FARMINGDALE — Hall-Dale sophomore Becca Ackerson is a lot like the rest of us.
“I would rather pitch in 90-degree weather,” Ackerson said. “I don’t really like the wind, or the rain. Or the cold.”
When Ackerson and the Bulldogs opened their Mountain Valley Conference softball season on Monday against Oak Hill, there wasn’t any rain, but there was certainly cold and wind. Both teams had some first-game-haven’t-been-outside-much-this-season sloppiness, but Hall-Dale’s big inning was the difference in a 6-4 Bulldogs victory.
“I’ll take it,” Hall-Dale coach Christen Lachapelle said. “(Oak Hill’s) a pretty good team — Class B and they did pretty well last year. I’m happy for (us). They’ve stuck together this preseason, so it’s nice to start the season off right.”
Both Hall-Dale and the Raiders were among the top teams in the MVC last spring, but the biggest difference between the teams this year is that Hall-Dale has two experienced pitchers (Ackerson and Olivia Maynard), while Oak Hill is breaking in Lauren Beganny and Sadie Goulet after both were used to playing other positions.
Beganny got the start on Monday and kept the Bulldogs off-balance by changing speeds. Through three innings, she allowed one hit, and that was an infield single by Eva Shepherd with a bang-bang play at first. Meanwhile, Ackerson struck out nine and used a double play to get out of trouble in the second inning.
With the game still scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, Ackerson led off with a single, stole second, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on another groundout by Kayla Johnson. Emma Begin later scored on a wild pitch, and Gabby Brown came home on Emily Maynard’s bases-loaded, two-out single. With the score 3-0, Hall-Dale plated two runs on a dropped fly ball, and another when Maynard was caught in a rundown between third and home but the Raiders threw the ball away.
“I think we were a little anxious to start,” Lachapelle said. “When you’ve got pitchers like Olivia and Becca who can throw BP every day, they’re (two) of the top flamethrowers in the conference, and I think we were just kind of anxious waiting on it. We settled in nicely, and made contact, and made things happen, and we were able to take advantage of some of their mistakes.”
Down 6-0 and with only two seniors on their roster, the Raiders showed something by bouncing back for three runs in the top of the fifth. After Ackerson got the first two batters, Sara Noel walked, Jamie Prue was safe on a fielder’s choice, and Kayla Veilleux lined an RBI single to left-center field. Prue eventually scored on an error, and Veilleux walked home after Ackerson was called for an illegal pitch.
“That’s the thing with this team, is you can’t count â€˜em out,” Oak Hill coach Allyson Collins said. “We may not hit home runs every game. We’re not going to hit doubles and triples off the wall. But everyone in this lineup is going to hit you ground balls, hit their share of line drives, and everyone can make a play.”
It was still 6-3 entering the top of the seventh, and Oak Hill made things interesting again. Noel and Prue led off with back-to-back singles, and Veilleux walked to load the bases with nobody out. Noel made it 6-4 on a popup that was dropped but still became an out on the infield fly rule. With runners on second and third and one out, Ackerson struck out the next batter on three pitches, then coaxed a groundout to end the game.
“I just wanted to get three outs,” Ackerson said. “I just tried to not stress about the score, and get the outs.”