HALLOWELL — A single, deciding play defined Hall-Dale’s 28th consecutive win.

There was the small victory of contact against Monmouth ace Brooklyn Federico, then there was the agony of seeing the ball’s woeful flight to the middle of the infield. In the end, though, there was elation as Samantha Thornton’s ill-fated pop up found the ground, allowing Marie Benoit to scamper all the way home from second to clinch the victory.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god,” Thornton said following reigning Class C state champion and undefeated Hall-Dale’s walk-off 3-2 Mountain Valley Conference softball win over Monmouth on Friday afternoon.

“It was an instant out. Then I saw her drop it, and I was still thinking I was out. But when I saw Marie run home, it was a little sense of relief.”

Federico couldn’t field Thornton’s pop up. She might still have had a chance to get Thornton at first, regardless, but her errant throw allowed Thornton to reach safely and Benoit to score the winning run.

“The lesson in the game is really there. We haven’t had a lot of extremely close games this season,” Hall-Dale catcher Zoe Soule said. “When we make mistakes, we don’t get down on ourselves and they haven’t come back to bite us. When we play a good team and we make those mistakes, we see that it can happen. I think it was a really important game for us.”


That it even got to that point was a testament to the previously unbeaten Mustangs (9-1).

Monmouth’s lineup had been pounded into submission by Hall-Dale starter Ashlynn Donahue, who retired 13 in a row — including six via strikeout — following a two-out error in the first inning by third baseman Lily Platt.

Donahue surrendered a leadoff single in the sixth, the first hit she allowed all afternoon, and gave way to Rita Benoit out of the bullpen from there.

Benoit did her job in the sixth, but Monmouth didn’t go away quietly.

Trailing 2-0, and with Benoit having fanned the leadoff hitter on three pitches to begin the seventh, the Mustangs got a pair of base hits and a bases-loaded walk to make it 2-1.

The Bulldogs (11-0) appeared to have survived when No. 9 hitter Casey Kaplan grounded weakly to Thornton at first base, but instead of opting to go to the bag for the final out, Thornton threw home in an attempt to force out June Foyt. The throw was short and Foyt scored, tying things at 2-2.


Benoit avoided further damage when center fielder Tanley Tibbetts turned in a fine running catch in shallow left-center field to end the inning.

Hall-Dale coach Steve Acedo said that there was nothing unusual about the decision to take the ball from Donahue when he did.

“It’s normal for us,” Acedo said. “I’d throw either one of them any time, it doesn’t make a difference to me. We don’t care. It’s all about the team and winning. It was more to change it up. They’d been through the lineup a few times … and Rita’s got a little more on the changeup. We figured we’d mix it up a little.

“She did her job. She got the the ground ball when we needed it most, but we messed it up for her.”

Hall-Dale scored a pair of unearned runs in the first inning and nursed that two-run lead until the dramatics of the seventh.

That poor defense bookended Monmouth’s day was a small bit of injustice. The Mustangs kept within striking distance in the home half of the fourth and fifth innings through their defense alone, including a pickoff at third by catcher Katie Laliberte to end the fourth and a bases-loaded, nobody-out 1-2-3 double-play in the fifth.


“Mistakes are going to happen. We’re a young team,” Monmouth coach Dave Kaplan said. “We’ve got two freshmen and two sophomores out there in key positions. I had a freshman out there at shortstop that hasn’t played varsity shortstop all year.

“A few mistakes, but we win that game if we don’t make the mistakes.”

But Hall-Dale, which hasn’t lost a game since April of 2021, has championship pedigree and the confidence that goes along with it. Where a few years ago a surefire victory may have turned into a loss, the Bulldogs instead turned this would-be disaster into another notch on the march toward another deep postseason push.

“We had that conversation,” Acedo said. “In the past, we just didn’t show up to battle back and get those (wins). … It’s a humbling game, and to have that is good. Even if we’d have come out on the other end of this with a loss, it would have woken the kids up a little bit.”

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