Bats Go Cold at Wrong Time As Randolph Softball Loses in Semis
Randolph High third baseman Mary Kate Poirier, left, and shortstop Johanna Sargent look for the umpire’s signal after tagging out Leland & Gray runner Emily Thibault yesterday. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Randolph High catcher Jackie Lumbra reacts yesterday after the Galloping Ghosts lost. Pitcher Rachel Johnson is at right. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Purchase photo reprints »
Townshend, Vt. — The bats that carried the Randolph High softball team to the Vermont Division III semifinals were nowhere to be seen yesterday. The Ghosts just couldn't make contact.
“They were swinging today and we weren’t,” said Randolph coach Brandi Comette, whose team struck out eight times, four of them looking. “We’ve peaked in the last few games and we hit great yesterday (at practice), but we watched some third strikes today.”
Two of those instances came during the seventh inning, when the Ghosts left the bases loaded. Johanna Sargent led off with a single, Sarah Stalnaker struck out and No. 9 hitter Alyssa Daubenschmidt drew a walk. Samantha Johnson then stroked another single to load the bases, but Mary-Kate Poirier struck out and Kalie Warner popped up to end the game.
Poirier “is a senior and already had two hits, so I didn’t think that would happen at all,” said Comette, whose program has reached the division title game three times since 2007 and won it in 2011.
Said Randolph’s Brooke Jacques: “It was more confidence than skill. Our hitting has always been one of our bigger concerns, and you have to make the right pitch selection.”
Events looked favorable for fifth-seeded Randolph earlier in the afternoon, especially after first baseman Jacques blasted a solo home run over the fence in left-center field to open the scoring during the fourth inning.
“I was going to try and place it to right, but I got a nice pitch and (the home run) just happened,” Jacques said.
To that point, the top-seeded Rebels had only two hits against Ghosts pitcher Rachel Johnson, who had already struck out five batters. Leland & Gray answered quickly, however, scoring twice in the bottom of the fourth.
The first hitter reached on an infield fielding error by second baseman Warner and after an out, the next batter drew a walk. With two outs, Johnson induced a fly ball but left fielder Aubrey Pelletier, looking directly into the sun, drifted rather than ran to her left and the hit fell in for a two-run double.
“They just had to connect and follow through because (Johnson) was supplying the power,” Comette said. “And we were a little bit slow in moving and getting where we needed to be.”
Leland & Gray coach Tammy Claussen, a 1986 Randolph High graduate and catcher who went on to play at Springfield (Mass.) College, advised her troops to just make contact.
“I told them, ‘You’ve got to be aggressive and strong and confident with your bats in a game like this and it looks like she’s throwing a lot of fastballs, so get out there and swing,’ ” Claussen said. “Just get your barrel to the ball and it will carry.”
The Rebels (15-3) added an insurance run during the fifth inning, putting a runner aboard via a one-out single, having her advance to second on a wild pitch and score when Johnson fielded a grounder only to commit a throwing error to first base.
Randolph (13-6) stranded two runners in both the fifth and sixth innings, ending the latter at-bat with a Johnson strikeout and a Jackie Lumbra popup after two of the first three batters reached base.
“A lot of us didn’t even expect to get this far, but once we realized we could do it, we were pumped up and ready to go,” Jacques said. “Sometimes we struggle with picking ourselves back up once we get down, but I think we did as good as we could today.”
Johnson allowed six hits and one earned run while striking out eight Rebels and walking two. Her counterpart, Elizabeth Symanski, allowed six hits and issued two walks.
Leland and Gray, which lost its only previous title game appearance in 1991, advanced to face the winner of today’s semifinal between sixth-seeded Oxbow and seventh-seeded Enosburg, a game hosted by the Olympians. The Rebels reached the semifinals in 2010 and 2011, losing at Randolph both times.
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3227.
This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction appeared in the Friday, June 14 edition of the Valley News.
A story in yesterday's Valley News inaccurately described an incident after the Randolph Union High softball team had lost its Division III semifinal game with Leland & Gray. A bat was used to retrieve a batting glove that had been thrown onto the dugout roof.