LYNDON — Lyndon senior ace Kelleigh Simpson ended Wednesday’s Division II softball semifinal with another strikeout, her 14th of the game. She pulled off her protective face mask and ran to the dugout with little ballyhoo.
She and the rest of her Vikings teammates didn’t celebrate. They have one final order of business.
Top-seeded Lyndon rolled past fifth-seeded Middlebury 10-0 at James Patrick Brown Field, the Vikings punching a ticket to their first state championship game since winning the crown in 2016.
“These girls set a goal back in January to win a state title,” LI coach Chris Carr. “After the final out, we put our gloves down and told Middlebury congratulations and that was it. The girls are so focused and that’s what I love to see.
“We have one more job to do and we can celebrate after.”
The Vikings (14-1) will challenge No. 3 Enosburg (14-2) in the state final at Castleton University on Friday. The Hornets knocked off three-time defending champion Mt. Abraham, 7-0, on Tuesday.
Simpson was on her game from the outset Wednesday, zipping in fastballs and keeping Tiger batters at bay with her secondary pitch. She went the distance, allowing three hits and one walk to accompany her 14 Ks.
“My curve was on its A-game,” she said.
The Vikings’ offense was as potent as it’s been all year. LI plated two runs each in the first and second frames to apply the pressure, then busted the game open with six runs in the third – coming on four hits and two walks.
Jaydin Royer had two hits and three RBI, including an RBI single to open the scoring, Emma Newland had a double among her two hits and Emily Tanner singled three times to pace the Lyndon attack.
“We came ready to attack the pitcher and it really showed today,” Simpson said.
The Vikings will make their 13th appearance in a state final, taking aim at a ninth title.
“It’s a crazy feeling to be back,” said Carr, in his seventh season at the helm. “These girls have worked their tails off. They will kick, scratch, claw and do anything we have to do. I can’t be any prouder of this team and the way they work. Just unbelievable.”
Olivia Audet took the loss for Middlebury (11-7), allowing nine hits and three Ks in the loss.
The Vikings spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons in Division I, falling to Middlebury in the first round three years ago and then losing to Missisquoi in the semifinals two seasons ago [the 2020 season was canceled because of COVID-19].
Simpson, headed to play for St. Michael’s College in the fall, left both of those playoff games early because of injury. It made Wednesday’s win a bit sweeter.
“Those were very big letdowns, especially my sophomore year,” Simpson said. “This win feels amazing and it’s even better because I am a senior. I want to go out the right way and lead my team the right way.”
The state final is slated to start at 3 p.m. Enosburg and Lyndon did not square off this season.
“They are a solid group, a speedy group,” Carr said. “They are here for a reason.”
“We want a title more than anybody,” Simpson added.