May 7, 2009
By Mal Boright
Had there been a public address announcer at Champlain Valley Union High’s varsity baseball game with Mount Mansfield Union High last Wednesday, in the bottom of the fifth inning these words might have come blaring forth: “Now pitching for the Redhawks: Emily Sackett.”
Observer photo by Maria Neira
Emily Sackett, a pitcher for the Champlain Valley Union High varsity baseball team, throws off the mound at practice Monday afternoon.
(Though the game was played at CVU, it was a Mount Mansfield home contest due to construction at the MMU field.)
The CVU sophomore’s assumption of mound duties with two out, an MMU runner at second and four runs in, continued a historic pitching first for Champlain Valley Union and possibly for Vermont high school baseball, although it is nearly impossible to tell with certainty given the lack of a comprehensive history of the sport throughout the state.
Kevin Riell, CVU’s athletic director, recalled Burlington High’s female catcher a few seasons ago. Other girls have played varsity baseball in Vermont as well. But no one could immediately recall one who pitched.
Sackett did not waste time in going after the MMU batter. Her first pitch was a called strike, then three foul balls, including two that bounced behind home plate. Her fifth pitch resulted in a lazy pop to short, inning over.
“What were you thinking about with that first pitch?” Sackett was asked Monday.
“I wanted to get it on the outside corner. Coach (Tim Albertson) said the batter had trouble with outside pitches,” the CVU hurler answered.
Sackett came back out for the sixth. After giving up a hit on a Texas League pop to short right field, she racked up her first strikeout and got the second out on a fly to right.
The next batter reached on an infield error, allowing the runner to score an unearned tally.
Pitching coach Onnie Matthews then lifted Sackett to save her for some work against Colchester High on Thursday, where she whiffed two batters and allowed one hit in a nifty, eight-pitch inning.
Sackett’s initial hurling chores came in an 11-1 defeat April 21 at Spaulding High in Barre. She worked an inning and a third and allowed three singles, but got a double play ball and a pair of pop ups.
“She keeps the ball down and hits her spots,” Albertson said.
“Emily throws strikes,” said Matthews who sees a summer of American Legion baseball ahead for the 5-foot-3, 120-pound right-hander.
Sackett says she has been playing baseball for 10 years, starting with tee ball in Shelburne and then working her way through Little League.
But where many youngsters leave organized youth baseball by age 12 — more than 50 per cent, according to some national statistics — Sackett has stayed with it.
Albertson says she has been working out during the winter months at the baseball school of Jim Neidlinger, a former Los Angeles Dodgers hurler.
The CVU skipper, who coached junior varsity at Mount Mansfield Union a year ago, saw Sackett pitching against his team and was impressed.
“She shut us down for three innings,” he said.
When Albertson took over the CVU varsity program this season, he remembered Sackett’s work against his jayvees.
The little right-hander says she is feeling more comfortable on the mound with each call to the hill.
She also can play in the infield or outfield and does swing the bat, having pounded out a single in the Spaulding game, her first varsity trip to the plate.
But not by baseball alone is Sackett known in the athletic annuls of CVU. Last fall she was a goalie on the CVU girls soccer team.
A stopper on the mound. Also a stopper on the soccer field.