VERGENNES — What was expected to be a competitive clash on Tuesday between two of Division II’s top high school softball teams turned into a big win for host Vergennes and a bump in the road for Mount Abraham.
The Commodores rapped eight hits and took advantage of 18 walks and seven wild pitches issued by a trio of Eagle hurlers to post a surprising 15-0, six-inning victory and improve to 6-1.
The Eagles played their usual strong defense, but lost their second straight game and dropped to 8-3 as they managed only four hits off VUHS senior hurler Dani Brown, who struck out six and walked none.
VUHS Coach Mike Sullivan said the Commodores came in ready for a tough battle from the Eagles, whose only losses had come earlier by two runs to undefeated Essex and then the day before at another D-I team, Mount Mansfield.
“They played some very good games to this point, and we were definitely wary,” Sullivan said. “Being that they’re a rival … we wanted to play our best today.”
Instead, VUHS broke open a 0-0 game in the bottom of the third with nine runs on six hits, five walks and four wild pitches. Five of the hits, all of the walks and three of the wild pitches came when starter Rachael McCormick was on the mound, and four of the walks, three of the wild pitches and six of the runs came after she was banged up in a home plate collision.
Seven of the runs scored with two outs, and two scored after Tamara Aunchman greeted reliever Sam Forand with an RBI single, her second hit of the inning, and then Forand threw a run-scoring wild pitch. Also getting hits that inning were Kayla Charron; Taylor Paquette, an RBI single; Brown, an RBI single; and Nikki Salley, an RBI double. Paquette also picked up an RBI with a bases-loaded walk.
Eagle coach Kelly Trayah said the inning was completely unlike his team this spring. While winning eight games, he said Eagle pitchers have thrown strikes and let their talented defenders make plays.
“We’ve been making them put it in play. We’ve got great defense,” Trayah said.
Sullivan said he wasn’t surprised to see his hitters make opposing pitchers throw strikes, however.
“We’re very patient up there, just try to see the ball and get good swings,” he said.
Before that decisive inning, both pitchers worked out of jams. The Commodores committed two errors to lead off the Eagle second, but an Eagle runner interfered with a fielder, leading to a double play call, and Brown fanned the next hitter. VUHS put two runners on in the second on a single and a walk, but Eagle shortstop Meghan Livingston made one of several nice plays, snagging a liner to end the threat.
The Eagles put two runners on in the third, also. With one out Livingston bunted for one of her two hits, and second baseman Sam Reiss followed with a line single. But Brown retired the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters in the Eagle lineup, Madi Wood and Melanie Rotax, to preserve the scoreless tie. And after that inning, Brown allowed only one more hit, a two-out Livingston single in the fifth.
Brown said she didn’t feel that sharp on the mound, although she appeared to be hitting the outside corner effectively, and she credited her team’s play in the field — which included Sarah Poirier-Thayer’s running catch in right field to rob Wood.
“I feel like the defense helped out,” Brown said.
VUHS added two more runs in the fourth when Forand walked five batters. K.C. Ambrose and Phoebe Plank scored, and Charron and Paquette picked up RBIs.
The Commodores ended the game on the 15-run rule with four runs off reliever Kendra Thompson in the sixth on walks to Bailey Bissonette, Natalie Salley, Charron, Emilee Trudo and Paquette, a wild pitch, and Aunchman’s third hit, a game-ending two-run single that produced her third and fourth RBIs.
Afterward, Trayah said he hoped McCormick, the Eagles’ mound mainstay, would bounce back from the collision.
“I think she’ll be OK. She says she’s fine, but the trainer says she’s got to be looked at by a doctor,” Trayah said. “We’ll go from there.”
He is confident the Eagles will bounce back and be ready to make noise in the D-II postseason.
“I know we’ll be fine,” Trayah said. “We’ll make a splash come the playoffs.”
Sullivan wants his team to tighten up in the early innings: He said the early errors on Tuesday were not unusual.
“I’m feeling like we still have some work to do,” Sullivan said. “I don’t know if that’s some early-game adrenaline we have to go through to settle it down a little bit, because it seems like once the dust settles everybody’s pretty solid out there. But I think it would be good if we could do that right from the beginning every time.”
Brown said the Commodores, the D-II runners-up in 2013, will focus on whatever it takes to meet their goals.
“We just have to take everything seriously, and just get it done,” she said.
And even though the Commodores are on a roll, Brown said they would continue to take each opponent seriously.
“We’re playing every team as hard as we can and not underestimating anyone,” Brown said. “It does help to play with confidence, but we’re not letting it get to our heads.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.