The remarkable 37-game win streak for the Essex High School softball team is finally over. And it isn’t by accident.
The defending state champions ran into a buzz saw in the Division I semifinals Monday, with Missisquoi grabbing an 8-0 victory.
MVU ace Dakota Raleigh stifled the Hornets, striking out seven while allowing just three hits, and second baseman Emily Gold belted out a 4-for-4 batting performance that paced an 11-hit Thunderbird attack.
No. 5 Missisquoi will face No. 3 Brattleboro in the Div. I state championship game on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Poultney.
Gold had two doubles and three RBIs on the day, including a two-out two-bagger in the third inning that knocked in two runs and gave MVU a three-run lead.
“I think what really fueled us was our defeat last year (to Essex), and we knew that we were really strong up at the plate and if we did our best, we could get the job done,” Gold said. “If we go out there and play like we did today, there is no one who can stop us.”
Joining Gold with impressive offensive performances were Katie Campbell, who had two doubles and two RBIs, and Sommer Libbey and Kelli Patterson, who each knocked in runs with clutch base hits.
The win was a breakthrough for the Thunderbirds, who lost to Essex in extra innings in last year’s semifinal.
“I don’t think anyone goes in expecting to get a shutout against Essex,” said Raleigh. “I knew it was going to be a close game, but I told my teammates that losing wasn’t an option today.”
Raleigh said she used a combination of rising fastballs and curveballs to keep the Essex hitters off stride.
“I think she mixes her pitches well. She likes to throw a little bit of a drop, and she can throw the rise ball, but the one thing she did really well today was when she had two strikes on the hitters, was bring the ball up,” explained MVU coach Jay Hartman. “She’s a senior, and she’s been with us for four years. One of the things we talked about is it’s our time, and it’s their time. We have seven wonderful seniors and every single one of them made those contributions today.”
As for his team’s offensive output, Hartman believed his team had a good opportunity to deliver.
“We actually hit the ball well down here the first time, but didn’t necessarily have much to show for it,” said Hartman. “I thought we were capable of hitting the ball. Today a lot of the balls we hit found holes, and when you hit the ball hard, you have a better chance of doing that.”
The loss was certainly not the ending Essex coach Randy Wells was hoping for, but nonetheless he was proud of the effort his girls put forth.
“Dakota did a great job and kept us off balance. They’ve got some great hitters and coming into the season I was thinking about them, because they are a very good team and proved it today,” said Wells. “We have a great group of kids and the seniors have been the backbone, we’re going to miss them dearly. But we’ve some young kids coming up through who will fill their holes eventually. You hate to lose the last one, but when you go 18-1, it’s a great season.”
Alison Rutz took the loss for Hornets.
Essex absorbed a tough break in the third winning, when shortstop Olivia Meuller was simultaneously called for obstruction and knocked out of the game, after a hard collision with MVU base runner Kirsten Ward while fielding a grounder.