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Eagle softball tops MUHS, gets No. 1 seed

MIDDLEBURY — The Mount Abraham Union High School softball team rallied from an early six-run deficit on Wednesday to defeat host Middlebury, 15-11, and for the second straight spring clinch the top seed for the Division II playoffs.
The Eagles, who concluded the 2018 regular seasonat 14-2 by defeating Spaulding on Thursday, parlayed the No. 1 seed in the 2017 postseason into the program’s first D-II title.
Coach Don McCormick said the Eagles are optimistic heading into the postseason.
“We feel good,” he said, adding, “I’ve got a lot of confidence in this team. The senior leadership is outstanding.”
In the playoffs the Eagles expect to run into Fair Haven and senior ace hurler Olivia Bowen, who recorded her 700th career strikeout last week. The Slaters gave the Eagles a battle in a 2017 semifinal. McCormick said on the other hand the Eagles counter with a deep, powerful lineup.
“Anything can happen. Olivia Bowen is the real deal,” he said. “But we’re batting almost .500 as a team.”
On Wednesday the Eagles knocked out 14 hits and two homers against Tiger hurler Abigail LaRock, who got the nod in part because No. 1 pitcher Bridget Audet was nursing a minor injury.
The Tigers themselves mustered 13 hits off two Eagle pitchers, including eight in 1.2 innings off Eagle senior starter Audrey Shahan. Shahan walked three with the bases loaded, and her pitches were up in the zone as the Tigers got their licks in. McCormick said it wasn’t Shahan’s day on the mound, but also noted she doubled, singled twice, scored two runs and drove in three.
“Audrey’s had such a good all-around season for us I just knew she was going to come through for us at the plate like she did,” McCormick said.
He also credited the Tigers for crushing the ball early, and Eagle sophomore Ruby Ball for coming in and throwing 5.1 innings of relief, striking out five and allowing just one unearned run.
“The top four kids of their lineup, and even five-six, are really tough bats. That’s a good team right there,” McCormick said. “Luckily for us Bridget (Audet) wasn’t in the lineup today.”
TIGER JUNIOR ABIGAIL LaRock pitched a complete game against Mount Abraham last Wednesday.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Tiger Coach Polly Rheaume was happy with the hitting and with LaRock’s effort, but not with Tiger errors that led to eight unearned runs.
“Everybody was hitting the ball,” Rheaume said. “Abby pitched a great game. Those errors — we didn’t have her back.”
The Eagles scored two earned runs in top of the first. LaRock hit Katelynn Ouellette with a pitch, and singles by Emily Aldrich and Jenna McCardle plated the first run. First baseman Ashley Sunderland threw out Aldrich trying to score on a groundout, but Brooke Perlee’s two-out single scored McCardle.
The Tigers scored three in the first to take the lead. Gwen Stafford, Taylor Sylvester and Carly Larocque singled to produce the first run, and walks to LaRock, Sunderland and Ella Beattie scored two more.
The Eagles made it 4-3 in the second when Jess Murray reached on an error before freshman Camilienne Masse lined a shot over the center field fence.
The Tigers scored seven times in the bottom of the inning to go up, 10-4. Stafford tripled to lead off, and Sylvester, Larocque and LaRock singled to tie the game and load the bases. Sylvester scored on a Katelyn Stearns groundout, and Sunderland followed with an RBI hit.
Shahan hit Beattie to load the bases and walked Harley Williams to force in a run before McCormick called Ball to the mound. A wild pitch scored another run, as did a Kyra Roberts squeeze bunt. Another Stafford hit capped the rally.  
The Eagles got two back in the third when Shahan singled and Perlee launched a towering drive over the center field fence.
In the fifth the Tiger defense broke down. Masse and Aldrich singled, and with two out Shahan singled in Masse. The Tigers then made three errors in as many plays, including one on Ball’s RBI single that allowed a second runner to score and tie the game at 10-10. Ball then came home on a wild pitch to give the Eagles the lead at 11-10.
Two more Tiger errors that inning didn’t hurt, however. Masse clubbed another shot to center, but Stafford raced back and snatched the ball as she tumbled over the fence to rob Masse of a three-run homer. Stafford followed that up by singling home Williams with the tying run with two out in the bottom of the fourth. “She’s a great athlete,” Rheaume said.
The Eagles regained the lead with four runs in the sixth on four hits and two more Tiger miscues. Aldrich singled, McCardle reached on an error, and both scored on a Shahan double. Perlee reached on an infield hit, Shahan scored on an error, and Erika Tracey singled home Perlee to make it 15-11 and cap the day’s scoring.
McCormick praised his team for shrugging off the early deficit.
“They don’t quit. There are five seniors who have been through everything you can imagine in softball,” he said.
Rheaume, whose team dropped its third straight, was happy to see a better effort than in two weekend losses. She said the Tigers just have to be confident moving forward. 
“Having a game like this, these girls know they can stay with these teams and compete,” she said. “If they have a good strong game they can compete with anybody. They’ve just got to get mentally set and know they can do it.”
MOUNT ABRAHAM UNION High School senior Jenna McArdle connects for a single during last week’s game in Middlebury. The Eagles won the game, 15-11.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
THURSDAY GAMES
On Thursday the Eagles completed their 14-2 season by winning at Spaulding, 11-3. Shahan struck out six in going the distance, and pacing the offense were Aldrich, with four hits and two RBIs, and Perlee, with three hits and two RBIs.
Meanwhile the Tigers took another tough loss, 7-6 to visiting Missisquoi, which improved to 13-3. Audet returned to the lineup and drilled three hits, doubled and drove in a run, while Sunderland tripled, singled twice and picked up two RBIs. The Tigers were 7-8 heading into a Saturday game at Spaulding and could be looking at a No. 11 or 12 seed for the D-I playoffs.

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