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Eagle softball girls knock off defending champs

Sydney Strout delivers a pitch against Franklin during Gilford’s 10-4 win on April 16. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
April 18, 2011
FRANKLIN – It was a great start to the season for the Gilford High School softball team last week, as the Golden Eagles jumped out to an 8-0 lead and held on, knocking off four-time defending Class M champion Franklin, 10-4, in chilly conditions at Odell Park in Franklin on April 16.

"Our offense is producing early in the season, which is unusual, especially on a cold day" said Gilford coach Joan Forge. "And we ran the bases smart. We were able to take advantage of some of their miscues and it worked out for us."

After beating Prospect Mountain, 10-0, in the opener a day earlier, Gilford wasted little time in scoring against Franklin. Pitcher Sydney Strout walked in the top of the first, and catcher Paige Laliberte sacrificed her over. With two outs, sophomore Abby Harris roped a base hit to right field, plating Strout for the quick 1-0 lead.

The Eagles saw their lead grow in the second inning, as freshman Mollie Dignan led off with an infield single and advanced on a Melissa Ryan sac bunt. Dignan stole third base and was able to score the second run of the game on a passed ball. After a walk to Lisa Buckley in the nine-spot, shortstop Molly Dietrich hit a shot to center field that was dropped, allowing Buckley to score all the way from first base for the 3-0 advantage. Dietrich would score one batter later when Strout helped her own cause with an RBI single up the middle and a 4-0 Gilford lead.

"Anytime someone has to throw the ball, especially on a cold day like today, things can happen out there," said Forge of her team's aggressive play that led to three Franklin errors.

The lead would grow again in the fourth, as Dietrich singled and came around to score on a passed ball. With two outs, Laliberte reached after a dropped third strike, setting the stage for Harris, who stroke a two-run home run that went all the way to the fence in deep right center field.

While the Gilford bats were doing the job at the plate, Strout was just as solid on the mound through the first four innings, as she allowed just two hits until the fifth inning.

Dignan singled and scored in the fifth inning, and Gilford appeared well in control with a commanding 8-0 lead.

But despite losing an outstanding senior class to graduation, perennial power Franklin fought back in the fifth, cutting the lead in half with four runs on three hits. Bry Danisi and Jill Roberts each hit home runs in the frame, and a pair of Gilford errors allowed Franklin to get within 8-4.

"Defensively, it's all freshmen and sophomores out there except for one senior," said Forge. "We made some mistakes but they were solid enough to get the job done."

Gilford tacked on two more runs in the sixth, highlighted by a Laliberte RBI triple and a Lisa Osborne RBI groundout that made it 10-4.

Strout finished the game in impressive fashion, striking out five batters in her final two innings of work to secure the victory. The sophomore hurler finished the day with eight Ks and just one walk.

"She was freezing out there but she did a wonderful job," said Forge of her young pitcher. "We had a few double plays we turned that came in big spots and those obviously helped us as well."

Dignan had an impressive day at the plate in just her second varsity game, as the second baseman finished 3-for-4 with two runs and a pair of stolen bases while Strout and Harris each had two hits.

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