SOFTBALL: Prepared Old Abes turn tables on Spartans
The third time proved to be a charm for the Eau Claire Memorial softball team. Just three days after being swept by the Superior High School Spartans in a season-finale doubleheader, the Old Abes turned the tables on the Spartans with a 4-2 victo...
The third time proved to be a charm for the Eau Claire Memorial softball team.
Just three days after being swept by the Superior High School Spartans in a season-finale doubleheader, the Old Abes turned the tables on the Spartans with a 4-2 victory Tuesday evening in a WIAA first-round playoff game played at Liebaert Field.
"Greg (assistant coach Campbell) said Monday it's tough to beat a team three games in a row," SHS coach Amy Zembo said. "I didn't think it would effect us, but I was a little worried about our hitting."
The loss ends Superior's season at 15-5. ECM now takes a 9-12 mark into Thursday's regional final game at Hudson.
"It went our way today," ECM coach Brad Chapman said. "It might have been a bit of an advantage coming up here and dealing with the weather on Saturday. We were much more prepared this time and we were able to stay warm.
"Also, when you get a chance to see a pitcher a couple of days earlier heading into the tournament, that helps. We were able to stay focused against a good pitcher. We were able to see what some of her tendencies were and we talked about being disciplined."
The Old Abes scored all the runs they needed in the third inning.
After Superior pitcher Amanda LeBard struck out the first two batters of the inning, she walked Molly Binetti, ECM's No. 9 batter. After singles by Jessica and Shannon Rene, one run scored on an error and two more run came in on Katie Pospishil's two-run double.
"That's the discipline we were talking about," Chapman said. "Our No. 9 batter on Saturday had three strikeouts against LeBard. Getting that two-out walk was definitely very key."
The Spartans scored their two runs in the bottom of the third as Emily Eisenmann singled, Ashley Martin doubled, and after a ground out, both scored on Taylor VanDamme's single over first base.
"They had the big inning, but then we came back with the two runs, which I thought would turn the momentum around," Zembo said. "But then we couldn't get anything going."
Superior didn't muster any offensive threats during the next three innings, managing a single and a walk, while sending just 11 batters to the plate.
Meanwhile, ECM took a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning as Pospishil doubled and scored on Jordan Skitic's single. The Old Abes seemed destined to add to their lead, but two fine defensive plays by SHS second baseman Lauren Kontny helped get the final two outs before any more damage could be done.
"She made two nice plays," Zembo said. "She was eating them up on Saturday, too."
The Old Abes threatened again in the seventh with two straight infield singles. But LeBard settled down and got three straight ground outs to keep the Spartans within striking distance.
In the bottom of the seventh, Superior loaded the bases with two outs. After a strike out and ground out, Ashley Martin and Blake singled and VanDamme was hit by a pitch. But the game ended with a close play on a force out at third on a grounder hit by Ashlee Olson.
"We were right in the spot in the order where we wanted to be," Zembo said. "It was a pressure situation for the kids with two outs and the seventh inning. They did a good job of getting that close, I'm proud of them.
"It was a tough loss. We hit the ball well, but it was always right at somebody all of the time. We couldn't get the breaks and they hit the ball well."
Superior managed nine hits, two each by Martin, VanDamme and Eisenmann, and one each by Blake Olson and Kontny.
ECM also had nine hits, two each by Jessica and Shannon Rene and Pospishil and one each by Amanda Lester, Skitic and Binetti.
Amanda LeBard suffered the loss for Superior after striking out seven and walking one batter.
Briana Risen was the winning pitcher, finishing with one strikeout and one walk.
"She battled through," Chapman said. "She struggled getting ahead in the count, but she stayed with it and didn't lose her focus against a very good Superior team."
Three seniors played their final games for the Spartans, VanDamme, Kontny and Alica Cummings.
"Those are going to be tough shoes to fill next year," Zembo said. "Taylor and Lauren contributed a lot this year and it was nice having Alicia come back and play again. All three are going to be missed."