O’s catch hitting bug, repeat as VPA D-III softball champions

  • Oxbow head coach Chuck Simmons encourages support from the crowd as Alexa Kosakowski warms up in the bottom of the fourth inning in their VPA Division III state championship game against Vergennes in Castleton, Vt., on June 11, 2022. Trailing 3-2 entering the inning, the Olympians had a six-hit, seven-run inning and stayed ahead to win the game, 13-3. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Oxbow's Darcy O'Connell is brushed off the plate with an inside pitch in the fifth inning of the Olympian's VPA Division III championship game against Vergennes in Castleton, Vt., on June 11, 2022. Oxbow won, 13-3. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • Anastase Bourgeois, right, is mobbed by her Oxbow teammates after hitting a two-run inside-the-park home run against Vergennes in the sixth inning during the VPA Division III championship in Castleton, Vt., on June 11, 2022. Oxbow won, 13-3. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Oxbow's softball team hoists the VPA Division III championship trophies after defeating Vergennes 13-3 in Castleton, Vt., on June 11, 2022. The number-one seeded Olympians finished the season with a 14-3 record. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Members of Oxbow's softball team use the cases for their championship medallions to scoop up playing surface soil where the Olympians defeated Vergennes 13-3 to win the VPA Division III championship in Castleton, Vt., on June 11, 2022. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2022 9:38:30 PM
Modified: 6/11/2022 9:36:12 PM

CASTLETON, Vt. — All season long, the Oxbow High softball team has had a penchant for offensive eruptions without warning.

In the Olympians’ season opener against Blue Mountain, it was a 10-run fifth inning that turned a close game into a rout. In a mid-May matchup with local rival Thetford, it was an eight-run fifth that invoked the run rule. In the semifinals on Tuesday against Lake Region, it was a six-run fourth that broke a tie and sent Oxbow to the VPA Division III championship game.

So when the top-seeded Olympians found themselves trailing No. 2 seed Vergennes by a run as they came to bat in the fourth on Saturday, nobody in the third-base dugout was worried. And sure enough, Oxbow exploded for seven runs in that frame, then added four more in the sixth for a 13-3 victory and a second consecutive state title.

“Today, I had a good feeling, just like I did last year,” Olympians head coach Chuck Simmons said. “Hits are contagious, and that’s exactly what they did. They just got excited, and they all wanted to hit the ball. It sounds silly, but once they start seeing everybody hit the ball, they go up there with confidence and swing away.”

Oxbow (14-3) took an early two-run lead in the first on an RBI single from junior catcher Makenna Simmons, who later scored on an error. But the Commodores plated two unearned runs in the second and another in the third, and Vergennes pitcher Savanah Blaise seemed to be settling into a rhythm.

That is, until the bottom of the Olympians’ lineup started the big fourth-inning rally.

Senior Alexa Kosakowski punched a single to right field, then sophomore Faith Eastman and senior Darcy O’Connell each bunted for a hit. Another single by freshman Maggi Ellsworth drove in the second run of the frame and gave Oxbow the lead for good.

The floodgates opened from there. Following an error, freshman pitcher Anastase Bourgeois laced a triple up the alley in left-center to bring in two more. Two batters later, senior Taylor Bean extended the lead even further with a two-run double. When it was all said and done, the Olympians had turned a 3-2 deficit into a commanding 9-3 lead.

“We like to help each other out at bat,” Kosakowski said. “If we notice different things that (the pitcher) is doing, we’ll let each other know so that we can prepare and get to know the pitcher better. Having confidence in each other and ourselves really helps us stay in there.”

From there, Bourgeois was on cruise control. She retired the Commodores in order in the fifth and worked around a two-out single in the sixth.

Then, just for good measure, she crushed an inside-the-park, two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth. With runners at first and third in the seventh, Bourgeois got a strikeout to secure the championship.

Bourgeois allowed five hits and no earned runs in the complete-game victory, walking two and striking out nine. She was 2-for-4 at the plate with a triple, the inside-the-park homer and four RBIs.

“Her drop ball was working amazing today,” Simmons said. “The rise ball was there (too), going high and inside on them. Took the bat right out of their hands.”

Bean also led the way for Oxbow offensively with two doubles and a triple, scoring twice and driving in two runs. Sophomore Hadlee Allen singled, tripled and scored three times.

The Olympians lose only Kosakowski, Bean and O’Connell to graduation, so most of the roster will be back for a shot at a three-peat next year. Oxbow also went back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.

“Each year is different, and each year is special to me,” Simmons said. “I’ve had most of these girls since Little League, so to me, it’s a dynasty right from the get-go. Come next year, (if) we go three in a row, that’s definitely a dynasty.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.




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