WAUZEKA — It took a team effort for the Shullsburg/Benton softball team to earn the co-op program’s first-ever playoff victory.
Seven players recorded hits and seven players drove in runs, while eight players scored in the #11-seeded Miner-Zephyrs’ 10-2 tournament win over #6-seeded Wauzeka-Steuben in a WIAA Division 4 regional quarterfinal contest on Tuesday, May 24.
It was the first post-season victory in the eight seasons of the co-op, and the first tournament triumph for either school since Shullsburg defeated Benton, 6-0, back in 2007.
“We came out ready to play against Wauzeka-Steuben. We hit the ball well and were aggressive on the bases, putting lots of pressure on their defense. Every inning we did these things and didn’t let up, allowing us to finish strong and come out with the first tournament win for Shullsburg/Benton,” said first-year head coach Jennifer Bartels.
The Miner-Zephyrs (4-19 overall) grabbed the lead in the top of the first inning when pitcher Hattie Rennert helped herself by singling home Kelsie Goffinet, who doubled earlier in the inning.
Bartel’s crew manufactured three runs in the second stanza and plated three more tallies in the third to open up a 7-0 advantage.
The host Hornets (9-8) scored twice in the bottom of the third to trim the deficit to 7-2, but the co-op answered back with insurance runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh frames to pull away for the win.
Rennert (3-8) earned the victory in the circle, allowing two runs on six hits and five walks and striking out a career-high 12 batters along the way. At the plate, the junior also went 3-for-4 with a run and a RBI.
Jordan Busch went 2-for-4 with a double, two runs and two RBI. Jada Hicks scored two runs, and Goffinet had a double and a run for Shulls/Ben.
“I thought we greatly improved throughout the season. We went through some slumps early, but came back strong the second half of the season, competing with some good teams,” Bartels stated. “We will be losing two great senior outfielders, but with the rest of the girls coming back I feel we have great potential to continue where we left off at the end of this season.”
The Miner-Zephyrs didn’t have long to celebrate Tuesday’s win, returning to the diamond a day later to face the #6-ranked Southwestern Wildcats in a D4 regional semifinal game in Hazel Green on Wednesday, May 25.
The Wildcats turned the tables on the co-op by jumping out to an early 5-0 lead on the way to a 12-2 victory in six innings.
Katie Fritz scored on an error in the first inning and added a RBI-single in the Cats’ two-run second inning to put the hosts out in front. They tacked on two more runs in the third for a 5-0 advantage.
The Miner-Zephyrs ended the shutout in the fourth when shortstop Kayla Dougherty singled in Rennert, but the Cats got RBI-doubles from Amber Brand and Allison Kruser and a RBI-single by Rachael Myers in the bottom of the fourth to go up 9-1.
Rennert singled home Mckailah Strang in the fifth to make it 9-3, however the hosts tallied three runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game by the 10-run rule.
“We knew going into the game that Southwestern was a tough team and they were ready to play. Our girls put the ball in play and got on base, but we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities leaving a lot of runners on base. Southwestern also had some great hits,” admitted Bartels.
Rennert finished 2-for-3 at the plate with a run and a RBI, and she took the loss after yielding nine runs (five earned) on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts in four innings of work.
Playing in their final prep game for the co-op were Shullsburg seniors Jada Hicks and Paige Hauser.
“Jada has been with the program since her freshman year and she has grown tremendously. I have seen her play just about every position, but she really found where she belongs this season in center field. Paige was our right fielder and was always upbeat. We will miss these two senior outfielders as they made so many great plays for us throughout the season,” said Bartels.
WIAA D4 REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
Shulls/Bent…… 000 110 – 2 6 3
Southwestern… 122 403 – 12 12 1
Leading Hitters: S/B– Hattie Rennert 2x3. SW– Katie Fritz 3x3, Amber Brand 2x4, Madison Kuhl 2x4, Hailey Hinman 2x3. 2B– Fritz, Brand (2), Kuhl, Allison Kruser, Rachel Mueller.
WP- Kuhl. LP- Rennert.
At Hazel Green, on Wednesday, May 25
WIAA D4 REGIONAL QUARTERFINAL
Shulls/Bent………… 133 110 1 – 10 10 0
Wauzeka/Steuben… 000 000 0 – 2 6 6
Leading Hitters: Hattie Rennert 3x4, Jordan Busch 2x4. 2B– Busch, Kelsie Goffinet.
WP- Rennert. LP- Mindham.
At Wauzeka, on Tuesday, May 24