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Eagle softball proves to be more efficient, topples the Tigers

BRISTOL — In a Tuesday clash of Addison County high school softball teams playing well this spring, host Mount Abraham came out on top over Middlebury, 5-2.
Both teams managed to get runners on base despite strong pitching from junior pitchers Rachael McCormick for the Eagles and Payton Buxton for the Tigers. But it came down to Mount Abe’s ability to bring those baserunners home: The Tigers left six on base and had runners thrown out at third base and home plate.
Mount Abe Coach Kelly Trayah, whose team improved to 5-1, pointed to the Eagles’ clutch hitting and six stolen bases as key factors.
“I think the teams are pretty even. It’s who advances the runners. That’s what it comes down to,” he said.
Tiger Coach Polly Rheaume, whose team dropped to 5-2 (both teams lost only to D-I power Essex prior to Tuesday), noted both the baserunning mistakes — one of which she took responsibility for — and the fact the Tigers twice took called third strikes with two runners on.
“You’ve got to hit the ball, and you’ve got to swing to hit. You can’t watch the third strike,” Rheaume said.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the second inning with an unearned run off Buxton, who allowed three earned runs on six hits, struck out eight, walked none and hit one batter. Emily Aldrich reached on an error to lead off, stole second, and scored on a single by Macey Ross.
Ross stole second, but Tiger catcher Hannah Lawrence helped prevent further damage by picking her off second. But Lawrence herself had been thrown out to end the Tiger second. She tried to reach third on a pitch in the dirt, but Eagle catcher Brooke Perlee made a perfect throw.
The Tigers got two runners on with one out in the third when McCormick (who struck out five and allowed one earned run on four hits and four walks) hit Ally Larocque with a pitch and Lily Smith reached on an error. Makayla Foster sacrificed them to second and third, but McCormick caught Buxton looking at a fastball over the inside corner for strike three to end the threat.
In the Tiger fourth, Lawrence singled and Darcy Staats walked with one out, but McCormick got a called strike three on the next batter and got a comebacker to the mound to end that threat.
The Eagles plated three runs in the bottom of the fourth. McCormick singled to lead off, stole second and scored on a Aldrich groundout. Dani Forand reached on a fielder’s choice and scored when Ross laced a triple. Ross came home on a wild pitch that capped the rally and made it 4-0. The Eagles tacked on their final run in the fifth on two-out singles by Perlee and McCormick and an error.
The Tigers nearly scored in the sixth. Buxton ripped a single to left that got past the outfielders. She raced around the bases, and Rheaume, coaching third, said she gave the stop sign too late. Buxton was thrown out at home on a close play by a strong Forand relay.
“There were a couple mistakes there, a baserunning error there that was my fault,” Rheaume said. “They had to make a perfect play to get her out, so that was a nice play.”
The Tigers did not go quietly in the seventh. Staats led off with a triple, and trotted home when Bridget Audet doubled one out later. Smith and Foster walked, and a wild pitch and passed ball scored Audet to make it 5-2 and bring up Buxton as the potential tying run. Buxton had been swinging well all day, and she lofted a long opposite-field fly ball into the tough right-field sun. But Emma LaRose fought off the glare to haul in the drive and end the game.
Trayah praised his pitcher for hanging in.
“I thought Rachael did a great job until the last inning, when she started to throw a little high,” he said.
McCormick said she felt good about most, if not all, her pitches on Tuesday.
“My fastball and my change-up (were working). My drop didn’t work too well, but I pushed through that,” she said.
McCormick said chemistry has boosted the Eagles this spring.  
“We work really well as a team. We’re pretty close, I’d say. It helps in the field,” she said.
Trayah said McCormick and No. 2 hurler Audrey Shahan have thrown well, the bottom of the order has been chipping in, and most importantly, the heart of the order — notably Forand, Perlee, McCormick, and Ouellette — has been mashing the ball.
“The top of the order is doing a good job this year,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rheaume said plenty has gone right for the Tigers, and she expects them to bounce back quickly.
“Next time,” she said. “Our defense has been great. We’ve had our hitting going. Today they just shut us down.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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