D4 softball regional: Bluejays crumple Bulldogs
JOHNSON CREEK — It’s been true for years.
Most female athletes in Johnson Creek play sports all three seasons. They take their lumps in the fall and winter, then dish them out in the spring.
Johnson Creek’s softball team wrapped up yet another winning regular season with 18 victories, then opened the Division 4 regional playoffs against Trailways South foe Williams Bay on Wednesday.
The Bluejays swept the Bulldogs in a doubleheader last month, overcoming a few defensive miscues to win each game by double digits. It was more of the same the third time around, as Johnson Creek fell behind 3-0 to start the game but went on to whip Williams Bay 15-4 in five innings.
“I am really proud of that, actually, because the last few years that I have been playing, that is something we have really struggled with, which is coming back,” Johnson Creek junior shortstop Rylie Thomas said. “So I want to say that getting down wasn’t the best thing for us, but being able to recover is probably a really good confidence booster for us going into tomorrow.”
Williams Bay (9-11) turned a pair of infield errors into a two-out, three-run rally against Johnson Creek freshman pitcher Bella Herman in the top of the first inning.
After Johnson Creek softball coach Dean Herman held a team meeting on the mound, play resumed and Thomas fielded a sharply hit grounder and fired to first baseman Morgan Toebe to retire the side.
“When I went out there for the time out, I said, ‘Somebody’s got to make a play,’” coach Herman said. “It’s time for somebody to do it. (Rylie) knows that with Bella on the mound that that’s the spot where the ball is going to be hit most of the time, so she needs to cover that hole and she did a good job going out and doing everything she could to get to it and make a good throw. It worked out pretty good.”
Then it was time to hit. The Bluejays have no problems in that area.
Johnson Creek (19-2) sent 12 batters to the plate in the home half of the first and scored eight runs to take control.
The Bluejays terrorized Williams Bay with a good mix of speed and power. They burned the Bulldogs with small ball, successfully reaching five times in the game on bunts.
Junior centerfielder Brooke Joseph bunted and reached on an error to start off the first inning rally and senior Kiana Gosh bunted for a hit to put runners at the corners.
Sophomore Jordyn Pipkin brought the power from there, ripping an RBI single to left. Bella Herman shortened up her swing and hit an RBI single to center and Thomas loaded the bases with a soft single to shallow right.
Senior catcher Bre Caminata’s two run single to left put the Bluejays in front for good, up 4-3.
Toebe kept the rally going with a bunt single, but was doubled off first when freshman left fielder Kayli Thompson lined out to Williams Bay pitcher Hannah Schmidt.
Johnson Creek kept up the pressure with two outs. Sophomore Breanna Berger hit a fly ball single to left to drive in a run. In her second at-bat of the inning, Joseph showed bunt then shortened her stroke for a two-run double to center. Gosh capped the rally with her second hit of the inning, an RBI single to center.
The Bluejays made two more infield errors over the next three innings, but made up for it in the outfield with two diving catches by Joseph and Thompson. Thomas vacuumed up three more ground balls for putouts and Toebe turned unassisted double play on a line-out.
That was good enough to allow Bella Herman to get through five innings for the decision. She allowed four hits with one strikeout and one walk.
“Luckily, our offense came through, but pitchers can’t always have great days,” coach Herman said. “(Bella) had an off day today. She needed the defensive help. Our outfielders, they stepped up. The way Bella throws the ball, she throws the ball low and we’re going to get a lot of those diving slow looping liners that our outfielders have to take a chance at sometimes.”
The Bluejays have racked up numerous wins on Trailways South teams that struggle with fundamentals. That makes it hard to transition to playing state-ranked conference champion Horicon, but Johnson Creek was one of the few teams to play the Marshladies within single digits each time.
“Dealing with that, (the way) we like to really mentally prepare, we like to realize what we’re going against and realize how different it is,” Thomas said. “Then we just have a lot of girls who have no problem going in and putting in extra reps. We had some really good plays today.”
There aren’t any cupcakes left on the schedule like the ones the players feasted on after this win. They host Juda/Albany (27-2) in a regional final today at 5 p.m. The Bluejays beat Juda/Albany 7-1 in March.
“It’s a grudge match, because we got them early in the year,” coach Herman said. “They’ll want to get us back. I told the girls we can’t allow that team to get up on us because their pitcher, she’s going to bring it. We’re not going to be able to put up 15 runs on them, so we have to play a lot more sound defense and we have to make sure that we don’t make bad base path runs.”
Joseph finished the game with three hits and reached all four times. Gosh also reached four times, getting two hits and getting hit twice. Caminata led the team in RBIs with three.
JOHNSON CREEK 15, WILLIAMS BAY 4
Williams Bay 300 10 — 4 4 2
Johnson Creek 832 2X — 15 16 4
Leading hitters — Joseph 3x3 (JC), Gosh 2x2 (JC), Herman 2x2 (JC), Thomas 2x3 (JC), Caminata 2x2 (JC). 2B — Rabenhorst (WB), Joseph (JC), Thomas (JC).