Exuberant coach has Oxbow softball marching onward

Oxbow High runner Faith Eastman rounds third base while White River Valley's Rhianna Young shouts for a teammate to throw to home plate during the Vermont Division III teams' June 7, 2024, playoff quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow won, 15-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Oxbow High runner Faith Eastman rounds third base while White River Valley's Rhianna Young shouts for a teammate to throw to home plate during the Vermont Division III teams' June 7, 2024, playoff quarterfinal in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow won, 15-0. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Oxbow High softball coach Chuck Simmons listens to one of his players speak during a pregame discussion on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow defeated White River Valley, 15-0, during a Vermont Division III playoff quarterfinal. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Oxbow High softball coach Chuck Simmons listens to one of his players speak during a pregame discussion on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow defeated White River Valley, 15-0, during a Vermont Division III playoff quarterfinal. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

White River Valley High third baseman Rhianna Young juggles a pop-up before catching it for an out during her Vermont Division III team's 15-0 playoff quarterfinal loss to Oxbow on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow coach Chuck Simmons looks on. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

White River Valley High third baseman Rhianna Young juggles a pop-up before catching it for an out during her Vermont Division III team's 15-0 playoff quarterfinal loss to Oxbow on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow coach Chuck Simmons looks on. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Oxbow High pitcher Anastase Bourgeois winds up against White River Valley during the Vermont Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow won, 15-5. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Oxbow High pitcher Anastase Bourgeois winds up against White River Valley during the Vermont Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. Oxbow won, 15-5. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — Tris Wykes

An Oxbow High softball celebration takes place after the Olympians ended a White River Valley at-bat during the Vermont Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. From left, assistant coach Josh Allen, Faith Eastman, Hadlee Allen, Anastase Bourgeois and Brooke Osgood. Oxbow won, 15-5. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

An Oxbow High softball celebration takes place after the Olympians ended a White River Valley at-bat during the Vermont Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal on June 7, 2024, in Bradford, Vt. From left, assistant coach Josh Allen, Faith Eastman, Hadlee Allen, Anastase Bourgeois and Brooke Osgood. Oxbow won, 15-5. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-09-2024 6:01 PM

BRADFORD, Vt. — Chuck Simmons exploded off the white bucket on which he’d been sitting in the entry to the Oxbow High girls softball dugout on Friday.

Bounding several steps toward the first-base line, the fourth-year coach raised both hands over his head and uttered a hoarse roar.

“WE GOT ONE!”

The top-seeded Olympians had just recorded the initial out of their VPA Division III playoff quarterfinal contest against eighth-seeded White River Valley, but Simmons had been wound up for more than half an hour. He’d hit scorching grounders at his infielders and screaming line drives at his outfielders during pregame fielding drills, then led a high-decibel team cheer.

Oxbow led by two runs after an inning, en route to a 15-0 final score and its 46th consecutive victory. If you’d closed your eyes and listened, Simmons’ soundtrack might have suggested he was coaching football.

He cheered pitcher Anastase Bourgeois, who threw a one-hitter with six strikeouts and one walk. He screamed from the third-base coach’s box while Faith Eastman sped past. He bellowed like a bull moose when an Olympian didn’t fully hustle after hitting a single.

Even the purple-clad fans packing the left-field line got a dose, exhorted by the bench boss to join him in vocal support. It’s not hard to do when your 17-0 team is the three-time defending state champions.

“I coached football, and I still don’t yell as much as he does during a game,” said White River Valley coach John Rhodes, a former Norwich University gridiron assistant, whose team finished 7-10. “He’s intense, and he gets them prepared.”

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Simmons, who also coaches Oxbow varsity boys soccer and JV boys basketball and famously drives the bus for most away games, has what he describes as a “paper pushing” job at the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s White River Valley office during the day. His inner fire comes out during practices and games, however, and he and his softball players say it’s part of their success.

“My catcher jumps off the ground with both feet when we (record) a strikeout,” Simmons said. “That’s what I want my girls to have every pitch.

“Some coaches say, ‘That guy’s over the top,’ but kids play good when they feel good, and they feel good when they know their coach is as excited to be here as anyone.”

The Olympians play with a steely sort of excitement, cranking out fundamental plays, running the bases with intelligent aggressiveness and hitting the ball with noises (POW! WHAM! SMACK!) that remind oldtimers of those drawn into superhero comic books.

Anastase Bourgeois produced a double and a home run. Her sister, Mazie, had two hits, including a double, and each had two RBIs. Noemi Rose, Eastman and Abby Longto each hit triples, the latter compiling four RBIs.

Simmons said one opposing coach with whom he is friendly tried earlier this season to match his rowdiness. The effort lasted until the fifth inning, when his exhausted counterpart fell silent.

“Kids want to feel assured,” Simmons said. “They want to feel intensity, so I always have to bring it. There are times my wife, Sara, tells me to turn it down a notch, but this is me and I’ve been like this since Little League.”

Anastase Bourgeois, a righthanded junior who hopes to follow her older sister, M.J. into college softball, said the positive nature of Simmons’ volume makes it a soundtrack the Olympians crave.

“We like having his energy and without it, everything would be down and we’d make mistakes,” she said. “Having him talk loud is better for us.”

Oxbow hosts fourth-seeded BFA-Fairfax (10-6) in a Tuesday semifinal. The teams did not clash during the regular season.

Second-seeded Bellows Falls and third-seeded Thetford meet in the bracket’s other semifinal. The Olympians did not play the Terriers during the regular season but beat Thetford, 21-1, earlier this spring and also vanquished the Panthers during last season’s state title game.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.