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Laliberte's heroics lift Gilford to state semifinals

Gilford sophomore catcher Paige Laliberte hit a two-run walkoff home run to send the Eagles to the Final Four. File Photo. (click for larger version)
June 07, 2011
GILFORD – Paige Laliberte wasn't quite ready for the season to come to a close, especially at home.

The Gilford High School sophomore catcher stung a two-run, walk off home run with two outs over the center field fence to send the Golden Eagles on to the Division III semifinals for the first time in three years with a 3-2 win over four-time defending champion Franklin High School on June 4. Second-seeded Gilford was slated to meet number six Somersworth on Tuesday at Plymouth State University. With that game falling after deadline, full coverage will be available in next week's Steamer.

"It was really exhilarating," said Gilford coach Joan Forge. "Our theme this year is 'Turning moments into memories.' This was definitely a moment the girls will never forget."

With Gilford trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the seventh, freshman Kelsey Buckley was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame. Molly Dietrich followed with a sacrifice bunt to move Buckley to second, but after a Sydney Strout pop out, the Eagles were down to their final out.

Enter Laliberte.

"There was a timeout so Paige and I got together and I told her if there's anyone I want up right now, it's you," said Forge.

The sophomore delivered in a big way, setting off a wild celebration at home plate in front of a packed house in Gilford.

"The place just went wild," explained Forge. "Kelsey Buckley, who was running towards third when it went out, said afterwards, 'coach, you jumped so high, as soon as you did that I knew what happened."

While there have been some exciting moments in prior years for the Eagles, Forge said this one has no problem going toe-to-toe with any of them.

"This ranks at the very top," she said. "There are some things at the top but to do it against Franklin, after winning the last four championships, was special. You had two different scenarios going on – my kids with the rally caps on in our dugout and their dugout with everyone at the fence ready to run out and celebrate the win."

Franklin took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, as Ashley Corson singled and Jess Anderson followed with a two-run home run.

Gilford cut the deficit in half in the fourth inning, as Laliberte scored on a close play at the plate. With the bases loaded and Laliberte at third, Lisa Osborne's grounder back to the pitcher was thrown home, but Laliberte was able to beat the bobbled throw and get Gilford on the board down 2-1.

Neither team managed another run until the sophomore sent the home fans happy with the walk off homer.

Laliberte finished with two of the five Gilford hits on the afternoon, while Abby Haris, Melissa Ryan and Buckley also chipped in with hits.

Strout earned the win in the circle for the Eagles, as she scattered 10 hits while walking one and recording two strikeouts.

"I'd say the girls got a good taste of a tournament victory," said Forge. "They were just so excited, they couldn't stop jumping at home. Not one of them have been to Plymouth State before and none have ever been to the semifinals. It's really nice to have kids that are young and kind of don't understand what's happening around them."

AJ Coleman
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Varney Smith
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