By Tom Price Jr.
A lot has changed since the last time the Exeter Monarchs softball team traveled to Dinuba.
The most noticeable difference, nine consecutive league wins and a surge of momentum that not even a bus trip to Dinuba could stop.
Exeter blanked Woodlake 10-0 on April 27 to setup a showdown between the ESL's elite on April 30. As expected it was closely contested, but Exeter pulled out a 5-2 win to hold a one-game lead over the Emperors in the East Sequoia League with four to play.
With the score knotted at 2-2 after six innings, pitcher Amy Noel and Marlene Gonzalez drew walks to start the seventh inning. After Jess Morris flew out to left field for the first out, Amanda Bybee cashed in the first run with a line drive into left field. With runners on second and third base Melissa Raposa doubled in both runners to give the Monarchs a three run cushion.
Noel finished the game getting the first three batters she faced in the seventh inning. She struck out five batters in her tie-breaking win.
"We are still just taking it one game at a time," Exeter coach Karen Zeibak said. "We don't think we have done anything yet, we still have some very tough teams in our league to play and we need to stay tough for every single game."
Against Woodlake Noel had five strikeouts and allowed just two hits in a complete game shutout. Bybee went 3-for-3 at the plate with two doubles and Noel added two hits.
"The wins helped [the team's] confidence and helped them know that they are a good team," Zeibak said. "They seem to be doing very well focusing on what is ahead of them and the whole team is hitting throughout our lineup."