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Raptors Remain Upbeat During a Rough Season

  • Rivendell players, from left, Nicole Bates, Kaitlyn Maddock, Taylor Acheson, Megan Landgraf and Cassie Gray, watch the Raptors fall behind 11-0 yesterday against visiting Thetford. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Rivendell players, from left, Nicole Bates, Kaitlyn Maddock, Taylor Acheson, Megan Landgraf and Cassie Gray, watch the Raptors fall behind 11-0 yesterday against visiting Thetford. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rivendell Academy softball coach Lance Mills watches his team alongside a batting dummy yesterday. The Raptors fell 13-8 in a Vermont Division III contest. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Rivendell Academy softball coach Lance Mills watches his team alongside a batting dummy yesterday. The Raptors fell 13-8 in a Vermont Division III contest. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rivendell Academy batter Brianna Wood lays in the batter's box yesterday after being hit on the hand by a pitch from Thetford's Michaela Pomeroy. Panthers catcher Emma Yurkosky looks on. Wood returned to action but her Raptors lost the Vermont Division III game, 13-8. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

    Rivendell Academy batter Brianna Wood lays in the batter's box yesterday after being hit on the hand by a pitch from Thetford's Michaela Pomeroy. Panthers catcher Emma Yurkosky looks on. Wood returned to action but her Raptors lost the Vermont Division III game, 13-8. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Rivendell players, from left, Nicole Bates, Kaitlyn Maddock, Taylor Acheson, Megan Landgraf and Cassie Gray, watch the Raptors fall behind 11-0 yesterday against visiting Thetford. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Rivendell Academy softball coach Lance Mills watches his team alongside a batting dummy yesterday. The Raptors fell 13-8 in a Vermont Division III contest. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)
  • Rivendell Academy batter Brianna Wood lays in the batter's box yesterday after being hit on the hand by a pitch from Thetford's Michaela Pomeroy. Panthers catcher Emma Yurkosky looks on. Wood returned to action but her Raptors lost the Vermont Division III game, 13-8. (Valley News - Tris Wykes)

Orford — The Rivendell Academy softball team lost 13-8 to visiting Thetford yesterday. The Raptors committed five errors, allowed runners to advance on six wild pitches and threw in a passed ball for good measure. There were baserunning blunders and taken third strikes and swings at pitches in the dirt.

Rivendell coach Lance Mills winced after some of the miscues and pursed his lips after some others. Remarkably, however, the 10th-year bench boss not only kept his cool, but maintained a positive demeanor throughout his team’s seventh loss in nine games this spring.

“I haven’t given up on you girls in this game, so don’t you give up on yourselves,” Mills barked after his young squad fell behind 12-0 in the fifth inning.

Said the coach after the contest: “We’ll talk about the mistakes at practice. If you do it during a game, it just beats the players down and they hang their heads, and that makes no sense.”

Mills’ belief in his troops was soon rewarded. The Raptors battled back in their fifth at-bat, parlaying seven walks, two hit batters, a single and an error into an eight-run frame. Rivendell went down in order during the sixth and sent up only four batters in the seventh, but Mills remained optimistic.

“You have to be upbeat and keep their spirits up because they’ll give up on themselves otherwise,” he said.

It wasn’t long ago that the Raptors made other teams surrender. Rivendell reached state semifinal games in 2009 and 2011 and made the quarterfinals three other times during a six-year span starting in 2006.

Power pitcher Gilliann Suich was a four-year force before giving way to control specialist Karen Mitchell, who graduated last spring. This season’s team, however, has walked as many as 20 batters in a game, and things didn’t begin well yesterday, either.

Mills started senior Kaitlyn Maddock, who played catcher her first three seasons, but she allowed two walks and two hits while another batter reached on an error. With his team down 5-0 before an out had been recorded, Mills called in Brianna Wood, who went the rest of the way.

The senior gave up three hits and seven runs (four earned) while striking out four Panthers, walking four and hitting one.

“Bri shut the door and limited the damage for the rest of the game,” said Mills, whose team allowed at least one run in 22 consecutive innings at one point earlier this season. “It’s all pitching. If you have good pitching, you can have good teams.”

Mills said his shortage of capable arms came about when a junior and a freshman expected to pitch this spring didn’t come out for softball. The younger candidate is expected back next year, but in the meantime, the coach is grooming several current Raptors and is working with some junior high hurlers in preparation for the future. For now, he urges his troops to persevere.

“We try not to look at wins and losses, even though we lose a lot of games,” said Maddock, who was on the 2011 semifinal squad. “It was a lot easier then, but you just have to learn to work with the players you have.”

Rivendell finished with two hits yesterday, one by freshman catcher Nicole Wurtz and the other by senior first baseman Cassie Gray, who was filling in for classmate and absent offensive standout Emily Spaulding. Thetford had five hits, the knocks coming from Shenia Covey, Susie Howard, Kaitlin Boyce, Ashia Pryor and Elise Jackson.

Panthers pitcher Michaela Pomeroy cruised through four innings, facing only 13 batters, but came unglued in the fifth, facing 14 hitters in that frame alone. She was replaced for the sixth and seventh by Kaitlyn Hodge, who allowed one hit and no runs and walked one Raptor.

Asked if he’s frustrated by Rivendell’s struggles and dreams of the days when his team made playoff runs, Mills shook his head.

“No, because I know what we have and when our freshmen now are juniors, I think we’ll be right back there.” he said. “My girls now can really hit the ball, but we just can’t give up so many runs that we can’t hit our way out of it.”

Notes: Yesterday’s home plate umpire was Tom Marshall, an assistant principal at Oxbow High… Adeptly handling Thetford’s scorebook was junior first baseman Taylor Cudhea, who tore a knee ligament during ski season… The Panthers, who were 5-12 last spring but are now 7-3, at one point between innings broke into the song Build Me Up Buttercup , whose version by the Foundations reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts in February 1969.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.