Sports

Tiger softball ousts No. 1 Hartford, heads to D-II final

MIDDLEBURY — The No. 5 seeded Middlebury Union High School softball team advanced to Wednesday’s semifinal game in dramatic fashion, by beating No. 4 Enosburg by one run in eight innings.

The 12-6 Tigers went on to beat top-seeded Hartford High School on Wednesday afternoon in Hartford, but the game was not as much of a nailbiter: MUHS scored the winning run in the first inning.

Of course, no one knew for sure that the three runs that Middlebury scored in the top of the first frame would be enough to defeat Harford. But in the end, the Tigers prevailed 10-2. They will face country rival Mount Abraham in the Division II championship game at Castleton University on Friday at 5 p.m.

In Wednesday’s game, Middlebury got key hits from Lexi Orleans, Sienna Rubright and Ireland Hanley in the top of the first inning. Emma Deering kept the Tigers moving around the bases with a sacrifice RBI, which contributed to the 3-0 lead that Middlebury had after their first at-bat.

Hartford scored a run in the second inning on an RBI base hit. And the third inning was scoreless.

But then Middlebury erupted for five runs in the top of the fourth inning on key hits by Hanley, Skyler Choiniere, Abby Stafford, Lily Dame and Deering. Deering stroked a two-run RBI triple down the right field line during that series. After MUHS added another run in the top of the fifth inning, the visitors led the home team 9-1.

Hartford clawed back a run in the bottom of the sixth on a delayed steal with a runner on third base. Middlebury exchanged the run for an out at second base, Tiger Coach Timm Hanley said.

In the top of the seventh, Stafford and Orleans hit safely and MUHS scored an insurance run.

As in the other Division-II semifinal, the winning pitcher was dominant. Junior Emma Deering pitched a complete game giving up only three hits and striking out 10.

Coach Hanley noted that the Tigers got multiple hits from Dame, Orleans, Rubright, Ireland Hanley and Stafford all had multiple hits. Recording RBIs were Orleans, Deering, Hanley and Stafford.

Middlebury takes a 12-6 record into the championship game vs. Mount Abe, which brings a 16-3 record to the showdown.

QUARTERFINAL

On Saturday, the Tigers won in dramatic fashion at No. 4 Enosburg, 10-9 in eight innings. “(It was a) great team,” said Coach Hanley in an email. “Everyone contributed. So proud of this group, they kept clawing.”

The Tigers took an early 4-1 lead with a big second inning keyed by Ireland Hanley’s two RBIs. But the Hornets fought back and trailed by just 5-4 entering the seventh. Then the Tigers rallied for four runs, two of them driven in by Rubright’s clutch hit, to take a 9-4 lead.

Enosburg (14-4) broke loose on offense to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, but the Tigers pushed the winning run across in the top of the eighth. Dame scored the run: She walked, stole second, moved to third on a Orleans bunt and scored on Deering’s sacrifice fly. Deering, who went the distance for the pitching win, then shut down Enosburg in the bottom of the eighth to nail down the victory.

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