By BRIAN CUNNIFF
When the Middle Township High School softball team played its final game of the season last Wednesday at Cedar Creek, senior starting catcher Emmie Dayton didn’t make the trip.
“I wanted to be there, but …,” Dayton said.
Dayton certainly had a good reason not to attend. The 17-year-old Eldora resident was sworn into the United States National Guard the same day.
Originally, Middle’s season was supposed to be complete earlier in the week. But the Cedar Creek contest had been postponed, meaning Dayton had a conflict on her hands.
“I found out about a week before (that the game needed to be rescheduled) and at first I wasn’t sure when the game would be rescheduled,” Dayton said. “Then when it was the same day … I really wanted to be at the game.”
Dayton’s National Guard ceremony was held in Fort Dix.
“I was hoping I could get done early and maybe make it to the game right after but I didn’t get out of there until about 5 o’clock,” she said.
Dayton’s teammates made sure she felt a part of the experience.
“It was upsetting to have to miss the game but by the time I got home a couple girls on the team Facetimed me from the bus and told me all about the game,” Dayton said.
Then, they did one better.
“The sang me the National Anthem and were congratulating me,” said Dayton, a three-year varsity player for Middle. “It was a really good feeling. They are the best teammates I ever played with.”
Dayton wasn’t always in the lineup offensively for Middle but was the team’s regular starting catcher. She batted .365 with nine RBI.
Like most members of the National Guard, Dayton has signed on as a part-time member. She’ll be required to serve one weekend per month and two weeks per year following basic training and job training.
Dayton said is scheduled to begin drills in mid June, then will attend basic training in Missouri for nine weeks in the fall. Then she said she’ll start job training as a driver shortly after Christmas.
Dayton said she also has tentative plans to attend college.
“I haven’t decided yet but the National Guard will pay for it if I go to any state college in New Jersey,” she said.
Dayton said she became interested in the National Guard through her cousin, Chris Endicott.
“He’s already in it and he really likes it,” she said. “I’ve talked to him a lot about it and it seemed like a good choice for me.
“I’m really into that kind of stuff. I figured it would be a good way to go for me. I didn’t want to have a desk job inside. I wanted to be out doing stuff. I thought it would be real cool to do something like that.”
Middle was able to do well without their teammate in the game against Cedar Creek. The Lady Panthers posted a 6-5 victory, avenging a 9-1 loss to the Pirates earlier this season. Lacey Abrego went 3 for 4 and sisters Grace and Paige Fox each added two hits. Paige’s hit scored Grace with the winning run in the seventh as Middle rallied from a 5-3 deficit.
The victory allowed Middle to finish the season with a winning record at 11-10.