By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – One team managed only three hits but piled up five times as many runs. The opposition enjoyed its biggest offensive output in the last three seasons, but lost. Those were only some of the oddities Monday during Mascoma High’s 15-10 softball victory over Lebanon in the NHIAA Division III schools’ season opener.
The host Raiders played on their new home field for the first time and led, 5-2, after three innings. The Royals answered with five runs during the fourth frame and a 7-run outburst two innings later before surrendering a 3-run, inside-the-park home run to Piper Morgan during Lebanon’s final at-bat.
The baffled duo umpiring the game conducted four separate conferences, including one meeting that lasted more than five minutes. The men in blue reversed two of their calls and sent Lebanon into its dugout at what appeared to be the top of the fourth inning’s conclusion – only to call the hosts back into their fielding positions a few moments later.
“It was definitely a first game and there are things to fix and work on,” said Lebanon senior pitcher Kaitlyn Eylander, whose team lost its 39th consecutive game and committed eight errors. “It’s always a bummer to lose, but at this point I’m happy with how most of the game went. This is such a nice field and it’s so nice to be on it.”
Lebanon’s $180,000 field was completed in 2019 but drainage problems arose and didn’t allow the Raiders to get on the surface that season. The diamond looked sharp Monday, when Mascoma scored once to lead off the first inning before surrendering two runs in the second and three runs in the third.
Down 5-2, the Royals seized control during the fourth inning, using 10 at-bats, four walks and two Lebanon errors on the same play to surge ahead, 7-5.
The Raiders had a chance to limit the damage somewhat when Eylander induced a two-out fly ball to right field. However, Emily Melkonian dropped the ball before center fielder Ashlee Blashock threw wildly, allowing Mascoma’s Mara Isham to reach third base. McKenzie DeAmicis drove her home for the inning’s final run.
“There were a couple pivotal moments that swung the momentum away from us,” said Lebanon coach Ray Pettersen, whose team gets a rematch at Mascoma on Wednesday. “But the girls worked hard. With only two weeks to prepare for the season, it’s going to take some time for us to gain traction and gel as a team.”
Some of Monday’s competitors hadn’t touched a softball in nearly two years when the preseason began. Fewer than a dozen practices, some of them in the gym, only go so far. Mascoma coach Chris Thurston noted his players have had barely any work on fly balls.
“We haven’t even had time to identify a lot of the areas where we should reteach things,” Petterson said. “Today was an eye-opener, a little bit of a shocking experience for some of our players, but there was stuff today that told me we have drive and it’s not just a social event. These girls want to win.”
Morgan, Lebanon’s leadoff hitter, had two of her team’s seven hits and four RBIs, belting a triple to go with her home run. If the sophomore learns to lay off high pitches, she’s poised to be one the program’s best batters in years. Autumn Crowell also hit a triple and first-year catcher Mikayla Finnell produced a single and a double.
Mascoma’s three hits came from DeAmicis, Maggie Morse and Isham. Morse, her program’s JV hurler two years ago, pitched and struck out 10 Raiders while issuing 10 walks and seven wild pitches. Lebanon’s Eylander also went the distance, striking out seven Royals, walking nine and hitting two. The tall righthander threw nine wild pitches and struggled at times with her mechanics.
“She fights a lot of mental battles with confidence,” Pettersen said. “It’s a lot for her to triumph over. When the defense had to back her up, at some points they didn’t come through, and that weighs on you as the game goes on.”
Notes: The game lasted 2 hours and 50 minutes… The final score read 15-11 on the scoreboard but the teams’ scorebooks had the hosts with only 10 runs. “They only way they could figure out how to fix it was to go all the way past 99 and back again and they didn’t want to do that,” said the Royals’ scorekeeper… Lebanon athletic director Mike Stone missed the action while on a trip to North Carolina to see family… Raiders third baseman Jacqueline Fredette wore batting gloves on both hands while in the field… Thurston said Mascoma and Lebanon haven’t played recently in varsity games but that the programs staged a JV contest in 2019. The Raiders are in their first year of a two-year Division III cycle after having previously been in Division II… Asked if she had seen a ball hit farther than Morgan’s home run, Eylander smiled ruefully. “Yes, but not from someone on our team,” she said.
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