Two sophomores show the way on Independent all-star softball squad

ADDISON COUNTY — Youth was served this year in Addison County, at least on the local high school softball teams.
Although all four teams had fine senior athletes, underclass students played prominent roles on the Middlebury, Mount Abraham, Vergennes and Otter Valley squads — seven of the 10 picks for the 2015 Addison Independent Softball All-Star Team were juniors, sophomores and, in one case, a freshman.
And the Addison Independent Softball Co-Players of the Year are sophomores: Middlebury’s Payton Buxton and Mount Abe’s Rachael McCormick, each of whom contributed to their team’s success on the mound and at the plate.
Buxton helped Coach Polly Rheaume’s Tigers to a 9-7 record and the No. 5 seed in Division II. Another Tiger sophomore and a junior join her on the Independent squad.
McCormick was instrumental as Coach Kelly Trayah’s Eagles finished 10-8, including a win over D-I finalist BFA-St. Albans, and earned D-II’s No. 6 seed. An Eagle junior and a freshman are honored here.
Coach Mike Sullivan’s Commodores did not make it back to the D-II final this spring, but to their credit bounced back from a slow start to finish the regular season at .500. A senior sparkplug and a junior slugger and pitcher made the Independent squad.
Likewise, Coach Pattie Candon’s 6-11 Otters could not repeat 2014’s title run, in part because their projected No. 1 pitcher missed the season with an injury. But three players — two seniors and a junior, who made OV an offensive power — are recognized here.
Selections were made based on statistics, observation and consultation with the coaches. Congratulations to the following:
PAYTON BUXTON, MUHS SOPHOMORE, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Concluded the regular season with five straight pitching wins, allowing just three runs in that stretch, and then tossed a shutout in the first playoff game … Threw every inning for MUHS, finishing 9-7 with a 2.29 earned-run average, mostly vs. Metro foes, fanning 137 in 116 innings, allowing 104 hits and 23 walks and hitting just one batter … Batted .347 with an on-base percentage of .476, driving in 15 runs and scoring nine times.
Rheaume’s Quotes: “She’s got an amazing glove, too … She works hard at it. She plays year-round, and it definitely shows … If she keeps working at it, she’s going to be a pitcher that nobody is going to win against … We finally had the defense behind her to help her out … It just finally came together, and it was nice to be able to be part of it … She’s just such a hard worker. She wants to do well, and she shows the girls she works hard, and they should, too … She’s just a great kid to have on the team.”
RACHAEL McCORMICK, MT. ABE SOPHOMORE, CO-PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Batted a loud .525 against Metro pitching in the regular season, and counting the playoffs finished with local bests of 35 hits, four homers and 25 RBIs … Added five doubles and four triples, scored 22 runs and stole 10 bases … Served as the Eagles’ No. 1 starter, compiling a 5-5 pitching record against the team’s toughest competition with a 3.04 ERA, striking out 50 batters in 64.1 regular-season innings … Covered lots of ground in left field when not on the mound. 
Trayah’s Quotes: “I pitched her in the difficult games … She’ll be a good player for many years … When I put her in the outfield she would become my best outfielder. She’s so fast, and she threw two people out at second. She’s got a cannon for an arm … She’s just one of those players, I don’t care where you put her, she’s going to be good at it … I don’t know if I have another player on the team with that kind of bat speed, and it didn’t matter what kind of pitcher. The quicker the better, actually.”
MARGARET SANTELL, OV SENIOR. Notes: 2013 transfer student with a strong background in the sport who made a tremendous impact on the OV program … Batted a local high of .551 this spring … Missed a few games, but in the 13 she played scored 18 runs, drove in 18 runs, and pounded six doubles, a triple and a homer … In center field showed excellent range, a sure glove and a strong arm … Better known as Megan, and even better known as “ASAP.”
Candon’s Quotes: “I don’t think there’s any better center fielder around than her … She never needed any cut-off to any base or the plate … She has power at the plate, but can also put the ball through for the base hit … She can read the pitcher … She had very good range … She’s a very good teammate, very coachable.”
TAMARA AUNCHMAN, VUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Powerful batter who beat up Metro pitching with a .401 batting average and a .511 on-base percentage … Scored 11 runs and drove in 13, drilled two doubles and two no-doubt homers … Fine fielder at third base and on the mound with quick hands and a quick release for her strong throws … Threw 51 innings as the Commodores’ No. 1 pitcher, compiling a 5-4 record with a 4.39 ERA and 34 strikeouts.
Sullivan’s Quotes: “She hits rocket shots. They get out of the park so fast … It’s amazing how hard they come off the bat … She’s an excellent fielder, there’s no doubt about it … She’s just got a good glove. It’s really hard to get anything by her … She’s just an all-around great player.”
AMY JONES, OV JUNIOR. Notes: Excelled defensively after moving to shortstop from second base this spring, and offensively, batting .413 with a .493 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot in the order … Scored 22 runs, drove in nine, and showed pop with five doubles, a triple and three homers … Created havoc on the basepaths with her speed.
Candon’s Quotes: “What a player. She’s a coach’s dream to have on your team … She’s a gifted, gifted athlete … She had such range … Amy was a worker … In the leadoff position, she was unique in that she wanted to hit the ball … She wanted to go up and swing away … She just has unbelievable speed on the bases … She’s a smart baserunner.”
K.C. AMBROSE, VUHS SENIOR. Notes:  Batted .375 with a .411 on-base percentage after a late-season hot streak that helped spark the team’s strong finish … Scored 16 runs and drove in eight, hit three doubles and struck out just seven times in 48 at-bats … Four-year starter, team leader and versatile defender who played mostly shortstop this season, but also caught and played second base over the years for VUHS.
Sullivan’s Quotes:“You could put that kid anywhere on the field … I noticed her as an 8th-grader, when she played baseball. I worked really hard to recruit her to softball … She’s just got a sense for the game. She knows where to be all the time … She was just a pleasure to be around for four years, always trying hard, always competing … She always had a great sense of the team and what it meant to be a leader.”
LILY SMITH, MUHS SOPHOMORE. Notes: Batted .375 and showed great discipline at the plate to draw 13 walks and compile a .500 on-base percentage at the top of the order … Used her speed to beat out many bunt hits … Scored a team-high 16 runs and knocked in 13 runs … Excellent outfielder who also held her own when moved to shortstop.
Rheaume’s Quotes: “She had only three games where she didn’t have any hits, so she did very well … Because of her speed she was hard to get out … She tracked the ball well in the outfield, but when we needed her at shortstop, we put her there. She did great there, too.”
LAURA BETH ROBERTS, OV SENIOR. Notes: Always a strong defender and savvy catcher, raised her offensive game tremendously this season … Batted .393 (more than 100 points higher than a year ago) and scored a team-high 23 runs from the No. 2 spot in the order … Added five doubles and 11 RBIs … Determined, multi-year, three-sport athlete and team leader.
Candon’s Quotes: “She really worked her tail off … She really came on as far as hitting … She was there setting the table … She was very solid … She held her ground well at the plate … She’s just a competitor when she gets out there … Once she crosses that line and gets out behind that plate, I don’t think there’s anyone more competitive out there.”
DANI FORAND, MT. ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Good defensive catcher and third baseman who had an excellent offensive season for the Eagles in the middle of the order … Batted .370 and knocked in 19 runs, scoring 12 times … Poked two doubles, a triple and a homer.
Trayah’s Quotes: “She had a very solid season, not only with the bat, but defensively … Anything that was a pop fly in the air, that kid will go through a fence … She’s a solid catcher, and when she’s not catching she’s a fearless third baseman … Her hands are really good … She’s a smart player. She knows the game.”
HANNAH LAWRENCE, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Aggressive batter with plenty of power … Batted .321 with five doubles and two homers and drove in a team-high 17 runs, scoring nine times … Fine defensive catcher who controlled the running game, throwing out two of the five baserunners who tried to steal against her … Had a fielding percentage of .977. 
Rheaume’s Quotes: “Not too much got by her … They definitely didn’t dare steal on her too many times. As you can see, only five attempts in 16 games … She’s one of those they were definitely aware could hit the ball and tried to pitch around her … She wanted to hit.”
BROOKE PERLEE, MT. ABE FRESHMAN. Notes: Wasted no time making an impact at the varsity level splitting time between left field and catcher … Scored a team-best 22 runs out of the No. 2 and 3 slots in the order … Batted .355 and reached base at a .431 rate … Speedy runner and good bunter who also drove in 12 runs, doubled twice, tripled once, homered twice and stole 10 bases … Made just one error this spring.
Trayah’s Quotes: “She started bunting really well … She’s got great speed, so she covers a lot of area … Even though she’s a freshman she’s played a lot of softball … She played above her years … She knows the game really well.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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