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Eagle softball tames the Tigers, 7-2

BRISTOL — The Mount Abraham Union High School softball team used a three-run fourth inning to surge past the visiting Middlebury Union Tigers, 7-2, on a warm Tuesday afternoon. The Eagles — defending Division-II champions — improved to 3-0, while the Tigers fell to 1-2 for the season.
The Eagles came out strong defensively, recording a double-play on just the second batter of the game, and Middlebury went quietly in the first inning.
In the bottom of the first, the Eagles scored two runs. Senior shortstop Katelynn Ouelette made it to third base on a single, a walk, and a steal, then sophomore Ruby Ball hit a high ball to right field, driving Ouelette home, while junior Erika Tracey advanced to third. The fifth batter for the Eagles, freshman Camilienne Masse, then drove Tracey home on a ball to center field, though Masse was thrown out at first base. A strike-out by senior Brooke Perlee closed the inning with a 2-0 advantage for Mt. Abe.
The Eagles defended well, forcing Middlebury into three quick outs in the second frame, one coming from a strikeout by Mt. Abe senior pitcher Audrey Shahan, her first of eight for the game. Shahan is among a Mt. Abe contingent trying to fill the void left by the graduation of last year’s ace, Rachael McCormick.
“We have Audrey and two other pitchers on our team that I have complete confidence in and I think are going to fill in the hole,” said Eagles coach Don McCormick. “Audrey is hitting spots where we’ve asked her to hit spots and changed speed and kept the batters really guessing and done a super job.”
And on Tuesday afternoon, Shahan certainly shined, allowing only seven hits, two runs, and no walks in 94 pitches throughout the seven innings.
The Tigers are also working on filling a similar gap left by last year’s graduation of their own star pitcher Payton Buxton, who recorded over 500 career strikeouts and was awarded the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year. Coach Polly Rheaume, like McCormick, feels confident with this year’s MUHS pitching lineup.
“Well we’ve got three good pitchers this year, they move the ball a bit, but it’s early in the season so hopefully they’ll get stronger and we’ll go from there,” Rheaume said.
Tiger Sophomore pitcher Gwen Stafford allowed 10 hits and recorded six strikeouts in the first four innings. In the fifth, Stafford replaced senior Bridget Audet in center-field, while Audet moved to the pitching mound to finish the game.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Eagles drove home two more runs, both off of a Ouelette double to right field. The Eagles led 4-0 at the end of the second.
The Tigers answered with big plays of their own in both the top and bottom of the third. With two outs, junior Carly Larocque hit a home run that also scored Stafford, closing the gap to 4-2.
Defensively, the Tigers racked up two strikeouts and another out on an infield ground ball fielded by catcher Aby LaRock, who threw to first base to end the inning.
A strikeout, and pop-up caught by Eagle first baseman Cora Funke, and a caught infield pop fly quickly ended Middlebury’s fourth inning. Mt. Abe then notched three runs in its half of the fourth to seal the game. Shahan made it to first base before being exchanged by a courtesy runner, sophomore Addy Harris (two runs), who quickly stole second and then third before running home on a Jess Murray double. With a full count, Ouelette (four RBIs) hit a long homerun to centerfield, driving in Murray to bring the final score to 7-2.
Middlebury ended the game with just seven hits, a point Rheaume hopes to improve on in future games.
“We’re good with our defense; it’s just our offense is just not clicking yet, so hopefully we’ll get those bats on a ball and next time we’ll have them,” she said, though she remains confident the Tigers will be competitive this season.
“I thought we did well,” she said. “We’ll be working.”
Meanwhile, the Eagles are looking for a title repeat. Ouelette commented on the added pressure from last year’s season.
“We’re not taking our season lightly, we’re just really hoping for the repeat, but we’re not expecting it, we’re working hard for it,” she said.
Shahan agreed, insisting the Eagles are “just taking it one game at a time, focusing on the day that we’re playing a game and not anything forward.”
The Eagles head to Colchester on Wednesday, Mount Mansfield on Thursday, and Missisquoi on Saturday.
McCormick is optimistic given his team’s early results.
“Play together, watch out for each other like we did last year, and just keep going forward,” he said, “and together, this year we’ll be successful. I have a lot of confidence in this team.”

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