Eagles stem the Tide, but are stung by Hornets
BRISTOL — For the second straight season, the No. 2 Mount Abraham Union softball team won two Division II playoff games, but then came up short vs. No. 3 Enosburg, its Lake Division rival, in a home semifinal.
The Hornets erupted for seven runs in the seventh inning to defeat the Eagles, 7-4. Enosburg improved to 15-3 (with its three losses coming to Mount Abe, Middlebury and Vergennes), and will face undefeated Lyndon for the D-II title.
The Eagles finished another outstanding season at 15-4, including two one-sided playoff wins before Tuesday.
Coach Don McCormick said after the Eagles’ 12-0 June 3 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Spaulding that the Eagles were looking forward to the semifinal, which became another chapter in what has become a good rivalry.
Mount Abe split two regular-season games with Enosburg in each of the past two seasons. Enosburg won the rubber match in the D-II semi last season, ending the Eagles’ four-year reign, and on Tuesday did so again.
“The rivalry with Enosburg the last couple years has been so intense, but there’s no garbage that goes on around it,” McCormick said. “We compete hard, and then we give pats on the back on the way through the lineup.”
In the 12-0 quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Spaulding (10-7) on Friday, the Eagles set the tone early. Senior pitcher Eve McCormick worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the first created by her only walk and the only Eagle error, and the Eagles took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the inning.
Madelyn Hayden reached on the first of her three straight bunt singles, Cami Willsey drilled a deep opposite-double to score her, and McCormick singled Willsey home.
After the early hiccup McCormick retired eight straight batters, seven by ground balls, through three innings, and the Eagles added two runs in the bottom of the third. Hayden and Lucy Parker both reached on bunts, and an error on Parker’s bunt put the runners on second and third. A Willsey grounder scored Hayden, and Parker raced home on a wild pitch.
Spaulding put two runners on in the fourth on a Sage Johnson bunt and Mariah Hoar single, but a groundball out and a swinging strike three on a McCormick changeup ended that threat. Those were the only Tide hits.
Eve McCormick credited the Eagle defense.
“My defense was playing great behind me, so I didn’t feel like I had to have a lot of pressure on me in the circle,” she said on Friday.
Coach McCormick said the Eagles have put in the effort to improve in the field.
“I said we were going to have to tighten out defense up, and we’re starting to. We’re pretty consistent,” Coach McCormick said. “We’ve been working a lot of defense.”
As for her pitch mix, McCormick said she kept it simple in keeping the Tide off balance.
“Just some off-speed stuff, and moving the ball around a little bit,” she said. “Fastball-changeup, mostly.”
The Eagles started to pull away with three more runs in the fourth to make it 7-0. Natalie Chase walked to lead off, and Bella Powell and Hayden followed with bunt singles to load the bases. A Parker single plated one run, and two more scored on a McCormick infield hit combined with a throwing error.
McCormick set the Tide down in order in the fifth with a strikeout, her third, and her ninth and 10th groundball outs, and the Eagles scored five two-out runs in their half of the inning to end the game on the 12-run mercy rule.
A Patty McNerney bunt single and a walk to Sarah Heath sparked the rally. Tide pitcher Cydney Ferrer fanned the next two hitters, but walked Hayden to load the bases for Parker, who unloaded them with a line double to right center. Parker came around to score on two wild pitches to make it 11-0.
The Eagles kept coming. Willsey walked, and McCormick singled. Payton Vincent then dropped a double down the left-field line, scoring pinch-runner Abigail Parker with the game-ending run.
On Tuesday, the Eagles carried a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning over visiting Enosburg behind Willsey’s pitching, but the Hornets erupted for all seven of their runs in a 7-4 win.
Rory Schreindorfer doubled home the first Enosburg run, Emma Keelty singled home the tying run, and a Lily Robtoy hit made it 3-2. Kenna Lovellette then cleared the bases with a grand slam to put the Hornets up by five entering the bottom of the seventh.
The Eagles rallied for two runs off winning pitcher Dana Elkins, who tossed a complete game, but the comeback bid fell short. Elkins allowing eight hits and a walk, striking out three.
For Mount Abe Gabrielle LaFreniere hit a solo homer, Hayden and Jo Toy each had two hits and an RBI, and Parker had a hit and an RBI. Willsey tossed a complete game, allowing six hits and four walks while striking out 13.
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