CHESTER, Vt. – No. 4 Green Mountain played stellar for much of Friday’s D-III softball quarterfinal, but a late home run from No. 5 Richford proved to be the difference.
And, sometimes in this sport, that’s all it takes to completely swap momentum.
In the top of the seventh inning with one out and a runner on, and the Chiefs clinging to a 3-2 lead, the Rockets’ Abby Adams hit a screaming line drive to center field.
As Green Mountain senior Annie Lamson darted back, she had a slim chance of grabbing the liner a couple feet in front of the fence.
She actually did get a piece of the ball with the end of her glove, but the ball still sailed over the fence to put the Rockets ahead 4-3.
“If she catches it, it’s a miraculous catch,” said GM head coach Terry Farrell.
Whether Lamson tipped the ball or not, that ball was hit so hard that it was going to travel over the fence regardless.
In the bottom of the seventh, facing the 4-3 deficit, the Chiefs still had a chance with the bottom of their order coming up.
After two quick groundouts, freshman Kim Cummings was able to reach with a walk. She then stole second and advanced to third on an overthrow.
The Chiefs then tried to bunt home the game-tying run, but the out was recorded at first to end the game.
“I knew it was going to be close,” said coach Farrell. “They’re a good team and they play a lot of D-I, D-II schools.”
For most of the evening, it was seeming as if the Chiefs were doing enough on both sides to walk away with the win, as they were up 2-0 through five innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, junior Maddie Wilson had an RBI double to the gap in left field, and then after Wilson stole third, Lamson knocked her in with an RBI groundout.
After Richford tied things up with two runs in the top of the sixth, sophomore Alex Hutchins had a big two-out RBI single, scoring Lamson, and for a moment it looked like it was going to be the game-winner. Especially after Hutchins started off the top of the seventh with a nice lunging grab from her left field position.
GM was playing quality defense for much of Friday’s quarterfinal.
Sophomore Tierney O’Brien made a few putouts from her shortstop position, senior Rachel Guerra was a steady force at first base, senior Erika Knockenhauer was getting timely strikeouts on the mound and Wilson had a great game behind the plate.
Wilson posted the play of the game for GM in the top of the sixth.
A foul pop up by Richford had Wilson lunging towards her own dugout after ripping her catcher’s mask off. In a diving effort towards the fence, Wilson was able to corral the ball with the end of her glove to end the Rockets’ 2-run inning.
“If that ball had been over the fence, she would’ve run right through it,” said Farrell. “I think she’s probably the best player in the MVL… she batted close to .700 and she’s a coach on the field.”
Wilson, only a junior, will return next year for the Chiefs, but they’ll lose three vital pieces to graduation.
Their number one pitcher Knockenhauer, centerfielder Lamson, and first baseman Guerra will now need to be replaced.
“Those are three tough kids,” said Farrell. “Annie hit the ball well today (2 singles, RBI). Rachel, who didn’t play last year, stepped right into first base and did a real good job. And, I can’t say enough about Erika… she’s been working at this since sixth grade… all winter long she was throwing.”
The Chiefs end their 2019 campaign with a record of 13-4. Richford (9-5) advances to the D-III semifinals on Tuesday.