Ports delivers as MAU softball rolls: Junior pitcher dishes as Patriot bats come alive to send team to semifinals
BENNINGTON -- The Patriots aren't going home this time.
A year after the Mount Anthony Union High School softball team was denied entry into the Division I softball semifinals, the No. 2 Patriots got over the hump by dumping No. 7 St. Johnsbury 11-0 on Friday afternoon.
Junior pitcher Baylee Ports came out firing in the circle and cruised through the rest of the game, while her three runs scored helped propel an MAU offense that got run production from top to bottom.
Ports, who struck out six batters while allowing three hits and a walk in her seven-inning outing, credited the performance to the team's contagious chemistry.
"It's when my team backs me up, when they make great plays, it just gets the momentum going," Ports said. "I feed off of their energy. So when they are up and making great plays, I feel more comfortable at being able to move the ball around."
Ports helped herself out early by getting the MAU offense going on a walk with two outs in the first. Senior Makayla Farrara followed up with an RBI-triple to plate Ports, then catcher Julie Elwell brought Farrara in on a single to put MAU up 2-0.
The Hilltoppers' biggest threat came in the top half of the second, as Margaret Fogarty and Jordan Cady both reached on fielding errors to start the inning. Keira Goodell fielded a bunt perfectly on the next batter to get Fogarty out at third, and another out put Ports near the end of the jam. But the fifth batter of the inning, Kylie Valentine, hit a ball towards Farrara that the senior couldn't get a perfect grip on, and her throw to Keira Goodell was off and allowed a run to come in.
But MAU coach Katie Contrada noticed that Valentine's number (24), did not match the number listed on the batting order. After a quick conversation with the umpire, Valentine was ruled out and the run was taken off the board.
"Surprisingly, we are a rally-in-seven type of team, that's the type of season we've had," said St. Johnsbury coach Nancy Powers. "But I think the wrong-number jersey would have gotten us that run and would have boosted our energy a bit."
The Patriots didn't capitalize with a run in the bottom of the inning, but with Ports and the defense off the hook the unit never allowed another Hilltopper to reach second the rest of the way.
"Overall, it was a complete team effort today," Contrada said. "Ever kid came out here and they were ready. They played well in the field from the right fielder to the catcher and our bats -- everyone hit today."
Keira Goodell plated sister Kate in the bottom of the third, then a fielding error on a Lauren Woodcock swing allowed two more runners to come in and make it 5-0 going into the fourth. Kate Goodell added a sac fly to plate Cheyenne Guetti in the fourth, and Guetti had a sac hit of her own to bring in Elwell and make it 7-0 after six.
MAU rounded out its scoring in the sixth, with St. Johnsbury's Taylor Belknap throwing a wild pitch that allowed Kate Goodell to score, then three pitches later Ports plated Keira Goodell to make it 9-0. Sophomore Kori Bow finished things off with a two-run single.
Eight of the nine MAU batters got on base Friday, but it was the top of the order that did a chunk of the damage to St. Johnsbury. Kate Goodell scored twice and drove in the run, getting on base in three out of her four at-bats. Keira Goodell hit into a double-play in the first inning, but came back with three hits and scored two runs, while Ports reached base all four times and touched home on three of the trips and it was Farrara and Elwell the bats going in the first.
"I think our team, we are really big on if we have runs, we feel comfortable and we can hit more," Ports said. "We need to get those initial couple runs, then everyone relaxes and thinks we can do it. We just feed off of each other."
And for their coach, the offensive outpouring lets her relax a little.
"That's the thing about our team: When our bats are on, they are on," Contrada said. "Every single one of our hitters has a great swing. That's the thing, it's where they are in the order and a hit can come from anywhere. No one is going up there and thinking they're not going to get a hit. Hitting for us, because we have worked on the fundamentals, is so mental."
Belknap finished with four walks and a strike out in her performance, and she also got one of the three singles the Hilltoppers got off Ports. Both teams turned double plays, with St. Johnsbury's Fogarty turning a 6-3 play on a liner. MAU's came in the third, as Farrara picked up a bunt and hit first, allowing Bow to fire back to Kate Goodell covering third for a tag. Guetti also came up with an acrobatic catch in right in the fourth with a St. Johnsbury runner on first.
MAU advances to a semifinal date with No. 3 BFA-St. Albans, which topped Colchester 2-0 on Friday. The game is scheduled for Tuesday at MAU. In the other semifinal, No. 1 Essex will host No. 4 Missisquoi.
Contrada told her players to enjoy the win Friday, but get ready to work again over the weekend.
"I told them to revel in the win, enjoy it, and after tonight we have to look forward. Like I've said all season, it's been one game, one out, one pitch at a time. BFA or Colchester, they don't care what our record is. I think we have a group that will be ready."
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