Tiger junior Payton Buxton tops Independent softball all-stars

MIDDLEBURY — It was not quite a banner year for local softball teams, as tough one-run losses sent the talented Mount Abraham and Middlebury union high school squads home from the Division II final and a D-I semifinal, respectively.
But the Eagles and Tigers, plus athletes from Vergennes and Otter Valley, all enjoyed exceptional springs that are recognized here in the 2016 Addison Independent Softball All-Star Team.
Top on that list is MUHS junior and 2016 Addison Independent Softball Player of the Year Payton Buxton, whose pitching, especially down the stretch, and hitting helped Coach Polly Rheaume’s Tigers to the No. 3 seed in D-I and a local best 16-3 record. That mark included an 11-game winning streak that ended in the semifinal heartbreak. Three of Buxton’s teammates join her on this squad.
Coach Kelly Trayah’s Eagles were blessed with offensive talent, averaging 9.85 runs per game while reaching the program’s first D-II final in 24 years and finishing 16-4. Four Eagles, a senior and three underclassmen, are honored here.
Coach Mike Martin’s Commodores started slow, but came on to finish 8-10, a record that included earning a first-round playoff victory and dealing Mount Abe its only regular season D-II loss. A four-year VUHS standout at the plate who was also solid on the mound earned a spot here.
Coach Pattie Candon’s Otters also bounced back from a tough start and ended up at 7-10 against a schedule that was arguably as tough as other local teams’ Metro slate. A senior veteran and a sophomore slugger are recognized here.
Selections were made based on observation, statistics and consultation with the coaches. Note: Mount Abe statistics are for the regular season only.
Congratulations to the following:
PAYTON BUXTON, MUHS JUNIOR, PLAYER OF THE YEAR. Notes: Throwing in the state’s toughest league, compiled an ERA of 1.15 in 110 innings, striking out 171 while allowing 71 hits and walking only 14 … Half of the 18 earned runs she allowed came in four April games before she locked in and threw five shutouts and a no-hitter the rest of the way … Excellent defender and team leader who contributed offensively by hitting .312 with a triple and a homer, knocking in 21 runs and scoring 16 times.
Rheaume’s Quotes: “She definitely got stronger as the season went on … She just can control her pitch … She has more than two pitches she can use, and she can hit those corners … Her mental game has gotten so much better … She’s just an all-round person that you would like to have 10 of them on your team. She roots on the other girls. She doesn’t get down on herself … If a girl is having a bad day, she’ll help trying to get them picked up. She was one of my captains, and she did a great job.”
RACHAEL MCCORMICK, MT. ABE JUNIOR. Notes: Mainstay on the mound with a 2.50 ERA over 81.1 innings of work, striking out 85 and allowing 72 hits and 25 walks … In the playoffs allowed four earned runs in 26 innings and tossed two shutouts … Outstanding fielding pitcher … Helped power the offense by hitting .593 with 24 RBIs, a local-best 28 runs, five doubles, three triples and a local-best 17 stolen bases.
Trayah’s Quotes: “I have a lot of confidence in her pitching … I would say, ‘Defense play, give us two outs, and Rachael will get us one out’ … She’s great up the middle … She nabbed plays that should have been runs … She’s got a great bat. She’s got a small frame, but she hits it hard. She had quick bat speed … She can play anywhere … She’s a good athlete.
DANI FORAND, MT. ABE SENIOR. Notes: Created a season-long parade of Eagles crossing home plate by driving in a local-best 35 runs … Also recorded local bests in batting average (.630), on-base percentage (.667) and extra-base hits (15; seven doubles, three triples and five homers), while scoring 18 runs … Played fearless and reliable defense at third base with outstanding reflexes, and also caught four games, making just five errors between the positions.
Trayah’s Quotes: “She’s just a very good third baseman … She had a great year … If people bunt, she’s going to get there … She made the right throws. She made the right plays, and you’re not doing to hit one through her … Some of the balls she hit, they were just towering shots … The girls up front of her would be on, and even if there were two outs, you would know she would come up and nail one through.”
TAMARA AUNCHMAN, VUHS SENIOR. Notes: Power hitter and fine fielder who capped her four-year VUHS career by batting .522 with six doubles, two triples and three homers in 46 at-bats … Reached base at a .569 clip, scored 14 runs and drove in 20 … On the mound faced the Commodores’ toughest foes and went 5-7 with an ERA of 2.86, striking out 76 and walking 20 in 88 innings … Plans to play college softball at Husson in Maine.
Martin’s Quotes: “She was the heart and soul of our team … She hit the ball as hard as anyone I’ve seen … She did a pretty good job against teams that had a slew of hitters. She did a good job pitching for us … She fielded her position great. I would have loved to play her at third base. She was a great fielder … I think they (Husson) will be happy to have her … She’s going to be hard to replace.”
AMY JONES, OV SENIOR. Notes: Set the table as OV’s leadoff hitter by batting .410 with an on-base percentage of .471 … Scored 19 runs, showed plenty of speed by swiping 16 bases and demonstrating plenty of pop by bashing five doubles and four triples … Smart, knowledgeable player who had a fielding percentage of .921 at shortstop after moving there after starting at second base for two years.
Candon’s Quotes: “She had range. She could take the ball away going up the middle. She could go deep in the hole … She was just heads-up … She could do it all … She oozed confidence out there. I never saw her hang her head … She’s one of your dream players.”
HANNAH LAWRENCE, MUHS SENIOR. Notes: Strong defensive catcher, power hitter and three-year starter who batted .400, reached base at a .480 rate, doubled seven times, drilled two homers, drove in 17 runs and scored a team-high 26 times … Did well blocking balls in the dirt, pouncing on short bunts and nailing runners at first, and making on-target throws to all bases.
Rheaume’s Quotes: “She’s one of the best catchers in the state … There weren’t too many girls that tried to steal on her She’s not afraid to throw the ball, and she’s very accurate … She’s a perfectionist. She wants to do well … She’s just a great kid to have on the team.”
GABBY POALINO, OV SOPHOMORE. Notes: Batted a loud .442 with an on-base percentage of .508 … hit five doubles, a triple and six homers (five clearing fences), scored 19 runs and drove in 20, and stole six bases … Took over at third base and played fearlessly, making many excellent plays with a strong arm and committing only five errors.
Candon’s Quotes: “Gabby is just an animal at third base. She came up big … She’s just very solid, stays down on the ball. Her range was very good … The difference between Gabby last year and Gabby this year is just wow. She’s really grown … She’s another one with confidence when she steps up to the plate.”
BROOKE PERLEE, MT. ABE SOPHOMORE. Notes: Took over as the regular catcher and excelled defensively, allowing only four passed balls and catching 10 runners stealing … Batted .418 and reached base at a .500 rate, scoring 21 runs and launching four doubles, three triples and a home run … Second on the team with 13 stolen bases.
Trayah’s Quotes: “She’d throw one person out here and there and it would change what people would do … She did well defensively … She could track anything down. She would be an excellent outfielder … She has very good speed … She’s another athlete that could play anywhere.”
DARCY STAATS, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Key defender at third base who became a productive member of the Tiger offense this spring … Quick baserunner who batted .355 with and on-base percentage of .429, stroked seven doubles and a triple, scored 21 runs and drove in 21 runs, many at critical times in ballgames.
Rheaume’s Quotes: “She covered the bunt very well. She was not afraid to charge that ball … She was not afraid to field that position … They (her hits) always seemed to come when we need them the most … She’s a great kid, hard-working. She gave 110 percent all the time … She’s just a very solid player.”
KATELYNN OUELLETTE, MT. ABE SOPHOMORE. Notes: Surehanded shortstop with an accurate arm who made only four errors in 16 games … Leadoff hitter who batted .426 with an on-base percentage of .493 and showed some pop with seven doubles and two homers … Scored 22 runs, drove in nine and stole 10 bases.
Trayah’s Quotes: “Her move from catch to throw was very quick … Kate gives you a strong person up the middle … She’s a good leadoff hitter … Every other time she goes up you know you’re going to get something out of her … I have a lot of confidence in her defensively … There’s not many players she can’t throw out.”
LILY SMITH, MUHS JUNIOR. Notes: Converted from outfield to shortstop and handled the change well defensively, showing range and a strong arm … Batted .333 and had good plate discipline, drawing 13 walks to reach base at a .467 clip … Doubled twice, homered once, drove in 13 runs out of the leadoff spot and scored 20 times … Drilled a game-winning, bases-loaded, walk-off hit off the fence in the opener.
Rheaume’s Quotes: “She definitely was a hard out … She will have an error only because she is so fast to get to the ball it wouldn’t be an error for another kid … She’s a great kid to have, will do anything you tell her to do … She tries not just 100 percent, she tries 150 percent. She has that drive to do the best she can do all the time.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Maia Edmunds, OV; Bridget Audet and Sondra Laroche, MUHS; Megan Martin and Nikki Salley, VUHS; Jenna McCardle, Mount Abe. 

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