Commodore softball advances to semi-final
VERGENNES — The rematch is on for Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
Because the No. 2 Vergennes Union High School softball team got past No. 7 Fair Haven in a Saturday quarterfinal, 5-2, the 16-2 Commodores will host undefeated defending Division II champion BFA-Fairfax, the No. 3 seed this year, in a Wednesday semifinal.
In 2013, the Bullets earned their second straight crown at the Commodores’ expense, 4-1, and the Commodores probably have known all along they would see BFA and ace pitcher Kayla Mathieu again.
“They’re going to be tough,” said junior second baseman K.C Ambrose, whose fifth-inning squeeze bunt scored Saturday’s go-ahead run. “We’ve got to stick together, and we’ve got to come out right off in the first inning, I think. We’ve got to be on our toes.”
Coach Mike Sullivan hinted he might call for more smallball — bunting, stealing, taking the extra base — this time against the Bullets.
“I know what we’re up against. I don’t think they hit as well as their teams in the past, but we still have to score runs,” Sullivan said. “So we’re going to pull out all the stops for that game.”
The reason the Commodores needed Ambrose’s squeeze bunt was their difficulty solving the soft serves and curveball of Slater pitcher Anna Fabian, who especially kept the power hitters in the heart of the VUHS order off stride and worked out steady trouble until VUHS broke through in the fifth.
The 11-7 Slaters served notice they came to play by scoring twice in the first inning. Fabian and Kayla Stoodley both laid down perfect bunts against VUHS senior starter Dani Brown, and cleanup hitter Marissa Lamoureux followed by lofting a double to right center to score both runners.
After that inning, Brown and VUHS kept the Slaters in check, allowing only three baserunners and one hit (a second-inning bunt by catcher Timi Carone) between the second and sixth innings. Errors allowed the others to reach, but Brown (12 strikeouts, one walk, five hits) limited the damage.
The Commodores got two runs back in the second inning. Senior Phoebe Plank singled to lead off and moved to second on a Sarah Poirier-Thayer single. Carone picked the runner off first, but Felicia Armell singled Plank home and reached second on the play. Armell then scored on an infield error.
VUHS had runners reach third base each of the next two innings, but could not bring them home. Finally, thanks to some Slater defensive lapses and good VUHS execution, the Commodores took charge in the fifth.
Brown led with a fly ball to right field that was misplayed, allowing her to reach second. Courtesy runner Jayme Fulcher moved to third on Tamara Aunchman’s groundout, and then scored on Ambrose’s well-placed sacrifice bunt. Ambrose reached third base when Fabian threw wildly to first.
Fabian then hit Plank with a pitch, and she stole second, bringing Poirier-Thayer to the plate. Poirier-Thayer drilled the ball hard, but right at the second basemen, who misplayed it as two more runs scored. Suddenly, it was 5-2, and fans started to think about BFA.
Brown said he doesn’t usually like to bunt, but knew VUHS had already stranded seven runners.
“I’ve got nine pretty good hitters. I don’t like to take the bat out of their hands,” Sullivan said. “But when you get into a situation like this, where it’s maybe going to be a one-run, two-run difference, you’ve got to use what you can.”
There was one more anxious moment, when Abby Ferrara led off the Slater seventh with a single and Brown issued a one-out walk to bring up the top of the order. But Brown finished with a flourish —consecutive strikeouts to end the game.
Sullivan said the grit that has helped the Commodores win 16 games in the state’s toughest league this spring served them well on Saturday and should do so again on Wednesday.
“Like I told these girls, I summed up this game in one word, and that was resolve. Our team has great resolve. They got us down two runs in the first inning, and a team can just all of a sudden lie down or whatever,” Sullivan said. “But my team doesn’t do that. They’ll continue to fight hard, and they’ll fight hard until the end.”
Ambrose said she believes the Commodores will be ready to play.
“I think we’re pretty confident,” she said. “There’s a little jitters, but other than that I think we will come together and hopefully pull through.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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