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Lady Eagles shake off early hole to pummel Farmington, 14-4

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Gilford second baseman Mikaela Mattice looks back a Farmington runner after receiving the relay through from the outfield during her team’s 14-4 win in the Division III quarterfinals on June 3. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
June 04, 2012
GILFORD – Despite falling behind in each of the first two playoff games this spring, the Gilford High School softball team handled its business in quite an impressive fashion.

Trailing 3-0 after half an inning on June 3, the Golden Eagles scored four runs in the bottom of the first and kept scoring from there en route to a 14-4 win over Farmington High School in a Division III quarterfinal matchup. Second-seeded Gilford (18-0) advanced to the D-III semifinals for the second straight season with a game against number three Stevens scheduled for Tuesday night, June 5, after deadline. Full coverage of that game will be available in next week's Gilford Steamer.

"I knew it was going to be a ballgame," explained Gilford coach Joan Forge. "(Farmington) came out and hit the ball strong but once we were settled down, we were fine. I had total confidence in the team though. When we were down 1-0 against Newport (in the preliminary round), the whole team looked like deer in the headlights. But we had talked about that, talked about the pressure and how to alleviate it and have confidence and trust the offense, trust the defense, realize there are seven innings. When we were behind by one (against Newport), we were more nervous than when we were behind by three (against Farmington). The kids were just so ready for today, they were so ready. Our offense has been on fire."

It wasn't quite the start most expected on the Gilford sideline, as Famington's Bri Castonguay doubled in two runs with two outs in the top of the first, and Kayla Comeau singled her home to put the visiting Tigers ahead 3-0 before the Eagles even had a chance to take their hacks.

"When they got those first runs, I almost lost it," admitted Gilford shortstop Hannah Chase. "I was very nervous, I was like 'what if this is the end?' Automatic thing that came into my mind. And I bobbled it at shortstop (for an error) and was so angry at myself. But we just all brought it together and knew we could pick it back up."

But while Gilford took three innings before reclaiming the lead against Newport earlier in the week, the Eagles wasted no time at all in pushing runs across against Farmington. Sydney Strout led off with a walk and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 3-1. Catcher Paige Laliberte would also walk in the frame and score on a wild pitch to get the Eagles within 3-2. With Abby Harris on second base after a walk and stolen base, Chase came through with a two-run home run over the fence in center field – her second in two games – to put Gilford ahead, 4-3.

"It was awesome," said Chase of regaining the lead. "I felt great."

Forge knew it was only a matter of time before her club jumped on the scoreboard.

"We were hyped up and they came out and we took advantage of some walks," the coach said of her team. "Obviously to take the lead back there was nice but I had no doubt we were going to score some more. You know when you get a sense of your team, I just had a sense because we've been hitting so well, hitting so well in practice. They were just on it. It was a freshman pitcher (for Farmington), a good pitcher, but it was the speed that we like to hit it. I knew it was just a matter of time before we were making contact."

While Strout settled down in the pitching circle after allowing the three runs on three hits in the top of the first, the Gilford offense continued to put up runs in the second. Allie Daigle reached on an infield single while Strout followed with a single of her own. After Lisa Osborne walked, Laliberte forced in Daigle with a bases loaded free pass to first for a 5-3 advantage. Harris would drive in Strout with an RBI single as the Eagles built a 6-3 lead after trailing early.

Gilford put things out of reach in the fourth, as Laliberte (RBI double) and Chase (RBI single) both drove in runs as part of a five-run frame that saw the Tigers commit three errors. Chase came around to score on an error off an Alyssa Wilson grounder to third base, putting the hosts up 11-3. The Eagles tacked on three more in the fifth, and Farmington scraped a run together in the sixth to account for the 14-4 final.

"What's nice for us is three tournament games are against three teams we have never faced," explained Forge. "It makes it a real tournament. Last year we faced all three (in the regular season as well). We started with Belmont, went to Franklin and finished up with Somersworth. It's not a tournament atmosphere. This year, the kids don't know what color the uniforms (of their opponents) are so it's a good thing, makes it more fun."

Strout, who struck out seven in the complete game victory, paced the offense with a 3-for-3 day, as she scored four runs in the win. Laliberte was 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI and two walks while Chase was 2-for-4 with three RBI. Harris added two RBI to go along with a pair of runs scored.

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