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Friday, April 16, 2010

Vaillette hits stride

When Milford’s Emily Vaillette pitched the Milford High School softball team to two straight Class I title games, including a championship four years ago, she used a combination of fastballs and changeups to befuddle high school hitters.

When she moved on to Brandeis University in one of the top NCAA Division III leagues in the country, she learned something quickly.

“In college you can’t get by with the fastball and changeup,’’ Vaillette said. “I needed to make adjustments and find new ways to get hitters out.’’

The fastball was more or less abandoned in favor of a rise ball and a curve. But the trademark Vaillette changeup, which seems to hang in the air for seconds, is still very much a staple of her arsenal.

“It’s a lethal change,’’ said Brandeis softball coach Jessica Johnson, “and she’ll use it more to the top five hitters in the opposing lineup.

“When you are used to seeing pitches coming in at 60 (miles per hour) and one comes in at 30 it can really upset the timing of a good hitter.’’

Hardly physically imposing at 5-foot-4, Vaillette has put up some pretty good numbers as a college pitcher and is having her best season as a senior.

So far this spring she’s 10-3 with a 1.55 ERA. In 811⁄3 innings she allowed just 70 hits while striking out 61 and walking just 14. Opponents are hitting just .227 against Vaillette.

After a solid freshman season (7-6, 2.51), Vaillette struggled as a sophomore, in part because of illness, which forced her to miss the preseason. But she came back strong (13-9, 2.11) to lead the Brandeis staff last spring.

“My junior year, I really focused on improving my off-speed pitches,’’ Vaillette said. “We might throw two change-ups to the same hitter in the same at bat.’’

At 18-5 and ranked 21st in the country, Brandeis is looking for their first NCAA postseason bid since Vaillette has been on the team. They finished second in the University Athletic Association Tournament in Florida in March, their best finish in 11 years.

It earned them their first national ranking – as high as 14th – in school history. Vaillette, 3-2 with a save and a 0.66 ERA in Florida, was chosen to the All-Tournament team.

“What I love about Emily is how tough she is,’’ Johnson said. “She’s not afraid of any situation.’’

Wood closing strong

Trinity College senior James Wood of Windham, who scored the winning run in the national championship game two years ago, is having another great season for the Trinity College baseball team.

Through 18 games, Wood is hitting .451 with a team-leading eight home runs and 30 RBIs. He also leads the team in runs scored (28) and hits (32). Trinity is 14-4 on the season with a three-game series coming up this weekend at Tufts.

Laliberte’s big day

Junior second baseman Eric Laliberte of Nashua went 4-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs as the Wheaton College baseball team beating the University of Southern Maine last Sunday.

Laliberte, a Bishop Guertin graduate, is hitting .414 on the season for a 17-7 Wheaton team that currently leads the NEWMAC Conference standings.

Johnson sweeps

Franklin Pierce junior pitcher Kayla Johnson logged 131⁄3 innings on Tuesday and picked up a pair of victories as the Ravens swept a doubleheader against Merrimack College.

The former Alvirne standout went the distance in a 3-2, eight-inning victory in the opener, then went 51⁄3 innings in relief as Franklin Pierce rallied to sin the second game 6-3.

On the season, Johnson is 5-7 with a 2.45 ERA. After going 9-33 and 5-37 during Johnson’s first two seasons, the Ravens are 12-15 so far this spring with a 7-7 record in the Northeast-10 Conference.

Pelletier nets four

Sophomore Danielle Pelletier of Amherst had four goals on Sunday to lead the University of Massachusetts women’s lacrosse team to an 11-6 victory over St. Bonaventure.

Through 14 games for 7-7 UMass, Pelletier is third on the team in scoring with 16 goals and seven assists.

Solid year for McCabe

Saint Anselm College senior Moira McCabe is having a solid senior year for the Hawks softball team.

The Bishop Guertin graduate from Brookline is hitting .340 and leads the team in stolen bases with nine. She’s third in runs scored with 20.

Rizzi hitting .432

Sophomore shortstop Megan Rizzi, a Souhegan High School graduate from Mont Vernon, is hitting .432 so far this season for the softball team at Catholic University.

Rizzi leads the team in RBIs with 35 in 30 games so far. She also leads the team in hits (38), runs scored (27) and stolen bases (eight).

Senior teammate Stacie Goddard, a Bishop Guertin graduate from Nashua, is the team’s leading pitcher so far with a 10-3 record and 1.66 ERA.