Eagle softball makes it back to D-II final
BRISTOL — The top-seeded Mount Abraham Union High School softball team cruised past No. 5 Fair Haven on Tuesday in a Division II semifinal, 8-2, and now the 14-4 Eagles will have a chance to avenge their only D-II loss of the year in the final.
Mount Abe will face No. 2 Otter Valley (15-4) in the final. The Otters defeated the two-time defending champion Eagles in Brandon, 4-1, back on May 9, in a game in which the Eagles did not feel they put their best foot forward.
“We know we can play them,” said Eagle senior pitcher Ruby Ball, who tossed a two-hitter and struck out 10 against Fair Haven. “We lost to them last time, but we know we can play that team. We know we can put up a good game against them.”
The final will be played at Castleton University on Friday at 4:15 p.m.
The tenor of the Tuesday’s game was set early. Ball struck out the side in the first, and in the second walked two batters — she finished with six — but worked out of trouble with two more Ks.
Meanwhile the Eagles knocked out two or their 11 hits off Slater hurler Zoey Cole in the first, but a baserunning miscue kept them off the scoreboard. In the second baserunning was not an issue: Sam Rathbun drilled the first pitch she saw over the fence in right center to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
The Slaters briefly tied the game in the top of the third. Katrina Bean reached on an error, stole second, and came around to score on a passed ball and wild pitch.
MOUNT ABE SOPHOMORE Camilienne Masse takes a healthy cut at a pitch during Tuesday’s D-II softball semifinal in Bristol. The No. 1 Eagles defeated No. 5 Fair Haven and will meet No. 2 Otter Valley for the title this weekend. Photo by Mark Bouvier
But the Eagles began to hit Cone harder after she had kept many hitters off balance with a sharp curve early on. Coach Don McCormick said they became more aggressive earlier in the count.
“We started getting a little more aggressive and going after that first pitch,” he said. “We sprayed the ball all over the field.”
In the third the Eagles scored twice on a single by Jess Murray, an error, and RBI hits by Addy Harris and Ball. They added two more in the fourth on a Rathbun double, Camilienne Masse, and Shaelynn Layne RBI infield hit.
The Slaters made one more run at Ball in the fifth, loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter, but Ball retired Cone on fly ball to Rathbun in right field to end the threat.
The Eagles promptly scored two runs for the third straight inning. Third baseman Erika Tracey, whose chart and throw to nab Allison Lanthier at first on a bunt was the defensive play of the game, tripled. Harris walked and stole second. A wild pitch scored Tracey and moved Harris to third, and she scored on Abby Hoff’s ground out.
Lanthier led off the Slater sixth by singling to break up Ball’s no-hit bid, and she stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Allie McIntyre plated her with a ground ball for the final Slater run.
Singles by Cami Willsey and Murray and Ball’s sacrifice fly added the eighth Eagle run in the sixth. In the seventh, Ball pitched around a Bean single and two walks to finish the complete-game win.
“Ruby was just battling,” McCormick said. “That’s what she’s done all season.”
EAGLE SENIOR SAM Rathbun settles under a fly ball in right field during the top-seeded Eagles’ 8-2 D-II softball semifinal win over No. 5 Fair Haven on Tuesday. Rathbun homered, doubled and handled several chances cleanly during the game. Photo by Mark Bouvier
Ball said she felt ready to get the job done.
“I definitely worked hard in practice yesterday and really focused and came out and knew what I had to do,” Ball said. “I was just working on all the different pitches and getting them all in there.”
Ball also believes the Eagles are ready to get the bigger job done.
“We’re really confident. We know what we can do,” she said. “We’re just going to go down to Castleton and figure it out together,” Ball said.
McCormick said he believes the Eagles’ tough Lake Division schedule — including two games apiece vs. D-I and D-III finalists Missisquoi and Fairfax, respectively — prepared his team for these moments.
The Eagles also graduated their starting pitcher, catcher, second baseman, shortstop and center fielder, three of them multi-year starters, from the 2018 championship team, and McCormick said he had a conversation with this year’s seniors — Jess and Molly Murray, Layne, Cora Funke, Rathbun, Tracey and Ball — before the semifinal.
“I told them these next two games you’ve got to take this team and make it your own and go win,” he said. “And that’s what they did today.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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