By Tom Price Jr.
Despite fumbling away a one game lead with four to play in the East Sequoia League, the Exeter Monarchs softball team was rewarded with the No. 1 seed in the Sequoia Division Large School Playoffs.
They open play today at home with the No. 8 seed Washington Union (14-15, 4-8), who are losers of seven of their last eight in the North Sequoia League.
Exeter (15-5, 12-3) dropped a 7-3 decision to the Lindsay Cardinals on May 11 that pushed them one game behind Dinuba for the ESL lead. ESL Champions Dinuba are seeded No. 3 because the head-to-head record is in Exeter's favor.
Heading into their first round match-up, Exeter is showing chinks in their armor for the first time since league play started. During a 10-game span in league play Exeter outscored their opponents 85-19, but since that time have dropped two of their last four games.
Exeter pitcher Amy Noel could be the key to their playoff chances. During their 10-game winning streak Noel allowed five-or-fewer runs nine times and pitched four shutouts. Offensively Amanda Bybee has paced the Monarchs all season long with a steady bat. Bybee also made the move from third base to shortstop without missing a beat after the loss of Jody Williamson to injury.
Washington Union isn't exactly hitting its stride heading into the first round match. The fourth best team in the NSL hasn't put together back-to-back wins since April 3, which also happened to be the last time they defeated a team with a winning record.