Paquette shines on mound as VUHS softball wins, 8-2
VERGENNES — Another strong pitching effort backed by timely hitting and solid defense on Saturday means another trip to the Division II semifinal round for the Vergennes Union High School softball team.
In their 8-2 quarterfinal win over No. 6 U-32, the No. 3 Commodores’ got two-hit pitching from Taylor Paquette; a combined seven-for-seven effort with six runs and three RBIs from Nos. 4 and 5 hitters Cat Chaput and Dani Brown; and four RBIs from No. 7 hitter Tamara Aunchman.
And the 14-4 Commodores earned a date in a 4:30 p.m. Wednesday semifinal with either No. 2 Lyndon (15-1) or No. 7 Otter Valley (10-7). Those two teams are set to square off on Monday at Lyndon. If Lyndon prevails, VUHS will travel on Wednesday, but if the Otters pull off the upset the Commodores will host. The final will be scheduled for either Friday or Saturday in Poultney; undefeated defending champion BFA-Fairfax is expected to be there.
Paquette said the Commodores — who have won five in a row and eight or their past nine — will be confident on Wednesday whether they get on the bus or walk to their home diamond.
“Ever since the beginning of the year, we’ve kept it in our heads that if we work hard and play like we know how, we could win a championship,” she said. “That’s what we’re ready for.”
One reason they can feel more confident than in 2012 is that Chaput, a senior catcher, is healthy. The VUHS cleanup hitter missed the playoffs last year with an injury, but is ready to go and has been an offensive force this spring.
On Saturday, Chaput (two doubles, two singles, four runs scored) drove in the Commodores’ first run with one of many two-out hits. Paquette singled with two out off losing pitcher Sophia Gonzales in the first and reached second on a wild pitch. Chaput then laced a single between second and short to score Paquette on a close play. Brown followed with an almost identical hit, and VUHS took a 2-0 lead.
VUHS made it 3-0 in the second with more two-out magic. K.C. Ambrose reached on a two-out error, the only U-32 fielding miscue of the game, and Emilee Trudo walked. Paquette then singled to score Ambrose.
In the third, the Commodores struck more quickly: Chaput and Brown led off the inning by drilling back-to-back doubles to make it 4-0. Phoebe Plank moved Brown to third with a single, and Aunchman plated her with a deep sacrifice fly to left to make it 5-0.
Meanwhile, Paquette was mowing down the Raiders. Through six innings, she allowed only one batter to reach, Dakota Clark, who singled cleanly in the third, and the Commodores played errorless ball behind her.
Paquette said she felt strong and was hitting her spots.
“I was going in there ready to attack, just like our motto is. And I feel like I trust our defense behind me,” Paquette said.
The defense did not play well in the seventh, when after Liz Atchison reached on a leadoff infield hit (despite a terrific play by Ambrose at short), two infield errors led to the U-32 runs.
But by then, VUHS had an 8-0 lead, courtesy of one run in the fifth and two in the sixth. In the fifth, Chaput led off with a single, and Gonzales walked Brown, Plank and Aunchman to force in a run before Clark relieved her and worked out of trouble.
In the sixth, VUHS added two runs off Clark. Chaput doubled with two out, and a Brown single and a walk to Plank loaded the bases for Aunchman, who singled home the game’s fifth and sixth two-out VUHS runs.
“Even though we have two outs, we’re still going to fight until the end,” Paquette said.
VUHS coach Mike Sullivan said Paquette turned in a “great performance” on the mound, and he appreciated their approach at the plate.
“My kids are very aggressive. We have preached attack, attack the ball,” Sullivan said. “That’s something we will continue to emphasize, and making sure they’re swinging at good pitches, and everything usually takes care of itself.”
He, too, is confident in the Commodores, but said neither he nor they are taking anything for granted.
“At this point, my kids are ready for anything, but we’re not looking past anybody,” Sullivan said. “It’s always one pitch, one inning, one game at a time. So we’ll just go and practice for a couple days and try to get prepared for Lyndon or Otter Valley and go from there.”
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