MIDDLEBURY — On Tuesday, for the second straight game the Vergennes Union High School softball team got a two-hit, route-going pitching performance from a junior hurler against a county rival.
Last week, Taylor Paquette produced an 8-2 win over visiting Mount Abraham. On Tuesday, classmate Emilee Trudo tossed a 13-strikeout gem as the Commodores beat host Middlebury, 10-0.
VUHS improved to 11-4 heading into its final regular season game at Spaulding on Thursday. There, Coach Mike Sullivan said he would deploy the third of his junior pitching trio, Dani Brown, as the Commodores tried to nail down the No. 3 seed for next week’s Division II playoffs. Fair Haven, 11-4 heading into a Friday game at Mill River, is also seeking that seed.
But Tuesday belonged to Trudo, who set the tone by striking out the side in the first and allowed only two infield singles, by sophomore designated hitter Rachel Sheldrick in the third and senior right fielder Molly Wright in the fourth. She walked none, and only one other batter reached, sophomore Krisandra Provencher, on a sixth-inning error.
Trudo said all of her pitches were effective, and she was hitting her spots.
“It all seemed to be working pretty good,” Trudo said.
And she appreciated the defensive support.
“It definitely does (help). It feels secure,” Trudo said.
MUHS coach Polly Rheaume noted that Trudo grew up in the Middlebury area, and she was happy that the VUHS junior is doing well.
“Emilee did a great job. I’ve known her since she was little, and … she’s been very dedicated and motivated,” Rheaume said. “It’s good to see her do well, (but) I wish we could have done better against her.”
The 3-10 Tigers are in rebuilding mode after losing a number of key players, but Rheaume said the team has had good leadership while maintaining a positive outlook and working hard.
“Our captains have been doing a pretty good job trying to keep them motivated,” she said. “They’re a good group of girls. I’m very pleased with them.”
On Tuesday, VUHS scored twice in the first. Losing pitcher Kristen Gosselin walked leadoff hitter K.C. Ambrose, and Trudo followed with a bunt single. A throwing error scored Ambrose, and cleanup hitter Cat Chaput’s RBI grounder plated Trudo.
The Commodores scored four more in the second despite a nice running catch by Tiger shortstop Carsyn Buxton to open the frame. Taylor Aunchman walked and Felicia Armell singled, and Kayla Charron doubled in Aunchman. Ambrose singled Armell home, and both Charron and Ambrose scored on Paquette’s bloop single to center.
VUHS added two more runs off Gosselin in the fourth. Charron singled, stole second, moved to third on an Ambrose groundout, and scored on a wild pitch. Trudo then walked, moved to third on a Paquette double, and scored on a Chaput sacrifice fly.
Justina Baker tossed the final three innings for MUHS, allowing three hits and two runs while striking out two. The runs came in the sixth despite another nice inning-opening catch, by Wright in right field on an Armell liner. But with two out, Ambrose walked, Trudo reached on an infield hit, and Paquette drilled another double for her third and fourth RBIs.
The Tigers are in a five-team mix for the Nos. 11 through 15 seeds in the D-I playoffs, while the Commodores are eyeing a deeper run than their losing 2012 trip to the semifinal round.
Trudo said an aggressive mindset will be critical.
“I think when we’re on, we’re really on, and we feel like nothing can stop us,” she said. “If we have the determination, the will to attack, then we’re going to be ready.”
Of course, having pitching will help. Sullivan said he has yet to decide on who will throw which game, a question that could be decided on matchups. The VUHS coaches have also discussed a plan of starting one pitcher and then switching midgame to keep opponents’ lineups off-balance.
Sullivan said he will be confident no matter who is on the mound.
“I feel like I can’t make a bad decision,” he said. “I’m comfortable with any one of the three.”
Sullivan believes the Metro Conference regular season offers the Commodores an advantage.
“We’ve played a tough schedule. Probably tougher … than anybody does than we’re going to face in Division II,” Sullivan said. “So I’d like to think that these games have given us some experience in working towards the end.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.