VERGENNES — The Vergennes Union High School softball team continued its march toward a high seed in Division I on Thursday, when the Commodores rode the two-hit pitching of junior Taylor Paquette past visiting Mount Abraham, 8-2.
VUHS improved to 10-4 and can clinch the No. 3 seed with wins in its final two games. The Commodores were set to visit Spaulding (9-4 as of Friday) on Saturday and will visit Middlebury (3-9 as of Friday) on Tuesday.
The Commodores hope to go further in the D-II postseason than in 2012, when they lost to defending champion BFA-Fairfax in a semifinal.
“We have excellent team chemistry,” said senior catcher Cat Chaput, who drove in four runs with a pair of doubles on Thursday. “I think we’re very confident on how we can move on and get to the end.”
Chaput also had the best view of Paquette’s 12-strikeout, one-walk performance vs. the Eagles.
“Her curve ball was working really well today, which was nice, and her rise ball was working really well,” Chaput said. “She was actually really on in hitting her spots as well, which was nice when you know you can get somebody in a certain place.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles dropped to 4-8, a misleading record considering their four losses by one or two runs in the mostly D-I Metro Conference. Coach Kelly Trayah believes they can finish no worse than 7-9 and then possibly do some damage in the D-II tournament.
“I’m looking up and down at what we’re going to face, and I still think we’re going to do well,” Trayah said. “(We have) three winnable games if we play hard, and then we’ll see where we get seeded and who we go against.”
But on Thursday, Trayah tipped his hat to Paquette and the Commodores, who rapped out 14 hits off sophomore losing pitcher Haley Davis, who struck out one and walked one.
“They did some timely hitting today, and Taylor was hitting her spots,” Trayah said. “And we weren’t putting it in play like we normally do.”
The Commodores started doing damage in the first. K.C. Ambrose singled to lead off, and Emilee Trudo beat out a bunt. Both scored on a Chaput double, and Chaput scored to make it 3-0 when the Eagles misplayed Phoebe Plank’s ground ball, their only error on the day.
In the second inning, VUHS made it 4-0. No. 8 hitter Felicia Armell singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on No. 9 hitter Kayla Charron’s groundout.
The Eagles broke through in the fourth to make it 4-1, but left the bases loaded in a pivotal inning. Tiffany Tracey put down a good bunt and reached on a tough-chance error, and Meghan Livingston beat out a bunt cleanly to put runners on first and second with none out. After a strikeout, a dropped throw loaded the bases. Paquette struck out the next batter, but walked Dani Forand to score Tracey. Then Paquette bore down to limit the damage with another whiff.
The bottom of the VUHS order went right back to work in the bottom of the fourth: Armell and Charron both singled to lead off. Armell moved to third on Charron’s single, and both scored when Ambrose lined a shot back up the middle. VUHS threatened for more when Dani Brown singled with one out, but Livingston threw out Ambrose trying to reach third on the play, and Davis got Chaput to line softly to Livingston at short.
Livingston got the Eagles’ second hit to lead off the sixth, lining an opposite-field double down the left-field line. She moved to second on a Sam Reiss groundout, and scored to make it 6-2 on Melanie Rotax’s RBI grounder.
VUHS plated its final two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Ambrose and Trudo singled, and Chaput’s line-drive double to left center scored them both.
Every member of the VUHS order reached base: Plank singled in the third, and Molly Ambrose walked in the fifth. Those contributions from the entire lineup encouraged VUHS coach Mike Sullivan.
“The bottom of our order has produced a lot,” Sullivan said. “To this point of the season, I couldn’t be happier with the way they’ve performed ... And that’s going to be crucial for us when we go into tougher games in the playoffs, knowing that one through nine someone is capable of getting a hit or scoring a run.”
Chaput agreed a few hits could go a long way for the Commodores.
“We do have some lofty goals. We’re hoping to go all the way,” she said. “But I think the batting is very important to it. It’s probably going to be the key to it, because our defense is pretty strong.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.