By ANDY KIRKALDY
BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School softball team rode hot bats to a 13-8 win over visiting South Burlington on Tuesday, improving to 4-1 by getting hits from every member of the lineup.
The key inning was the fifth, when the Eagles snapped a 7-7 tie with four runs, with key RBI hits from freshman Amber Volk and sophomore Kristen Ouellette after junior Shanna Gebo (two hits, two runs) and senior Julia Wilkinson (three hits, four runs) helped set the table.
The Eagles had let the Rebels hang around with five errors behind senior pitcher Lindsay Smith (seven hits, five walks and four strikeouts in a complete-game win). But Wilkinson said her teammates were encouraged by the way they stayed focused and fought back.
“It was nerve-wracking at times. We gave them opportunities we shouldn’t have. But we came back with hits,” Wilkinson said. “That makes me feel good. It’s awesome to feel that we can hit.”
The Eagles also made some plays in the field. Wilkinson, a four-year starter at catcher, picked a runner off third base to limit the damage in the Rebels’ four-run third, which tied the game at 5-5; rightfielder Jenna Paquette made a running catch with one out and two runners on base in the Rebel sixth; and third baseman Amber Fay threw out three runners and backhanded a liner to end the game and the final Rebel threat.
Coach Gene Bell said the Eagles have struggled at times in the field, but have worked hard to improve.
“They seem to make the plays when we really need them,” Bell said. “We’re getting better.”
Mount Abe got three runs in the first to take a 3-1 lead. The first came in on Wilkinson’s RBI single. Wilkinson opened the game with three hits and a walk before flying out to deep center. Combined with a five-for-five effort in the Eagles’ previous game, she reached base nine straight times. Allison Hayes later drilled a two-run single to right center. In the second, singles by Gebo, Wilkinson and Hayes produced two more runs and a 5-1 lead.
The Rebels tied it at 5-5 in the third on an infield hit, an error, a walk, a Smith wild pitch, back-to-back triples by Meg Porter and Emma Fitzgerald, and a double by starting pitcher Kim Schroeder.
The Eagles retook the lead in the fourth. Wilkinson walked, stole second, advanced on a passed ball, and scored on a single by Volk. After Volk stole a base, Ouellette singled her in. The Rebels answered with a pair in the fifth on a walk, error, wild pitch and a two-run single by Kate Fitzgerald.
The Eagles took charge in their half of the fifth. Gebo and Wilkinson singled, and Gebo scored on a wild pitch. Fitzgerald relieved Schroeder, and Volk singled Wilkinson in. Paquette walked and stole second, and Ouellette singled home both runners.
In the sixth, shortstop Laura Livingston reached on an error, and second baseman Courtney Jipner bunted her way on and stole second. Livingston scored on a wild pitch before Fay singled in Jipner to make the lead a safe 13-7 entering the seventh.
Given the fact his Eagles have just Smith and Wilkinson as seniors, Bell said he will take their 4-1 record.
“We’ve got solid hitting, and for the most part our defense has been OK,” he said. “I’m really happy with where we’re at.”
Wilkinson said the Eagles are having fun, especially now that they are scoring runs.
“We’re a very close-knit team, which is always good to have. We were kind of nervous about the hitting, but we’ve all proved we can hit,” she said. “We have awesome practices. We all get along.”