Sports

VUHS softball bows to Oxbow in title tilt

VUHS JUNIOR THIRD baseman Jasmine Little applies the tag on an Oxbow runner just late on a close play during Saturday’s D-III softball final. Little shone in the field, had one of the four VUHS hits, and scored a run in the loss. Independent photo/Steve James

VERGENNES — For three tense innings, Saturday’s Division III high school softball final at Castleton University between No. 1 Oxbow and No. 2 Vergennes Union was anybody’s game.

Then the bottom of the fourth happened.

Trailing by 3-2, Oxbow sent 10 batters to the plate. Six Olympians hit safely, including two table-setting bunts, a two-run triple by winning pitcher Anastase Bourgeois, and a two-run double by Taylor Bean. And they scored seven runs.

Oxbow (14-3) suddenly led, 9-3, and was well on the way to a 13-3 victory — and the program’s 10th D-III title and fourth in the past five seasons.

VUHS SENIOR SHORTSTOP Audrey Tembreull makes solid contact, but sends the ball foul. Like most of the No. 2 seed Commodores, Tembreull, although a fine hitter, did not have a good day at the plate in the D-III final, but she made two excellent plays in the field, including throwing out a runner at first from her knees.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Commodores, seeking the program’s first title since 1976 and making the school’s first appearance in a championship game since losing tight D-II finals in 2013 and 2014, finished at 10-8 against a tougher schedule than Oxbow.

The Olympians banged out 14 hits off two Commodore pitchers, while Bourgeois, a freshman who helped Oxbow in the 2021 title season as an 8th-grader, limited VUHS to four hits while striking out nine.

VUHS Coach Travis Scribner credited the Olympians for the offensive outburst against his talented freshman pitcher, Savanah Blaise. He also noted Castleton’s field is larger than the high school diamonds the team’s usually play on, and Oxbow’s hitters were able to find the gaps, and the Commodores were not.

“Whoever took advantage of the expanded real estate in the outfield was going to win this game. We have bats that are capable of doing that. Unfortunately we just weren’t able to get it done today,” Scribner said. “There were two good pitchers going at it, and we just didn’t get the timely hits they did.”

Certainly the game was close through the early innings. Oxbow took a 2-0 lead in the first. Leadoff hitter Hadlee Allen singled, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on a Makenna Simmons single. The second run came home on a two-out error.

Oxbow gave those runs back in the second. Bourgeois opened the inning by hitting senior second baseman Sierra Bertrand with a pitch. Bertrand moved around to third on a passed ball and wild pitch and scored when the Oxbow shortstop couldn’t handle senior catcher Kaitlyn Little’s scorched one-hop liner. Little came around to score on another error on the next play.

Blaise picked up a four-strikeout inning in the Oxbow second, striking out a fourth batter after one reached when a third strike bounced away from Little.

VUHS took the lead in the top of the third. Jasmine Little led off by poking a single down the left-field line, stole second, moved to third on a Blaise ground out, and scored on a passed ball.

In the third inning, Blaise stranded Oxbow’s Taylor Bean on third after she tripled. The Commodores threatened in the top of the fourth. Kaitlyn Little walked, and Katie LaBerge dropped a single into right field. But Bourgeois retired the next two hitters on a strikeout and a grounder to first, and a chance to pad the lead was lost.

And then the Olympians broke loose in the bottom of the inning, scoring those seven runs on six hits, a walk and an error to take a 9-3 lead.

VUHS FRESHMAN PITCHER Savanah Blaise was the winning pitcher in the No. 2 Commodore softball team’s first two playoff game, but took the loss in Saturday’s D-III final vs. No. 1 Oxbow despite striking out seven in five innings.
Independent photo/Steve James

Alexa Kosalowski singled to lead off, and Faith Eastman bunted her way on. They moved up on a wild pitch, and Darcy O’Connell bunted for another hit. Both runners tried to score, but Blaise nailed Eastman at home.

But No. 9 hitter Maggi Eastman followed with a single to make it 4-3, and Allen reached on an infield error to put runners on first and second. Bourgeois then boomed a triple to right to plate them both to make it 6-3. Following a walk, Bean doubled home both runners. Bean stole third and scored on a groundout, and it was 9-3.

Bourgeois retired six of the next seven VUHS hitters, allowing only a Kaitlyn Little line single (she was also hit by a pitch and reached in all three of her plate appearances).

Oxbow put the game completely out of reach in the sixth. Allen tripled, and Bourgeois followed with an inside-the-park homer (despite a strong effort by sophomore center fielder Sam Hallock) to make it 11-3 and end Blaise’s outing. She struck out seven, walked one, and allowed 11 hits.

Bertrand came on to get the final three outs, allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits: a Bean double, Lily LaHaye RBI single, and an O’Connell bunt single on which a throwing error allowed LaHaye to score.

Jasmine Little reached base for the second time in the VUHS seventh, and Blaise lined a single. Bourgeois notched her ninth strikeout to end the threat and nail down Oxbow’s title.

Coach Scribner looked at the positives afterward.

“I’m really proud of this team,” he said. “There are only six teams from Vergennes high school in history that have made it to the state finals, and this is one of them. So I’m really thrilled with them.”

VUHS SENIOR CATCHER Kaitlyn Little dives to make the tag on Oxbow runner Faith Eastman during Saturday’s Division III softball final at Castleton University. Little also reached base three times and contributed a run and an RBI, but top-seeded Oxbow prevailed.
Independent photo/Steve James

The Commodores showed improvement throughout the season and won their first two playoff games with ease. Scribner credited assistant coaches Colleen Metzler, Chrystal Little, and former Commodore standouts Tamara Aunchman and Sydney Tarte for a large measure of the team’s growth and success.

“It’s a great coaching staff,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for better.”

Scribner is confident in the team’s future, but said the team’s seniors, Bertrand, Kaitlyn Little, Felicia Poirier, Tembreull and reserve outfielder Audrey Scribner, will be missed not only for their talent and production, but their leadership. He pointed out they joined a program that was winless in the two seasons before they came along.

“There are big shoes to fill,” he said. “I’ve coached them since 2011, since they were in Little League, and they’re a special group to me.”

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