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Lebanon - Waterford's lineup received a vast makeover in the offseason, with the graduation of five starters.
Then came opening day Thursday against Lyman Memorial and ... same old Waterford.
"You're used to the defense being there, but I think this defense is just as good as it ever has been," senior all-state pitcher Kelli Connors said.
Having competed only in scrimmages prior to that, the new-look Waterford softball team blanked Lyman 9-0, with Connors pitching a four-hitter with 11 strikeouts and also drilling a grand slam down the left field line to fuel a six-run sixth inning.
Waterford, 22-2 last season, was ranked seventh in the state to begin this year.
"It's definitely different than a scrimmage. You feel the energy," Connors said. "It's so different. You know this counts."
The first inning got off to a little bit of an interesting start for the Lancers. In the top of the first, Alyssa Hancock stole second and third base, but after being called safe at third that call was reversed for the second out of the inning.
Then, in the bottom of the inning, Connors' first pitch was smacked into the gap in right-center field for a double by Haley McCall. Connors walked the second batter, but got the next hitter, Emily Vigue, to bunt back to the mound, with Waterford catching the lead runner at third.
"We had some first-game jitters," Waterford coach Liz Sutman said. "We had a lot of girls in new positions.
"I was a little concerned about our defense at first, but then the defense started gelling. A lot of the girls were able to play more than one position. What we thought was one of our weaknesses turned into one of our strengths."
The first thing Sutman did to fortify the defense was move three-year third baseman Hancock to shortstop. Megan Spellman now starts at third, while former junior varsity catcher Coutney Borysewicz is the Lancers' starting first baseman and left-handed cleanup hitter. Talia Rickerson and Megan Elphick earned spots in the outfield.
As far as offense goes, the Lancers took a 3-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Christine Hadfield and a dropped popup which allowed two more runs to score.
In the sixth, Waterford loaded the bases on singles by Elaina Sullivan, Hancock and Rickerson before Connors homered.
Four batters later, Kate Haff homered again, a two-run shot to center field as the Lancers batted around.
"I'm in better shape than I thought I would be. I wasn't tired," said Connors of her sprint around the bases. "... I got a new bat yesterday. I think I like it."
Connors never did get an out against Lyman's McCall. She went 3-for-3.
But Connors retired the final seven Bulldogs' hitters after McCall's final single. That's the part of her pitcher's game that most impressed Sutman.
"The most she's thrown was four innings in a scrimmage. After that I bring in Megan Spellman," Sutman said.
"For her to come out here and be so efficient, I'm extremely happy. She looked just as strong in the first inning as she did in the last inning."
Hancock, Borysewicz, Hadfield and Sullivan each had two hits for Waterford. Vigue, a senior, returned to pitch for Lyman after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury.