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Oxbow’s Softball Season Ends With a Bang, and a Title

  • Oxbow High's Madison Fornwalt delivers a pitch Saturday against BFA-Fairfax during the Vermont Division III title game at Castleton University. The junior struck out 15 Bullets and walked one to power the Olympians (13-3) to a 2-1 victory and their second consecutive title. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Oxbow High's Madison Fornwalt, left, and Leia White high-five through the dugout netting Saturday at Castleton University. The Olympians won their second consecutive Vermont Division III title with a 2-1 defeat of BFA-Fairfax. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Oxbow High's Madison Fornwalt winds up to pitch Saturday during the Vermont Division III title game with BFA-Fairfax. Fornwalt struck out 15 Bullets and walked one while throwing 100 pitches during a 2-1 victory. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Oxbow High softball coach Carl Hildebrandt watches his team Saturday during the Vermont Division III title game at Castleton University. The Olympians captured their second consecutive crown with a 2-1 victory. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Oxbow High shortstop Schyler Hanzas can't tag BFA-Fairfax runner Claire Bushey in time Saturday during a successful stolen-base attempt. The Olympians, however, won their second consecutive Vermont Division III title, beating the Bullets, 2-1. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 09, 2018

Castleton, Vt. — Fifteen minutes remained until the start of Saturday’s Vermont Division III softball state title game when a series of sharp retorts came from behind the left-field fence at Castleton University.

Bang. Bang! BANG!

Oxbow High standout Madison Fornwalt was tuning up her swing, smashing soft tosses from her father, Jason, into the batting cage’s netting. On the diamond, foes from BFA-Fairfax turned away from warmup drills and stared.

In retrospect, Fornwalt’s cracks were warning shots. No one was going to stand between the Olympians and a second consecutive championship. Oxbow’s 2-1 victory, which capped a 13-3 season, also produced its third crown in the past six years.

“This team knew what team meant,” said first-year Oxbow coach Carl Hildebrandt, noting that his squad regrouped after a lopsided, late-season loss to Division I Lyndon. “They worked together and worked hard and finished strong.”

Fornwalt walked, flied out to the left field wall and was intentionally walked. In the pitching circle, she was credited with a five-hitter, although two of those hits could have justifiably been scored as errors. Doing so would have made the lone run she allowed unearned. The junior struck out 15 Bullets, walked one and delivered 100 pitches.

“As we went deeper into the season, the defense got stronger and (Fornwalt) could rely on the girls behind her more and more,” Hildebrandt said. “Intentional walks tend to motivate her, and that’s what she used during the last inning. I was surprised that coach let her bat, and I really respected that decision.”

Second-seeded Oxbow jumped to an early lead against the fifth-seeded Bullets. Schyler Hanzas drew a one-out walk during the first inning and moved to second base on a wild pitch. Fornwalt walked and both runners advanced on another wild pitch.

A third wild pitch scored Hanzas and moved Fornwalt to third base, from where she scored on a Melanie Neil single.

BFA-Fairfax halved its deficit during the second inning. Alison Irish drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on a pair of ground-outs. Sydney Rooney followed with a fly ball to short left field that oncoming fielder Rilee Wadsworth overran. The play was ruled a hit and Irish scored.

From there, it was mostly a pitching battle between Fornwalt and freshman counterpart Taylor Mitchell, who threw a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts and three walks. The Bullets advanced runners to third base during the first, third and sixth innings, but Fornwalt ended those threats with two strikeouts and a ground out.

Oxbow went down in order during the second, third and fifth frames. The Olympians, who had eight of their last nine batters retired, received an Amber Glaude single during the fourth.

“It was really nerve-wracking because we usually don’t have close games a lot during the regular season,” Fornwalt said. “Usually we keep on hitting throughout the game.”

Fornwalt wasn’t initially sure where the game’s final fly ball had gone, picking it up just before it landed in center fielder Melanie Neil’s glove.

This year’s championship has a different flavor, said the pitcher, who was part of a runner-up squad in 2016 and a veteran title team last spring.

“We’re a lot younger so this is all kind of new to them,” Fornwalt said. “This year’s team really just lived in the moment.”

Notes: Robin Wozny, who retired as Oxbow’s coach after 28 seasons and last year’s title, was in attendance and distributed bouquets to each Olympian after the game. … Bullets leadoff batter Jaycee Douglas and cleanup hitter Bridget Hamel were each three-time Fornwalt strikeout victims. … The game lasted only 1 hour, 19 minutes. … Attendance was listed at 266. … Although BFA’s name includes the word “free,” yearly tuition at the school is more than $10,000, mostly paid by the towns of Fairfax, Fletcher, Georgia, Fairfield and Westford. … Fornwalt plans to play for Merrimack (Mass.) College, but can’t sign with the NCAA Division II school until the winter. Watching on Saturday was the Warriors’ fifth-year coach, Elaine Schwager. … Also in the crowd was former Windsor High softball coach Phil Hathorn. … Oxbow first baseman Erika Slicer, the team’s lone senior, hopes to play at New Hampshire Technical Institute in the future. Her take on Hildebrandt: “He’s very intense, but he does have a heart. It’s just buried deep down inside there.” … Oxbow players brought dirt from their home field and scattered it on the Castleton playing surface. Hildebrandt said it’s a tradition that started in 2010. … The Olympians won their last five games and are 91-14 during the last six seasons. … Saturday was just the third time this season that Oxbow scored fewer than four runs during a game.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.