BELMONT — It was a banner week in an already sensational season for the Belmont softball team.
The Braves opened last week with an 11–1 Six Rivers West victory over second-place Highland, then clinched a third straight conference title with an 11–4 victory over visiting River Ridge/Cassville, giving head coach Jeff Hodgson his 400th career victory in the process.
Belmont then hammered Pecatonica 21–3 and Fennimore 22–0 on Thursday and Friday, before closing out its perfect week with a pair of non-conference wins at Saturday’s Belmont Jamboree. The Braves crushed Cuba City 12–1 and later dispatched of Platteville 10–2 to share first-place honors with River Valley, which also went 2–0 at the six-team event.
The Braves, ranked third in the latest Division 5 coach’s poll, improved to 20–2 on the season with the six-win week and are currently 11–0 in the Six Rivers Conference with three league games remaining.
Senior third baseman Maddie Rand went 4-for-5 with a double, two RBIs and four runs scored in Tuesday’s win over River Ridge/Cassville. Senior Paige Nolan went 2-for-3 and drove in three runs and picked up the win in the pitching circle helping clinch Coach Hodgson’s 400th win. Hodgson is now 404–157 in 23 seasons as Belmont’s head coach.
“First, I would like to thank my wife, Phil Spensley and all my other assistants for the great work they do to help us reach this milestone,” said Hodgson. “Most of all though I would like to thank the players who have helped us win all these games. It has been great to watch the fruits of all of their hard work.”
The Braves also held a Pink Night fundraiser in support of Kim Knebel, mother of freshman Ashley Knebel and aunt of sophomore shortstop Nikki Knebel, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The Braves all wore pink socks and headbands and Kim Knebel threw out the first pitch.
Belmont made quick work of visiting Pecatonica Thursday afternoon, scoring 15 runs in the second inning after putting up three in the bottom of the first.
Rand (2-for-3, 3 RBIs) and Nolan (3-for-4, 2 RBIs) again powered the offense with plenty of help from others. Senior first baseman Caitlyn Gilbertson went 2-for-2 with a double, triple, two RBIs and three runs scored. Nikki Kneble drove in three runs and scored two herself.
Gilbertson had two more hits and three more RBIs, including a two-run homer in the Braves’ 12-run fifth inning Friday at Fennimore. Rand (4-for-5), sophomore Sadie Willborn (4-for-5, 4 RBIs) and senior Briana Ernst (4-for-5, 3 RBIs) each had four hits in the blowout. Rand hit two doubles and also scored three runs. Willborn (12–2) struck out nine and allowed just three hits in the five-inning shutout.
In their first game on Saturday, the Braves scored five runs in the top of the fifth inning to blow open a 5–1 lead in a 12–1 victory over Cuba City.
Rand went 3-for-4 with a double, a triple, three runs and three RBIs. Ernst finished 3-for-4 and sophomore catcher Abby Althaus finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Later in the afternoon, Willborn went 2-for-4 with four RBIs and picked up her 12th victory of the season with a complete-game victory over Platteville. Althaus went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and Gilbertson hit her third homer of the season in the win.
Monday’s non-conference game at Mount Horeb was rained out.
The Braves (20–2, 11–0 SRC) will their current six-game winning streak perfect conference record on the line Thursday with a SRC game at Monticello. They will then close out the regular season Friday with a make-up game at Argyle.
“I am excited how are girls are playing we are getting better every day,” added Hodgson. “I look forward to the end of the season to see what they can do.”
Belmont 11, River Ridge/Cassville 4
(from Tuesday, May 9 @ Belmont)
RR/Cassville 004 000 — 4 3 4
Belmont 432 041 — 14 14 5
Leading hitters — RR/C: Johnson 2x3; B: Maddie Rand 4x5, Caitlyn Gilbertson 2x2, Paige Nolan 2x4, Nikki Knebel 2x3, Ashley Knebel 2x4. 2B — B: Rand, Knebel.
W — Paige Nolan (6–0, 6IP, 3H, 4R, 0ER, 5K, 0BB). L — Jordyn Vogt (1.1IP, 8H, 7ER, 0K, 1BB).
Belmont 21, Pecatonica 3
(from Thursday, May 11 @ Belmont)
Pecatonica 000 12 — 3 4 4
Belmont 3(15)0 3x — 21 14 1
Leading hitters — B: Maddie Rand 2x3, Caitlyn Gilbertson 2x2, Paige Nolan 3x4, Briana Ernst 2x2. 2B — P: Ninah McKeon; B: Ernst, Gilbertson. 3B — B: Gilbertson. HR — B: Rand, Nikki Knebel.
W — Paige Nolan (7–0, 4IP, 1H, 1R,1ER, 5K, 2BB). L — Ninah McKeon (4IP, 14H, 21R, 8ER, 3K, 10BB).
Belmont 22, Fennimore 0
(from Friday, May 12 @ Fennimore)
Belmont 511 3(12) — 22 21 3
Fennimore 000 00 — 0 3 6
Leading hitters — B: Maddie Rand 4x5, Caitlyn Gilbertson 2x4, Paige Nolan 2x4, Sadie Willborn 4x5, Briana Ernst 4x5, Nikki Knebel 3x4. 2B — B: Rand 2, Gilbertson, Willborn. HR — B: Gilbertson.
W — Sadie Willbron (11–2, 3H, 0R, 9K, 2BB). L — Bailey Kreul (3.1IP, 16H, 22R, 9ER, 4H, 1BB).
Belmont 12, Cuba City 1
(from Saturday, May 13 @ Belmont)
Belmont 221 07 — 12 13 1
Cuba City 100 00 — 1 2 4
Leading hitters — B: Maddie Rand 3x4, Bri Ernst 3x4, Abby Althaus 2x3. 2B — B: Rand, Caitlyn Gilbertson, Abby Althaus. 3B — B: Rand.
W — Paige Nolan (8–0, 5IP, 2H, 1R, 0ER, 3K, 1BB). L — Kayla Busch (4.2IP, 11H, 11R, 2ER, 3K, 0BB).
Belmont 10, Platteville 2
(from Saturday, May 13 @ Belmont)
Platteville 010 225 0 — 10 9 3
Belmont 000 010 1 — 2 9 5
Leading hitters — B: Sadie Willborn 2x4, Abby Althaus 2x4; P: Emma Wein 3x4, Brea Moon 2x3. 2B — P: Wein; B: Althaus. HR — B: Caitlyn Gilbertson.
W — Sadie Willborn (12–2, 9H, 2R, 1ER, 4K, 0BB). L — Emma Wein (5–9, 5.2IP, 5H, 5R, 3ER, 5K, 2BB).