Eagles down Hornets in softball battle of the Titans
BRISTOL — In a well-played duel on Saturday between Division II softball contenders, host Mount Abraham claimed a 4-3 victory over Enosburg. In the process the Eagles unofficially took over first place in the division with a 9-2 record, while the Hornets dropped to 8-2.
The teams have become rivals, with the Hornets and Eagles splitting regular-season games in each of the past two years, but Enosburg prevailing each season in the D-II semifinals on Mount Abe’s field.
Eagle senior and Saturday’s winning pitcher Eve McCormick acknowledged a victory over Enosburg carries a little extra meaning.
“This one felt really good for our team, I think. We’ve definitely been battling them for the last three years,” she said. “As a team this just keeps us moving onto what our goal is.”
“Championship,” was the reply.
Eagle Coach Don McCormick, known as Dad to Saturday’s winning pitcher, praised both teams.
“In my mind, that’s two of the best teams in the state, no matter what division,” he said. “That’s good softball.”
He was particularly happy with the Eagles’ effort out in the field. The Eagles did make three errors: one on a tough infield hop, one on a high throw to second base on an attempted force play, and one on a fly ball that ticked off an outfielder’s glove.
But only one Hornet run was unearned, and Mount Abe made good plays: Shortstop Lucy Parker racked up four assists and two putouts, catcher Gabrielle Lafreniere made a nice grab of a foul pop, and the Eagles handled the routine chances.
“We’ve been working hard on defense,” Coach McCormick said. “We were catching what we needed to be catching today.”
The game featured a pitching duel between McCormick, who allowed seven hits, struck out eight and walked none, and Hornet junior Makenna Lovelette, who surrendered six hits and one walk and fanned two.
McCormick mixed in a fastball, sinker and changeup effectively against a lineup coming off a 21-run, five-inning win at Vergennes.
“I’ve got to hit my spots and have my pitches moving when I need them to,” McCormick said. “They’re a good hitting team.”
She also praised the Eagles’ defensive work: “Our defense did what we always do. We made a couple errors here and there, but we picked each other up and we kept moving forward.”
Although the Eagles made better contract, the Enosburg outfield ran down scorched balls hit by McCormick, Payton Vincent, Jo Toy, Genevieve Forand and Madelyn Hayden, and Lucy Parker saw the Hornet shortstop snare her first-inning liner.
The game remained scoreless through four innings. Notably, McCormick struck out batters to end the second, third and fourth Enosburg innings with runners on base. The Eagles’ best early threat came in the second, when Toy singled and Dakota Larocque walked, but the Hornet right fielder tracked down Forand’s line shot for the third out.
Enosburg took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning. Cassidy Blaney reached on an outfield error, moved to third on McCormick’s only wild pitch, and scored on a Rory Schreindorfer RBI grounder. Schreindorfer reached on an error on the play and stole second, but McCormick struck out the side to limit the damage.
The Eagles broke through for three runs in the bottom of the fifth. With one out Forand reached on an infield hit and stole second. Abigail Parker followed with a perfect bunt single, and also stole second. Hayden hit a grounder to short that plated Forand. Hayden reached when the first basemen dropped the throw, and she stole second.
Lucy Parker’s groundout plated Abigail Parker, and then McCormick laced a single up the middle to score Hayden and make it 3-1, with two runs earned.
The Eagles added another unearned run in the sixth. Vincent reached on an infield error, reached third on a Lafreniere single, and cruised home on Toy’s sacrifice fly.
Enosburg made a run at the Eagles in the seventh. Blaney drilled a leadoff double, and Schreindorfer followed with a bunt single and stole second. Consecutive groundball outs to Parker at short scored the baserunners and brought to the plate Lovelette, the cleanup hitter who hit a pivotal home run vs Mount Abe in the 2022 semifinal. McCormick induced a soft liner to Parker, and the Eagles celebrated.
Coach McCormick said his pitcher has been throwing well, and it showed on Saturday.
“Eve was on. She’s in a little bit of a groove right now,” he said.
The coach said the win felt good, but he believes the teams are once again likely to see each other with more at stake, whether it is in Enosburg, Bristol or Castleton University, host of the state championship game. But the win does help with a key goal, McCormick said: A No. 1 or 2 seed would assure the Eagles home field in the playoffs through the semifinal round.
“We feel good about where we’re at,” he said. “We want a top-two seed so we can play here until we can go to Castleton.”
Eve McCormick agreed the team feels positive about its chances, but also knows what it needs to do to achieve that one-word goal she stated earlier:
“We’re pretty confident, but we’re also working hard for it.”
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