Undefeated Olympians cruise to D-III softball title

The Oxbow Olympians celebrate their victory over Thetford in the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

The Oxbow Olympians celebrate their victory over Thetford in the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) For the Valley News — Glenn Russell photographs

Oxbow coach Chuck Simmons hugs his daughter Makenna after the Olympians defeated Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow coach Chuck Simmons hugs his daughter Makenna after the Olympians defeated Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

Oxbow coach Chuck Simmons hugs one of his players after the Olympians defeated Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow coach Chuck Simmons hugs one of his players after the Olympians defeated Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow’s Hadlee Allen breaks for third against Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow’s Hadlee Allen breaks for third against Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

Oxbow’s Anastase Bourgeois waits on third base for Thetford’s McKayla Stanley to release the ball during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow’s Anastase Bourgeois waits on third base for Thetford’s McKayla Stanley to release the ball during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

Oxbow’s Anastase Bourgeois gets back to second base ahead of the throw to Thetford’s Kelsie Bogie during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow’s Anastase Bourgeois gets back to second base ahead of the throw to Thetford’s Kelsie Bogie during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

Oxbow’s Anastase Bourgeois pitches against Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow’s Anastase Bourgeois pitches against Thetford during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

Thetford’s McKayla Stanley pitches against Oxbow during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Thetford’s McKayla Stanley pitches against Oxbow during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

Thetford pitcher McKayla Stanley looks over at first base during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Thetford pitcher McKayla Stanley looks over at first base during the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

Oxbow and Thetford players high five each other at the end of the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph)

Oxbow and Thetford players high five each other at the end of the Vermont Division III state championship in Castleton, Vt., on Saturday, June 10, 2023. (Glenn Russell photograph) Glenn Russell—Glenn Russell

By BENJAMIN ROSENBERG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 06-13-2023 8:59 AM

CASTLETON, Vt. — Chuck Simmons was reluctant to label his Oxbow High softball program a dynasty when the Olympians won their second straight Vermont Division III state championship last spring.

After Oxbow completed a perfect season with a third consecutive title Saturday at Castleton University, beating rival Thetford 9-0, he had no such reservations.

“I have an amazing group of girls,” Simmons said as Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blared over the speaker system postgame. “They fight like sisters, (and) they have (one another’s) back when it counts.”

For the first three innings, the top-seeded Olympians (19-0) could have left their infielders and outfielders in the dugout. Sophomore Anastase Bourgeois struck out the first 10 batters she faced and fanned 16 of the 21 Panthers who came to the plate against her, giving up just one hit and no walks in 6⅔ frames.

Bourgeois’s speed and pinpoint control overwhelmed No. 2 seed Thetford (11-7) early on, and it was clear the right-hander was feeding off the energy from the pro-Oxbow crowd, which was roaring with every strike she threw.

“She grew a lot this year through the season,” Simmons said. “When she’s determined, she throws amazing. Today was just one example of how powerful that girl can be.”

It took all of one batter for the Olympians’ offense to stake Bourgeois to a lead. Junior Hadlee Allen led off the bottom of the first with a drive to deep right-center field that was just out of the reach of a diving Thetford center fielder Ashlyn Osgood, and Allen ended up circling the bases on what was scored a triple and a throwing error.

And yet, sophomore pitcher McKayla Stanley kept the Panthers within striking distance through three. Stanley recorded just one strikeout, but also issued only one walk and continued pounding the strike zone against a lineup that does not offer any breaks. Just five of the nine runs she allowed were earned — and although nine runs may seem like a lot, it represented by far Oxbow’s lowest output of the season against a Division III opponent.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Kenyon: How much do Upper Valley landlords have to raise rents to stay in business?
Goose Pond drawdown alters landscape
Lebanon halts paving of Miracle Mile due to asphalt mistake
Residents question Hartford’s payout to former superintendent
Editorial: Hartford school officials need to explain superintendent's departure
Microbrewery proposes tasting room for downtown Enfield

In the first, Bourgeois hit a line drive right to third baseman Madi Mousley that turned into an unassisted double play, and an inning later, Stanley picked up her lone strikeout to strand a runner at third. It was certainly a significant improvement from Stanley’s performance in the teams’ regular-season meeting, in which the O’s scored 17 runs in the second inning and won 27-2.

“She’s gotten stronger and stronger as the year has progressed,” said Panthers coach Michelle Morgan, who pointed out that her team does not have a single travel ball player, whereas Oxbow has five. “Compared to last year, she’s grown a lot, being mentally tough. She’s pounding the strike zone, not afraid, and she has confidence in her defense behind her.”

The Olympians added a second run in the third when Allen reached on an error, stole second and scored on a single by freshman second baseman Mazie Bourgeois, Anastase’s younger sister. With two on and two outs in the fourth, sophomore shortstop Maggi Ellsworth lined a single to right, and when the ball got by Thetford right fielder Grace Elmer, Ellsworth and both runners ahead of her ended up scoring as the Oxbow lead swelled to 5-0.

The bats stayed hot for the O’s in the fifth as three straight two-out hits brought in four more runs. Freshman right fielder Braylee Phelps just missed a three-run home run, settling for a two-run double, before scoring on another double by junior third baseman Faith Eastman. Brianna Gray then dumped a single into left-center to bring Eastman home.

“After the third inning, once they get through the lineup once, it just seems like they time everything and they’re ready to rock and roll from there,” Simmons said. “I knew sooner or later that we were going to start finding the holes, hitting the gaps, hitting hard line drives, hitting ground balls through the infield. It was a matter of time.”

Bourgeois took it from there, with only sophomore second baseman Rebecca Osgood’s hard-hit single with two outs in the fourth keeping her from perfection. She was lifted with two outs in the seventh so that Gray, a senior, could get the final out.

The Panthers were making their first finals appearance since 2005, and they lose only Mousley and Taylor West to graduation. With six underclassmen starting, they seem to be as well-positioned as anyone to challenge Oxbow for the next few years and win its first championship since 1998.

“We’re coming. We’re getting stronger, and we’re going to do our best,” Morgan said. “The mental toughness this year, that has really improved this team. I’m very pleased that they made it here, and I hope to come back in the future.”

Unfortunately for Thetford, the O’s also don’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon. Oxbow has just three seniors — Gray, catcher Makenna Simmons and outfielder Laila Ellsworth — and started three freshmen and two sophomores on Saturday.

Chuck Simmons said his team missed the cutoff to petition up a division for next year, so the Olympians’ reign over D-III could well be far from over.

“Each and every championship team is special to me,” Simmons said. “Just having the leadership in each and every group is amazing. This group, I didn’t have a hole in the lineup. I had great hitters, I had great defenders, (and) they all were here for each other. To go out on a high note, a championship, a three-peat, an undefeated season, having our names on a banner, it’s a special moment for me.”

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