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VUHS softball breaks through for a big win

VERGENNES — How tough has the schedule been for the Vergennes Union High School softball team? Seven of their 14 games have come against Division I programs with winning records, and another two against two of the top three teams in D-II.
Just last week alone, the Commodores absorbed setbacks from Colchester, Missisquoi and Essex, as of this Wednesday the first-, second- and fourth-place teams in D-I.
On this Tuesday, the 3-10 Commodores finally had a chance to trade punches with someone in their own weight class, and they made the most of it: D-II Milton showed up at VUHS with one win and left with a 17-2, six-inning loss.
Despite the run total, the Commodores did not exactly pound the ball, totaling seven hits. But they made Milton pitcher Lily Winterbottom throw strikes, or at least try to: She walked 14 and hit a batter and tossed a number of wild pitches, and the Commodores took advantage.
Coach Mike Martin said his team prepared to face slower offerings after facing the state’s top hurlers last week, and ran the bases well.
“We worked hard this week, because last week we saw great pitchers, so we had to get them geared back down for a little slower pitching,” Martin said. “They waited, made her work, and she got a little tired there at the end. So we weren’t tearing the cover off of it, but we were patient enough and making good decisions on the basepaths.”
Seniors Becca Maloy (two hits, five RBIs), Xzavia Berry (two hits, a walk and five runs) and Aly Gebo (a two-run double) led the attack. Gebo also tossed a strong game on the mound, keeping her fastball inside on the hitters and her changeup away from them. She allowed four hits and one walk and struck out four.
“She was using the plate a lot better, both sides,” Martin said. “All year she’s been changing speeds good. It’s been location, and today she had it going.”
The Commodores scored in every inning except the second. In the first, catcher Sarah Rathbun walked and came home on an error on a ball hit by Berry. Berry scored on a wild pitch after a walk to Taylor Bresnick and a Maloy infield hit loaded the bases.
In the bottom of the inning Hannah Philbrook at third and Sophie Rippner-Donovan at second base teamed up to get a key out, Philbrook making a good stop and Rippner-Donovan scooping her low throw for the force after the leadoff batter reached.
In the third VUHS made it 4-0. Berry singled, Bresnick walked, both moved up on stolen bases, and Maloy singled them home.
The Commodores began to break the game open in the fourth with five runs on one hit. Rippner-Donovan walked to lead off, and Megan Tarte beat out a bunt. Berry bunted and reached on an error to load the bases, and Philbrook walked and Winterbottom hit Maloy with a pitch to drive in two runs. A wild pitch scored Berry, and Winterbottom walked Gebo and Maranda Aunchman to force in another run before tossing another wild pitch to make it 9-0.
In the fifth VUHS made it 11-0. Tarte bunted her way on again, but was erased on a Rathbun fielder’s choice. Berry walked and the runners moved up on a wild pitch. Philbrook singled in Rathbun, and Berry scored on Maloy’s RBI grounder.
Milton got its two runs in the sixth on a double, a walk, and a single and then a dropped fly ball in right field. A third runner tried to score on the error, but Bresnick at first base relayed a bullet to Rathbun at the plate for the third out.
Martin noted the two outstanding plays as well as the three miscues.
“They played really good in the field again,” he said.
The Commodores scored six runs in their half of the six to invoke the mercy rule. Walks to Rippner-Donovan, Sydney Tarte and Cheyenne Jewett loaded the bases, and Berry picked up an RBI when Milton booted her ground ball. A walk to Emily Jackson scored another run, and Maloy made it 14-2 with another RBI groundout. Gebo then doubled to straightaway center to make it 16-2. Fittingly, two wild pitches brought in the game-ending 17th run.
The Commodores were already in good spirits before the game as they enjoyed their Senior Day, and Martin said that attitude has been typical.
“Even during those games we were getting beat bad, everyone was staying positive,” Martin said. “We played through all the way to the end. Nobody was putting their heads down. We coached them up on that, saying, you know, these teams are probably going to get some ugly wins here, and we’ve just got to keep using it as practice, getting better, and we are. We’re still getting better. And we’ll see what happens next week when we get to the playoffs.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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