Eagle softball rallies past Slaters in D-II semifinal

BRISTOL — In a back-and-forth Division II high school softball semifinal on Wednesday, host No. 1 Mount Abraham struck the decisive blows to survive No. 4 Fair Haven’s comeback, 8-5.
The Eagles improved to 13-5 heading into Friday’s final, and the Slaters finished at 12-6.
On Wednesday the Slaters scored four runs in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead in a rally that started with two outs and the bases empty. After a walk to No. 9 hitter Sydney Bennett, Fair Haven scored the first run on a bunt single by JoHanna Morse and an Eagle throwing error.
A dropped throw then allowed Paige Manley to reach and put two runners on base. The Slaters’ best hitter, junior Olivia Bowen, tied the game with a bunt single on a two-strike pitch, and the runners reached second and third on the throw home. Both scored when two Eagle outfielders collided going after Liz Muratorri’s fly ball.
A game that had seemed in the Eagles’ control with senior ace Rachael McCormick firing on all cylinders — in all she allowed four hits and two walks and finished with 15 strikeouts by mixing in a deadly changeup with fastballs and curves — had swung in the Slaters’ favor. And their ace, Bowen, was also throwing well.
But the Eagles answered. Junior shortstop and leadoff hitter Katelynn Ouellette (three hits, two runs, two RBIs) drilled a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth to bring the tying run to the plate. With two out, McCormick — and her .667 average entering the game — stepped up.
Coach Don McCormick said for most of the season his daughter had been a table-setter, but the Slater outfield was not respecting her power. McCormick lined the first pitch deep down the left-field line and raced around the bases for a game-tying home run.
“He (her coach) told me hit the ball. So, I was like, OK, I guess I’ve got to hit the ball,” Rachael McCormick said. “That felt pretty nice. Honestly, when I got up to bat I was just looking at her hip, where the ball was going to come out, and I was like, ‘See ball, hit ball.’”
In the Eagle sixth, with one out Erika Tracey singled, and Jess Murray pinch-ran. Genysis Berube bunted, and a throwing error put runners on second and third. Audrey Shahan pinch-hit, and she singled to plate Murray with the go-ahead run. Ouellette followed by dropping a two-run double into right center.
McCormick nailed down the win in the seventh, allowing only a two-out single to Manley. Ouellette got the final out by making a fine play on a Bowen grounder that McCormick deflected.
The Eagles scored solo runs in the first, when Emily Aldrich doubled home Ouellette, who walked and stole second; in the second, when Tracey reached on an error, stole two bases and scored on Jasmin Giles’ infield hit; and in the fourth, when Aldrich walked after the Slaters dropped two foul popups, stole second and scored on an error.
“If you make mistakes, you don’t win softball games,” said Slater Coach Bill Jones.
But Jones credited the Eagles, who finished with eight hits, three for extra bases, off Bowen, who struck out eight and walked two.
“They hit Olivia very well,” he said. “That’s a good-hitting team, and that’s one of the best pitchers we’ll ever see.”
The Slaters got their first run in the third. McCormick hit Katrina Bean with a pitch, and she stole second and scored on Bennett’s single.
Coach McCormick said it was important to keep Bowen and cleanup hitter Muratorri in check.
“We kept them off balance with the changeup,” he said.
Rachael McCormick said it was also key for the Eagles to keep their poise when the Slaters rallied.
“We got a little frustrated, but we pulled it together,” she said. “We did a little meditation-type thing. We breathed in, we breathed out, and then we just calmed all our nerves. It was quite the nerve-wracking game.”

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