Amazing catches spark MAU in quarterfinal win
BENNINGTON >> It takes one play, one moment, to spark a team in a big spot.
In the second inning of the Division I softball quarterfinal between No. 2 Mount Anthony and No. 7 Missisquoi, the Thunderbirds threatened to break open a scoreless tie with two on and two out.
Lauren Perkins came up and blasted a Taylor DiCranian pitch that looked destined for the right center field gap and two runs.
But senior center fielder Lauren Woodcock had a bead on it, dove full extension, and snagged the ball about a foot off the ground for the out that quashed the threat.
That sparked the Patriots to a 10-0 win and sends them to the semifinal for the third year in a row.
"I'm really glad to do it for my team, [Friday] was the last day of school and what a way to end it," Woodcock said. "I don't really think about it, I see the ball and I get the ball. It was a real momentum changer, the team usually helps me out, today I helped them."
MAU coach Katie Contrada said that Woodcock's catch changed the game.
"When there are runners on base and you make a defensive play like that, it gives us energy to play and know we can do it and that's exactly what you want from your senior captain and center fielder, to step up and get it done," said Contrada, whose team has won 10 straight playoff games dating back to 2014. "[Lauren] is the ultimate gamer, she practices how she plays and gives 110 percent always."
After Woodcock's extra-base saving catch, the captain came up in the bottom of the inning and drove home Kori Bow, who reached on an error and advanced all the way to third on the throw. Woodcock tagged up and went to second on DiCranian's foul and came home on an RBI hit from Jamie Boyle to make it 2-0.
MAU increased the lead to 3-0 when Jordyn Upright reached on a fielder's choice and scored on an error by the Missisquoi third baseman.
"We talked about minimizing mistakes and unfortunately, we have a couple of big ones early that let the second inning continue," said Missisquoi coach Jay Hartman. "That catch saved two runs and what could we do with a 2-0 lead? Then, of course, as happens so often, the person that makes the great play comes up [to bat] and boom, three runs. Now the things you might do in a scoreless tie or a 1-run game, you can't do."
After going 1-2-3 in the third, the Mount Anthony bats woke up again in the fourth, striking quickly. Woodcock was at the center of it again, leading off the inning with a base hit and coming home on an RBI triple deep to right by DiCranian to make it 4-0.
Boyle drove in her second run in the next at-bat to send home DiCranian and MVU coach Jay Hartman relieved his starter, Perkins, in favor of Emma Getty with no one out in the fourth. Upright greeted Getty with a single and after Getty got a popout, Kaity O'Brien reached and advanced the extra base, catching the Thunderbirds napping, and then Kaidin Gauthier bunted and two runs scored when the fielder made an overthrow at first.
At that point it was 7-0 and the Patriots were well on their way.
"We wanted to give [MAU] a different look [with Emma]," Hartman said. "We did a nice job in the odd innings, but the even innings were a different story. We hoped it would settle us a little bit, but obviously it didn't work as well as we'd want."
In the top of the sixth, Sarah Harvey crushed another shot to right center to start the inning and Woodcock was there again, diving to her left to save another extra-base hit.
"I thought we put the ball in play really well, but they played [defense] well behind Taylor," Hartman said.
MAU put the game away with three more runs in the sixth. Cheyenne Guetti drove home a run with a double from the No. 9 spot and Cat Worthington blooped a double that hit the chalk to drive in two.
"Our team is strong 1 through 9, the kids get in there and hit it and we were making good contact and ran the bases really well today," Contrada said. "Offensively, we're seeing the ball well and played a complete game on both sides. Jamie [Boyle] called a great game behind the plate and Taylor was impressive."
DiCranian pitched a complete game shutout, allowing only four total hits. She seemed to strengthen as the innings continued, retiring the final eight batters in a row.
The Patriots will host No. 3 Middlebury on Tuesday in the semifinal.
"We're not looking too far ahead, we have to come out and play our game," Contrada said. "Our season has been a success."
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