By Nick Beversdorf
Bluejay varsity softball, after trailing La Crosse Logan for four innings, performed a four-run rally in the sixth that gave them the lead and eventual victory. A game wrought with frustration, the lady Jays stayed true, never gave up and adapted to a potent Logan pitcher who initially sent many Bluejay batters back to the dugout. The final score was 4-2 with Merrill mustering six hits and committing one error.
With Logan up to bat first, Merrill quickly fielded the outs necessary to send the game to the bottom frame. At the bottom of the first, it became clear that Logan’s pitcher was going to be the deciding factor of the game. She pitched very tough riseballs that the Bluejays would have trouble with for the rest of the game. All three batters struck out, two of them swinging.
Logan would get two runs at the top of the second after loading the bases through various means including bunts, grounders and a fly ball that was erred. Merrill would struggle to get base hits for the next four innings. Even when Merrill got on base they usually got three outs before any runners had a chance to make it home. Both teams also struggled with a gusty wind that blew directly at the plate, making it nearly impossible for even the most powerful hits to make it over the fence.
The bottom of the sixth started out much the same for the Bluejays with an out right off the bat. Leonna Ives got a base hit off a line drive and then advanced to second off Chelsey LaMonica’s grounder to short stop. LaMonica was put out at first for the second out, but Calli Oberg would bat in Ives with a nice fly to right, good for Merrill’s first run.
Kelsie Belfiori would hit a line drive to left good for moving Madisen Weix (courtesy runner for Oberg) to second, and right after Cassandra Casper would bat in Madisen with a line drive to right, tying the game. Belfiori would also advance to third and Cassandra to second during the play.
Knowing full well what the situation entailed, the Logan pitcher knew she had to strike out Lindsey Casper. Unfortunately, her signature riseball ended up being a double-edged sword. After a foul and two balls, she threw it too high and the catcher was unable to stop the ball from hitting the back fence. As she scrambled to pick it up and throw it to home, Belfiori was able run home and score Merrill’s third run.
After two strikes and another ball, the same thing happened and Cassandra was also able to run home, good for Merrill’s fourth run. The frame would end with a line drive being caught in right field.
At the top of the seventh, Merrill hunkered down, knowing that two or more potential runs were all that stood between them and the sectional championship. Merrill delivered and cleaned up the inning beautifully, first with a Taylor Krueger strikeout, then with an out at first courtesy of LaMonica, and finally with Belfiori catching a fly in center field.
Top hitters for Merrill inlcude Belfiori (2H, 1R, 1SB), Ives (2H, 1R), Cassandra Casper (1H, 1R, 1RBI) and Oberg (1H, 1RBI). Krueger kept many of the Logan batters at bay, striking out two, walking none, allowing five hits and two runs-one earned.
LaMonica did most of the heavy lifting at first base with 14 putouts and a double play. Other fielders that made an impact include Oberg (2PO), Calle Johnson (2PO), Maddix Bonnell (1PO, 1A), Belfiori (1PO), Ives (5A) and Lindsey Casper (4A).
With this victory in the books, the Bluejays will play in the Sectional Championship on their home turf against Northwestern/South Shore today at 5 p.m. at the MARC.
Stats provided by GameChanger.