By Nick Beversdorf
It was muggy and rainy, but that didn’t stop the lady Jays from securing a win against Mosinee this past Friday to become the 2016 Division 2 regional softball champions. Bluejay varsity softball defeated the Mosinee Indians with a final score of 11-6, with Merrill generating 17 hits and committing no errors.
After a scoreless first, Merrill started the scoring with Lindsey Casper batting in both Madisen Weix and Kelsie Belfiori with a line drive to left. Emily Travis later batted in Lindsey with a grounder to second.
Three runs up, everything seemed to be going the Bluejays’ way until the bottom of the third when Mosinee got two runs off a home run. Merrill got another run at the top of the fourth with Leonna Ives batting in Molly Weix with a line drive to left and another run in the fifth with Taylor Krueger batting in Cassandra Casper with a line drive to center.
Again, with Merrill three runs up, Mosinee came back with another two-run long ball. With the score now at 5-4, Mosinee was making it abundantly clear they weren’t going down that easily.
But at the top of the sixth Merrill also made it clear that they would not go down easily either, with Chelsey LaMonica hitting her own home run, batting in Calle Johnson and Maddix Bonnell in the process. This was her third home run hit of the year.
Merrill extended their lead in the top of the seventh, starting with Lindsey batting in Cassandra Casper with a line drive to center. They would end their scoring run with Bonnell batting in Lindsey Casper and Molly Weix with a line drive to center.
Once the bottom came around, it was clear that everything would have to be done to stop a potent Mosinee offense. Even though Merrill had a comfortable seven-run lead, Mosinee was known to rally and win in the last inning, have won many games by that method. Trepidation grew as a series of grounders helped Mosinee incrementally load the bases.
Soon enough, Mosinee got their first run of the inning with a walk. Another grounder got Mosinee another run, but afterwards the Merrill defense started to get into action. With one out already on the board, Belfiori caught a fly to bring it up to two. Then, after yet another grounder, Calli Oberg scooped it up and pitched it to Lindsey Casper at third on a fielder’s choice, officially ending the game.
The game was won by a coordinated effort from all involved. Top hitters for Merrill include LaMonica (1H, 1R, 3RBI, 1HR), Krueger (4H, 1R), Oberg (3H), Cassandra Casper (2H, 2R, double), Bonnell (2H, 1R, 2RBI, 1SB, double), Lindsey Casper (2H, 2R, 3RBI, 2 doubles), Belfiori (2H, 1R, 1BB) and Ives (1H, 1RBI).
“This performance was as close as we’ve been to having all facets of our game playing to our potential,” comments head coach Matt Ellenbecker. “We were tremendous at the plate and excellent in the field tonight. We were a couple of base running hiccups and a few misplaced pitches to the wrong hitter from nearly playing a perfect game here.”
Krueger pitched the whole game, striking out one, walking one, allowing 11 hits and six runs-all earned. The fielding effort was lead by LaMonica at first with nine putouts and a double play. Other fielders that made an impact include Belfiori (4PO), Bonnell (3PO, 3A), Lindsey Casper (2PO, 1A), Ives (1PO, 4A), Krueger with a swift catch on the mound and two assists and Oberg (1PO).
“I think the girls grew up a lot in this game,” adds Matt. “We played a lot of strong teams this year and in nearly every game played very tough, but we hadn’t been able to beat a ranked team. Tonight we played like we believed it. The girls were well aware that Mosinee was seeded #1 in our region and were ranked 4th in the state. They embraced the opportunity to show that we were that type of team, and I think we played with a different confidence than we’ve had the rest of the year.”
With this hard-fought win in the books, the Bluejays advance to sectionals where they will face La Crosse-Logan on Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Medford.
Stats provided by GameChanger.