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Lyndon Finally Gets Oxbow’s Number

  • Oxbow Assistant Coach Donna Hatch takes Melanie Neil in her arm for the walk back to the bench after Neil got caught off first base for an out while playing Lyndon at Oxbow in Bradford, Vt., Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Lyndon won 16-4. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Oxbow's Erika Slicer, right, winces after being hit in the back with a throw meant for Lyndon shortstop Niah Colby in Bradford, Vt., Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Lyndon won 16-4. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Oxbow pitcher Maddie Fornwalt reaches for the ball after knocking down a hit from a Lyndon batter at Oxbow High School in Bradford, Vt., Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Lyndon won 16-4. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Bradford, Vt. — Lyndon Institute softball head coach Chris Carr addressed his dugout with a smile on his face. Never during Carr’s tenure coaching the Vikings, including the year he and his coaching staff led the programs junior varsity squad, had Lyndon traveled to Oxbow High and walked away with a victory.

That streak ended in a 16-4 win over the Olympians on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. The Vikings hit early and often against Oxbow’s hard-throwing junior pitcher Madison Fornwalt, scoring in bunches before blowing the game open with a six-run sixth inning.

Carr kept the game ball as a souvenir.

“This is our fourth year varsity, fifth year coaching total. Even our jayvee, we coached jayvee for one year and couldn’t beat them. We’ve never beat Oxbow,” Carr said. “It’s pretty nice. They’re a good group and the coach is a very good guy.”

The O’s managed only seven hits in the loss, falling to 8-3 overall with two games left. It was the kind of defeat Oxbow’s first-year head coach Carl Hildebrandt was comfortable dealing with, particularly in a matchup against a VPA Division I foe.

“If we’re playing D-III teams the way we played today, we’re going to have much better success,” Hildebrandt said. “We always judge our season by (our annual game against) Lyndon. Sixteen to four looks bad, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it seems.

“It’s a good time to have this happen,” he added.

The Olympians dug themselves an early hole that seemed only to get worse.

Lyndon’s first two batters in the first inning scored on wild pitches by Fornwalt; she missed her target seven times in the inning, mostly with pitches in the dirt. Hildebrandt said the rain seemed to be a factor in his starting pitcher losing command.

Down 2-0, Oxbow tied the game in the bottom of the inning in a similar fashion, as Kaysea Neil scored on wild pitch and Fornwalt came home on a sacrifice by Erika Slicer. Lyndon responded in the top of the second with five runs on five hits, including a triple, and two errors to retake the lead, 7-2. It never looked back.

“We worked on some stuff yesterday,” Carr said when asked how his team managed to figure out Fornwalt. “I’m not going to say (exactly what). The playoffs are coming up.

“The girls wanted to hit,” he added. “They knew about Maddie and wanted to try hitting off of her. Hopefully, facing her, will jumpstart us into the playoffs, too.”

Lyndon added two runs in the fourth inning before pouring it on in the sixth, stringing together seven hits in eight at-bats that included an inside-the-park home run from Vikings senior Brianna Doty. The win was Lyndon’s 10th this spring by 10 or more runs as it improved to 14-1.

Neil put together Oxbow’s best performance at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a walk and two triples — one in the third inning that set up Schyler Hanzas for a sacrifice fly, the other in the seventh that drove in Lillian Bartlett from first base. Fornwalt had 10 strikeouts in seven innings, while allowing 15 hits and three walks.

Oxbow is coming off of back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2016 and ’17, including an 18-0 campaign last season that ended in the program’s seventh state title victory and first win since 1996. But Hildebrandt said he likes the idea of his team entering the playoffs as underdogs.

Maybe, he said, a one-sided loss this late in the season can bring his team back down to Earth.

“I think it’s always easier to play as the underdog than it is as the dominant (team),” he said. “So I think a 16-4 loss is good. Like I said of them, we’re not used to being on the end of these kinds of losses. We’re learning. … If there was ever a time for a good loss, this would be it.”

The O’s hit the road for their final two games of the regular season, traveling to U-32 today and Lamoille next Wednesday.

Notes: Former Oxbow coach Robin Wozny was honored before the game by leaving her footprints on a slab of wet concrete just outside the home team’s dugout. A plaque also is planned to go with the commemoration. … The team also honored seniors Bailee Wheeler, Erika Slicer and Alyssa Armitage for senior day.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.