MAU softball faces stiff test in semi with BFA-St. Albans
BENNINGTON -- Heading into today's Division I semifinal matchup against BFA St. Albans, the Mount Anthony Union High School softball team's mantra might be: ‘Ignorance is bliss.'
"I don't know a lot about BFA, but anything can happen, you never know," said MAU coach Katie Contrada. "We just have to come out [and not] care who we're playing, be ready to throw down and leave it on the field. If we play with our hearts, in the end, hopefully it comes out our way."
In five years of piloting the Patriots, the semifinals is the farthest Contrada has reached in the Division I playoffs.
Mount Anthony has one of the top offenses in the state, scoring 169 runs -- including eight games where the Patriots scored more than 10 runs. But BFA is just as productive, with 184 runs scored and 10 games with at least 10 runs.
At the plate, the Patriots have one of the more consistent lineups, with six players batting higher than .325 and three of those above .400. Kate Goodell leads the way at .478 (32-for-67) and a .701 slugging percentage.
Kori Bow is close behind, as is Makayla Farrara and Keira Goodell. No. 7 hitter Lauren Woodcock leads the team in runs batted in with 18, while Farrara has 17.
"Our whole lineup can hit, you never know where the first hit is coming from, and that made our team strong this year," Contrada said. "The bottom of the order can produce just as well as the top on a good day, and we've had a lot of good days. That's what it will come down to."
Having that flexibility can start rallies at any point in the batting order.
"We have a lot of leaders on this team, sometimes it takes a hit to literally get the ball rolling," Contrada said. "Even if it's an out, on a hard hit ball, it gets the confidence going. That's the beauty of Kate as leadoff, she has no fear. Keira's been steady all year, Baylee and Makayla, I couldn't be happier with those four kids."
Defensively, both teams are stingy. MAU has only allowed 38 total runs, an average of just over two runs a game. BFA had seven shutouts this year en route to allowing 27 runs -- 1.5 runs a contest. Neither team has allowed a run in the playoffs.
"We've worked hard defensively, sometimes it comes down to where it falls and who makes the good plays," Contrada said. "But making the fundamental, routine plays is something you have to do to win games. You can't put runners on that shouldn't be on. The routine plays are the ones we need to make if we expect to go far and I'm confident in my defense to make those plays."
In the quarterfinals, the Patriots topped St. Johnsbury 11-0, and the MAU offense was relentless, scoring in all but two innings.
"Our last game was a great example of how we got this far, the routine isn't just mental, but it comes with practice," said Kate Goodell. "The extra [practice] time shows in a game. Our defense is strong and defense wins championships."
In the circle, Baylee Ports and Jenna Crowley are the starters for the Patriots and both have been impressive this season.
In 71 2/3 innings, Ports has only allowed six earned runs for a 0.59 ERA, while Crowley has been stellar in her role.
Behind the plate, Julie Elwell is the main force keeping the hurlers on track.
"It's really exciting, I've never made it this far," Ports said. "We have to come out and be ready to give it everything, we want this bad. We have to come out ahead in the first inning, be ready to make the plays, shake off the nerves and stay strong."
Maria Machia and Devan Blodgett lead the Comets in the circle, with Machia shutting out Burlington on one hit in the team's first-round playdown game.
"We're expecting a good game, and as a team, we're looking forward to it," Contrada said. "I think that being in the south, we've played some tough competition, especially some of the [Massachusetts] teams."
Contrada said having the home-field advantage is a big help to the team's confidence.
"It's nice to have the fan support from the community," Contrada said. "Being at home is great, [BFA has] to come down here. We have a growing fan base and it makes a big difference.
"We've played the last two games like we've played all season," Contrada added. "If we come out ready to play, it should be a good game."
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