew 10 walks to reach base at a .590 clip … Her extra-base hits actually declined from a year ago as teams, including Mount Abe by Coach McCormick’s admission, hesitated to throw her strikes … Fine third baseman with quick hands and feet and a powerful arm. 

Candon Quotes: “She’s very strong defensively and offensively … Many teams tried to pitch around her … Gabby has solid mechanics both fielding and hitting … She moves to get in the best position to field the ball with soft hands and set up her strong throw across the diamond … She hit effortlessly … Her lighthearted demeanor covers her deep competitive core … She is open to any coaching and willingly teaches her teammates the basics.”

KATELYNN OUELLETTE, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Sparkplug at the top of the Eagle lineup who made key contributions in Mount Abe’s playoff run, with three hits in the semifinal and a key two-out RBI single in the final … Has soft hands at shortstop and a quick release on her accurate throws … Smart, quick baserunner who stole 13 bases in 14 attempts … Batted .426 with a .506 on-base percentage, scored 23 runs, drove in 13, and struck out just three times. 

McCormick’s Quotes: “She gets the big hits when we need them … She’s always at her best in big games … Without Katelynn’s offense we don’t win in the playoffs … She was huge for us when most of the other big bats were quiet during our run … We’re looking forward to her senior season, really excited … Katelynn is our team leader by example.” 

TAYLOR BRESNICK, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Fine defensive first baseman and three-year starter for the Commodores who capped her career by leading VUHS with a .447 average and a .527 on-base percentage … Scored 11 times, drove in eight runs and struck out only three times in 55 plate appearances … Tossed out several runners at home with strong relay throws and helped out VUHS infielders by corralling errant throws.

Martin’s Quotes: “She made a lot of good plays … Almost every game there as a wild throw she went to get … Taylor was heads-up with the ball, always looking to make plays … Offensively she was always consistent … She could always put the bat on the ball … She could spray the ball around … Taylor especially led the way in keeping the camaraderie.”

SARAH RATHBUN, VUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Blossomed offensively and defensively in her first year starting behind the plate after putting in the time to hone her skills … Batted .434 with a .482 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot vs. Metro pitching, often doing the most damage vs. the toughest competition … Drove in 14 runs and scored eight times while striking out only eight times in 58 plate appearances. 

Martin’s Quotes: This year she really improved a lot … The work she put in in the summer and the offseason really paid off … She was definitely our best hitter this year. She’s a tough out … She did a good job back there … When there was a runner on third she would step up even more.”

JENNA MCARDLE, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Quick center fielder with a lot of range and a knack for making diving catches, a skill she showed off in the playoffs … Has a strong arm … Batted a productive .339, leading all local players with three homers and 28 RBIs … Reached base at a .397 clip, scored 15 runs and stole eight bases in eight attempts. 

McCormick’s Quotes:  “Jenna was our RBI machine … She drove in runs in the tough Metro … She was our leader in the outfield … She made several highlight catches for us and her arm was outstanding … Jenna did everything I asked of her this year … She has a just solid can-do attitude.”

ABY LAROCK, MUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Stepped up into the cleanup spot in the lineup as a sophomore and drove in 22 runs, scored 22 runs and batted .386 with a homer, a triple, four doubles and an on-base percentage of .498 ... Made consistent contact, striking out just six times … Compiled an outstanding fielding percentage of .989 while catching the hard-throwing Payton Buxton.

Rheaume’s Quotes: “She could get that ball in the playing field and not strike out … Teams knew she could bunt or hit and they tried to keep it away from her … Her doubles, she had a couple close ones that hit the fence. In a different park it could have been over the fence … Yes, Payton is accurate, but she’s got some speed there, so Aby had to be on her toes all the time. She did a great job there.”

LILY SMITH, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Fast, athletic player who used her speed to her advantage at shortstop, showing great range; at bat, where anything she hit on the ground put pressure on opponents; and on the basepaths, where she was a constant threat to steal or take extra bases … Batted .328 with a .427 on-base percentage, drove in 14 runs, scored 21 times and stole eight bases. 

Rheaume’s Quotes: “She’s a perfectionist… She has wheels. She can get to just about anything. What most kids have to dive for she can get there without having to dive … She is a good leader on that field … She was definitely a threat to the other team because she had such speed … She’s just a good all-around player.”

EMILY ALDRICH, MOUNT ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Steady fielder at second base and team leader who led all local players by scoring 27 runs … Batted .302 and showed a good eye at the plate, drawing nine walks for an on-base percentage of .384 … Also drove in 11 runs and stole 10 bases without being caught. 

McCormick’s Quotes: “Emily is our rock … We rely on Emily as a coach on the field. She is always deep into the game mentally … She is very solid up the middle on defense … Emily uses her intelligence and athleticism on the base paths to be one of our top baserunners.” 

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