MIDDLEBURY — The Mount Abraham Union High School softball team snapped what had been a four-game losing streak by blanking host Middlebury, 3-0, on Thursday, but the Tigers bounced back on Saturday to defeat visiting Rice, 10-5.
The Eagles’ win came behind the three-hit pitching of sophomore Haley Davis and boosted their record to a misleading 2-4.
Three of Mount Abe’s losses have been either one or two runs to Division I teams with winning records, BFA-St. Albans, Colchester, and Spaulding.
First-year coach Kelly Trayah said he has confidence in a team without a senior on its roster.
“It doesn’t matter who we play. We’re competitive in every game,” Trayah said. “I’m very happy with what they’re doing.”
What they’re doing, he said, is a lot of things right.
“We’re playing well. Defensively we’re really solid,” Trayah said. “Usually we … play a lot of small-ball. But then you’ve got the middle of our lineup, with Melanie Rotax, Kelsey Haskins and Dani Forand who usually put the bat on the ball well. So if we get Meghan Livingston and Tiffany Tracey on, we usually advance them and score.”
Trayah compared his team to that of Tiger first-year coach Polly Rheaume, who is also breaking a number of new players into her lineup, including new pitchers and catchers.
“I think we both have young programs,” he said. “I think we’re going to continue to get better and better. Polly’s in the same boat.”
EAGLES OVER TIGERS
The Eagles took the lead on Thursday in the second. Ashley Boise walked, stole two bases, and scored on the first of catcher Madi Wood’s two singles off Tiger junior pitcher Justina Baker.
Mount Abe made it 2-0 in the third, taking advantage of the only other walk Baker issued. Davis walked, moved up on a wild pitch, and scored one of shortstop Meghan Livingston’s two hits.
The Eagles’ hottest hitter, Rotax, a junior center fielder, helped make it 3-0 in the fourth. Rotax tripled to right center, and Haskins, a sophomore, lined a single up the middle to plate the game’s final run.
That was it for Mount Abe off Baker, who went the seven-inning distance, striking out seven and allowing seven hits.
Trayah said Baker threw well.
“She’s pretty consistent. She doesn’t walk a whole lot of people,” he said.
Baker got some defensive help in the fourth inning, when both senior first baseman Erin Connor and catcher Hannah Lawrence, just called up from the JV team, threw out runners at third base.
But the Tigers couldn’t generate offense against Davis, who mixed her pitches and moved the ball around in the strike zone.
“She doesn’t usually blow anybody away, but she’s usually around the strike zone … She’s kept us in games,” Trayah said. “We’ve had Sam Reiss throw a couple, and she’s kept us in games, too.”
The Tigers’ three hits were all singles, by sophomore Abby Lane in the third and seniors Molly Wright and Courtney Crane in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively.
Crane’s hit, a leadoff single, triggered the Tigers’ biggest threat. Davis next recorded two of her six strikeouts, but a walk and an error loaded the bases with two outs. Rachel Howlett, who had come on to catch, then ripped a hard grounder between third and short. It looked like it would scoot through for a hit, but Livingston raced over, backhanded it cleanly and beat the baserunner to third base for the inning-ending force-out, probably saving two runs.
“If she doesn’t make that (play)… maybe two girls score, and it’s a different ballgame,” Trayah said. “That’s what Meghan’s done all year.”
TIGERS TOP RICE
On Saturday, the Tigers got another good pitching performance, as senior Kristen Gosselin tossed a five-hitter, striking out seven and walking just two as the Tigers doubled up Rice, 10-5, to improve to 3-5.
“Kristen pitched a really good game. She’s working on a few pitches, and she did very well,” Rheaume said.
Unlike on Thursday and in some earlier setbacks, the Tigers generated some offense, rapping out seven hits and drawing 10 walks against Rice hurler Baily McCarthy
“We were keeping an eye on the ball finally, and getting a few more hits than before, and not watching the third strike go by,” Rheaume said.
Only two of the Rice runs were earned, and the final score was misleading: MUHS led, 10-5, until Rice scored four times in the seventh, when the Tigers made all three of their errors.
“Our defense was good until the sixth inning. Sometimes that one error is all it takes to get your heads out of the game for a minute,” Rheaume said.
Until that inning, the Tigers made several good plays. Howlett threw out a runner trying to steal second in the first inning, in the third inning rightfielder Annie Lindholm ran down a deep fly ball and shortstop Carsyn Buxton backhanded a line drive, and in the sixth Lane in left field tracked down a line drive.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first when Lane walked, moved up on a Buxton ground out and a wild pitch, and scored on Krisandra Provencher groundout. In the third, Baily Mills walked and Ahleiyah Mason-Rivera singled to lead off, moved up on a Lindholm bunt, and scored on a passed ball and wild pitch to make it 3-0.
Rice got one back in the third on a walk and a double by Elise Prohoda, one of her three hits. But the Tigers broke the game open with a seven-run fourth, using four hits two walks and two errors to do so.
Two errors, a walk and a Lane single made it 4-1, and then Buxton drilled a two-run single up the middle to make it 6-1. Provencher and Makayla Foster each singled home runs, and walks to Mills, Mason-Rivera, Lindholm and Crane capped the rally.
Overall, Rheaume said the Tigers are heading in the right direction.
“I think we’re coming together,” she said. “The team is clicking finally and learning to back each other up and have each others’ back.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at email@example.com.