PLYMOUTH — Kristen Morissette couldn’t believe it. Though the scoreboard at Plymouth State University’s D&M Park read Exeter 2, Winnacunnet 0, the Blue Hawks coach said it still didn’t feel real.
That’s what happens when you bring home your school’s first softball title. It might take a few hours or even days for it to fully sink in. Now, Exeter will have to make room on its gymnasium walls for an NHIAA Division I championship banner.
“We talked about it,” she said. “There’s no banner, no softball banner in that gym. We mentioned it a few times and they all wanted to be the group to (get it).”
With the help of the defense behind her, junior Sam Wiberg took control of the game from the circle very quickly. She held a dangerous Winnacunnet lineup to two hits — one being a bunt single in the seventh inning — and struck out seven.
It was a dominant performance. She mixed her pitches well and kept the Warriors second-guessing at the plate.
“I knew I was going to have to keep them off balance because they’ve seen me before,” Wiberg said. “I’ve grown up with a lot of those girls, so keeping them off balance and switching up pitches was really important.”
“She’s just a competitor,” Morissette said of her junior pitcher. “She’s tough and I think she was hitting her spots, mixing it up, and she was confident. Her and (catcher) Brenda Sveen worked really well together today.”
Wiberg contributed to her own cause in the first inning. After singling to left field, she came around to score on a Leah Burns single to right field. It was an important run to get, especially when considering Exeter didn’t tack on its insurance run until the sixth inning.
Julia Sveen was credited with that score, coming around from second base on an errant throw to first by Winnacunnet second baseman Hannah Thompson.
“It was really big (scoring in the first),” Wiberg said. “As a team, our goal is to strike early and it feels really great to accomplish that. It made a big difference.”
That one, seemingly minor, goal contributed to Exeter accomplishing its major goal of becoming a state champion.
“This stage didn’t faze them,” Morissette said. “They did it and it’s a monkey off the back. I’ve been doing this for 24 years, but it’s the first one for Exeter.
“They were cool calm and collected and made the plays when they had to. I would have liked to see us score more but it’s because the Winnacunnet pitcher had such a great game. But, you know what, they just did it anyways.”
The scary thing for the rest of Division I is that both Exeter and Winnacunnet will bring back a vast majority of their rosters from this year, meaning this likely isn’t the last we’ll hear from these two schools.
“We have even more incoming freshmen that are really, really good,” Wiberg said. “We’re going to have an even bigger pitching staff. It’s going to be really exciting. I’m so excited to play with this team.”