By Nick Beversdorf
Bluejay varsity softball suffered their first conference loss to Stevens Point this past Tuesday (April 19). Merrill lost with a final score of 12-3, collecting nine hits and committing five errors.
The 1st inning saw both teams make quick work of each other.
The bottom of the 2nd saw Stevens Point score their first run off an error by 3rd baseman Lindsey Casper. They would score another run off a grounder to shortstop.
Stevens Point would score a succession of three runs during the bottom of the 3rd, two from powerful line drives and one from a ground ball. The Bluejays would get their first run in the next inning off Lindsey Casper’s line drive to center field, allowing Madisen Weix to score.
Point responded with two more runs at the bottom of the 4th, one from a line drive and another from a deep fly ball, both to center field. The Bluejays would get their last two of the game during the top of the 6th with Chelsey LaMonica scoring off a Lindsey Casper grounder to 2nd base and then Weix scoring off a similar play courtesy of Emily Travis.
Again, Point responded by putting up five runs in the very next inning, sealing the Bluejays’ fate.
“We continued doing good things at the plate overall, drawing some walks and only striking out four times,” comments head coach Matt Ellenbecker. “Again, we had a very solid approach at the plate. Leonna Ives was outstanding, going 3-3 with a walk. I believe she had 2-strike counts in three of those at-bats and she just stayed confident and maintained a very tough approach against a very good pitcher. The downside was leaving eight runners on base.”
Weix scored two of the three Bluejay runs, with LaMonica scoring the other. Other high impact players offensively include Cassandra Casper with 2 RBIs and Emily Travis with one RBI.
“SPASH is a very good team, and we gave them some extra outs,” Ellenbecker adds. “They put a lot of pressure on your defense with their speed and aggressiveness on the bases and a couple of times we folded under that pressure. We came in to the game figuring we would probably have to score six or seven runs to have a decent shot at leaving with a win. We knew they were going to hit the ball pretty well and put up some runs. That’s not an offense that you plan on shutting down completely. We did do some good things defensively; our outfield in particular made some very nice plays. Calle Johnson and Kelsie Belfiori each stood out defensively with their effort and smart play. We do have some things to work on defending the opposing team’s short game.”
The Bluejays did indeed hold their own for most of the game against the conference titan. LaMonica led the defensive effort with eight putouts out of eight chances during the game. Other key players include Calli Oberg, Calle Johnson, Lindsey Casper and Leonna Ives with two putouts and Maddix Bonnell with one putout and four assists.
“SPASH played the better game today,” Ellenbecker said. “They played spotless defense and put their hits together in bunches. When they play that well, there are few teams in the state that can beat them. We’re not happy with our performance, but our girls know we’ll get another shot at them up here. The goal is to peak in late May, so we have to keep working hard each day and focus on improvement individually and as a team.”
Win against Tomahawk
The lady Jays quickly came back from the SPASH defeat with a 10-0 win against Tomahawk this past Thursday (April 21). With the loss to SPASH and the win over Tomahawk, the Bluejay varsity softball team sits at 4-1 in the Valley Conference and 5-5 overall.
The Bluejays came out swinging right in the 1st inning with four runs. Both Ives and Lindsey Casper scored off a hard ground ball to center field, courtesy of Kelsie Belfiori. A failed attempt from the Hatchets to stop Cassandra Casper from stealing 2nd allowed Belfiori to steal home and a fly ball to right field, courtesy of Bonnell, allowed Cassandra to subsequently score. Bonnell would advance to home on a throw during the bottom of the 3rd to bring the total up to five runs.
The Bluejays would double their runs in the bottom of the 4th with Oberg and LaMonica scoring off a Belfiori fly ball to left field, and then later she, along with Cassandra and Bonnell, would all score off Stephanie Schroder’s line drive to center field. The game would be called at the top of the 5th with Merrill generating 10 hits and only one error.
Offensively, there was a great all-around effort from the team. Noteworthy hitters include Belfiori with two hits and four RBIs, Bonnell with two hits and an RBI, Lindsey Casper with two hits, Ives, Oberg, and Cassandra Casper each with a hit and a walk, and Schroder with 3 RBIs.
LaMonica once again lead the defensive effort with eight outs at first base. Lindsey Casper also helped with three putouts, and Bonnell, Ives, and Oberg all contributed a putout. Pitcher Kelsie Belfiori allowed five hits and struck out one.
On the Hatchet side of things, Katy Volz, Courtney Theiler, Briana Oenning, Mikhayla Kleich, Danielle Kurth and Sophie Wegner all had one hit. Pitcher Dallman had three strikeouts and 10 runs allowed with five of them earned.
“Tonight was one of those games were nothing would go our way,” comments Hatchet head coach John Larson. “A couple of key Hatchet errors and some big Bluejay hits resulted in big innings during the 1st and 4th. Offensively, we had our opportunities in the 2nd and 3rd innings, having bases loaded, but we could not come up with the big hit. A hit in those innings could have changed the momentum of the game. After a game like this, as a player, you just need to let it go. We are a much better team than this and next week is a new week.”
This game puts the Hatchets at 2-3 overall, still being 0-1 in the Great Northern Conference.
The Bluejay varsity softball team will have their next game on Tuesday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m. vs WI Rapids-Lincoln at the MARC. The Hatchets will have their next game on Thursday, April 28 at 4:30 p.m. vs Medford at home.
Stats provided by GameChanger.