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MUHS Softball gets key win

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School softball team on Tuesday earned arguably its most important win of the spring, a 6-1 decision over a Division I Colchester squad that showed up at MUHS with a 12-2 record, a nine-game winning streak, and victories over Essex and BFA-St. Albans on its résumé.
The result also pushed the Tigers up to .500 at 6-6 with one game left in the regular season, and moved them into sixth place in the D-II standings with one game to go in the regular season, at home vs. D-I St. Johnsbury (9-6) at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
Senior first baseman and co-captain Krisandra Provencher, who contributed a key single in the Tigers’ five-run fifth, said the game would give the team a lift with the postseason looming — the Vermont Principals’ Association will announce pairings on Monday, with Colchester in good shape for a No. 4 seed in D-I.
“We’ve been dragging our feet a little bit, and this has brought us back up. We needed the confidence booster,” Provencher said. “Everybody came together. Everybody worked together.”
The work of sophomore pitcher Payton Buxton probably mattered the most. Buxton tossed a complete-game three-hitter, walking three and striking out 10, to outduel a pair of Laker hurlers, starter Ali Sheets and reliever Riley Magoon. Buxton’s performance came on the heels of a four-hit shutout vs. Burlington on Saturday.
“I don’t know where we’d be without Payton. She’s unbelievable,” Provencher said. “She works hard. She doesn’t let anything get to her.”
The Tigers threatened first, when Hannah Lawrence doubled to lead off the bottom of the second. But Sheets struck out the next three hitters. The Lakers then took the lead in the third. Meagan Hoague doubled inside the third base bag to lead off, and Sam Messier sacrificed her to third. Brittany Isabelle delivered a clutch, two-out line single up the middle to score Hoague.
The Tigers threatened in the third, when Provencher and Lily Smith led off with back-to-back singles, and Janelle Mandigo sacrificed them to second and third. But catcher Jordan Schnabel alertly picked Provencher off third when Makayla Foster also bunted, and Sheets ended the inning with another strikeout, one of her eight in 4.1 innings.
The Tigers tied the game in the fourth. Sheets walked senior Maegan Mitchell with two out, and senior Ahleiyah Mason-Rivera singled. The runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Mitchell scored when Provencher hit a slow roller and the throw pulled the Laker first baseman just off the bag.
The Laker defense then had a tough inning in the Tigers’ big fifth. Smith led off with her second bunt hit, and Foster laid down a sacrifice bunt. The throw to first sailed high and stayed in bounds, and Smith raced all the way home to make it 2-1. Senior Abby Lane then bunted Foster to second, and Sheets walked Lawrence.
Laker coach Courtney Goetz at that point brought Magoon to the mound. Sheets allowed no earned runs, walked two and surrendered five hits. A wild pitch put runners on second and third, and Buxton bunted. The Lakers opted not to make a play, and the bases were loaded.
An infield error on a ball hit by Mason-Rivera allowed two more runs to score and brought Provencher up. She hit a ground ball up the middle for a base hit and one RBI, and a second run scored on a throwing error to make it 6-1 before Magoon shut the door. Magoon allowed one hit and one walk and no earned runs while striking out three in 1.2 innings.
The Lakers threatened in the sixth when Suleika Torres walked to lead off and Schnabel reached on a one-out error, but Buxton fanned the next two batters to snuff the rally. Then she tossed a 1-2-3 seventh to seal the deal for MUHS. The only other hit she allowed was a leadoff single to Sheets in the fourth.
MUHS Coach Polly Rheaume was pleased with her team.
“They did a great job, every one of them,” Rheaume said.
And she hopes the Tigers realize they can compete with anyone in the upcoming D-II playoffs.
“Anybody can be beaten at any given time,” Rheaume said. “We’ve tried to tell the girls no matter what you’re record is it doesn’t affect how you play each game. You stay on top of it for each game, your outcome is good.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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