Tiger softball takes control, tops VUHS
MIDDLEBURY — Saturday’s softball game between host Middlebury and Vergennes started as if it would be a close affair, with the score tied at 1-1 entering the bottom of the third inning between two teams with high hopes for the spring.
But that’s when things started going awry for the Commodores, who took their first loss after a big opening win.
In the home third the Tigers used singles by Taylor Betourney, Olivia Audet and Aby Stafford; four walks; three wild pitches; a passed ball; and four stolen bases to score five times and take a 6-1 lead.
The Tigers would use timely hitting and more control issues by Commodore pitching to add six more runs over the next three innings to claim a 12-5 victory that improved their record to 2-1.
MUHS also got solid pitching from freshman Emma Deering, who struck out 12 while allowing five hits and five walks. The VUHS runs were all earned, and three came on junior Felicia Poirier’s bases-clearing triple in the seventh with the game in hand.
First-year Tiger Coach Bob Cameron said he had confidence in handing the ball to Deering, his No. 2 hurler, rather than Audet, his ace who will see the bulk of the action.
Audet needed a break, he said, after throwing twice last week, and Cameron was happy to let her sit Saturday out. He noted that Deering saw the Commodore were chasing high fastballs out of the zone, and then fed them a steady diet of those pitches, and she changed speeds well.
“Emma did a great job,” Cameron said. “I thought I was going to have to pull our ace for that last out, but it didn’t have to happen, so that was great.”
Cameron is also happy with his team’s improving play — the Tigers were errorless on Saturday — and their approach to games and practices.
“I’ve pleased with these girls. I’m so happy with these girls it’s unreal,” he said, adding, “They’ve improved every game.”
VUHS Coach Travis Scribner also didn’t start his No. 1 pitcher, sophomore Bethany Bresnick, because he wanted to give two veteran hurlers, senior Sierra Bertrand and Poirier, some work.
He acknowledged the game spun out of control.
“The first few innings the game looked like it was going to be a much closer game. But obviously we had a couple innings where we gave up some runs,” Scribner said.
But he didn’t second-guess not starting Bresnick, or moving her to the mound mid-game, even after Bertrand and Poirier didn’t have their best stuff in three innings apiece. Bertrand allowed two hits, struck out three and walked nine, and Poirier allowed five hits, struck out four and walked four.
“It’s nice to have three girls that can go into the game and pitch,” Scribner said. “I wanted to get Felicia and Sierra the innings they need to continue to develop.”
A plus Saturday was the Commodore defense, which officially made two miscues, but one probably should have been ruled interference on a runner who collided with a Commodore catcher trying to snag a pop-up. The other, an errant outfield throw, didn’t affect the scoring.
And the defense made several fine plays, notably by junior shortstop Audrey Tembreull, senior third baseman Ema Gernander, senior center fielder Jordan Kimball, and Bresnick at second base.
“Fielding mechanics are part of the game, too, and we really hone in on that in practice,” Scribner said. “I’m very confident in our defense.”
The Commodores must show better discipline at the plate after chasing too many pitches out of the zone on Saturday, he said.
“The girls know that, and we’re going to work on that,” Scribner said. “We were helping her out a little bit with some of those high pitches.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the second on two walks, two steals, and Stafford’s groundout to score Patience Hanley. VUHS knotted the score in the third, when Ella Hameline walked, moved up on a wild pitch and passed ball, and scored on a Gernander single.
Then Bertrand struggled in the third. Deering, Betourney, Audet and Hannah Cameron scored with one out on four walks, four wild pitches, a passed ball, and singles by Betourney and Audet. VUHS catcher Kaitlyn Little caught a runner trying to reach third to limit the damage.
Poirier came on to retire two of three batters, but surrendered an RBI single to Stafford that scored Hanley.
The Tigers made it 8-1 in the fourth on Hanley’s two-out, two-run single. The runs probably shouldn’t have occurred due to the uncalled interference. They added four more in the fifth on two walks, a hit batter, two run-scoring wild pitches, and singles by Makayla Swan and Riley Farrell.
VUHS scored one in the sixth when Tembreull walked, stole second, and came home on a Bertrand hit. In the seventh they loaded the bases on walks to Bresnick and Tembreull and Gernander’s second hit before Poirier tripled to right center.
Scribner was unfazed by the setback.
“I really believe in my girls. And I believe by the time June rolls around we’ll be competing very well,” he said. “I’m very confident with them going forward.”
And Cameron is also looking forward to good things.
“If our ace is on and we’re hitting a little bit, we’ll compete,” Cameron said. “I’m so happy with this bunch.”
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