HIGHLAND — A complete team effort lifted Belmont to an 8–6 victory over second-place Highland Monday night, and with the win coach Jeff Hodgson’s Braves clinched a second straight Six Rivers West title.
“I’m just happy for the girls,” said Hodgson. “It never gets old. We brought a lot of girls back from last year, but this is a different team and some of the girls have taken different roles. They put in the work and I’m glad they have been rewarded with a conference title.”
Freshman Sadie Willbron (6–2) struck out 13 Cardinals and pitched into the sixth inning, allowing three earned runs on five hits in 51/3 innings to earn her sixth win of the season.
Junior Paige Nolan, the 2015 co-Six Rivers West Player of the Year, came on in relief in the sixth inning recorded the final five outs of the game for her first save of the season. She also had an RBI single in the fourth inning.
“Paige is obviously our best softball player and one of the best hitters in the area,” said Hogdson. “But she was coming of knee surgery and missed all of volleyball and basketball season. She didn’t have the same stamina and strength at the beginning of the season. Paige accepting a lesser pitching role this year has been one of the main keys to our season. When your best player set the example everything else can fall in place.”
Nolan suffered a torn ACL in her left knee last summer during basketball league and had surgery on July 6. She started all 29 games a year ago for the Braves, but this year has taken a slight step back sharing pitching duties with Willborn. Nolan is 12–4 this year and leads the Braves with a .500 batting average, nine home runs and 39 RBIs.
Junior Caitlyn Gilberton hit a two-run homer in the second inning to give the Braves an early 2–1 lead.
Belmont (18–6, 12–0 SRC) took advantage of a pair of Highland errors in the fifth inning to plate a pair of runs for a 5–1 lead, then junior Maddie Rand added and RBI double to make it 6–1.
Highland (14–7, 9–3) closed the gap with a bases-clearing double by Kosharek, and pulled within a run at 6–5 when Kosharek scored on a wild pitch. But Willborn struck out Michek and induced an inning ending ground out to preserve the lead.
Belmont extended its lead in the sixth on a Abby Althaus RBI double and a bases loaded walk by Gilbertson.
Highland scored an unearned run in the seventh inning with two outs, but Nolan induced a game-ending ground ball to second base.
“We played a really hard schedule this year and some of those tougher games out of conference against bigger schools tested us and made us play at a higher level,” said Hodgson. “Our team has gotten more and more experience and we are playing much better.”
The Braves opened last week with an 11–1 win over River Ridge Cassville last Tuesday, then dominated Black Hawk 14–5 on Thursday. The Braves improved to 11–0 in league play with a 12–2 five-inning victory over visiting Potosi on Friday.
Saturday afternoon, Belmont split a pair of non-conference games at its own tournament, falling to Platteville (second place in the SWC) 4–1, before handing the SWAL’s second-place team, Cuba City, a 4–2 defeat.
The Braves will close out the regular season Friday at Six Rivers East champion Juda/Albany. The WIAA regional playoffs will begin Tuesday. The first-round pairings will be announced on the WIAA website (www.wiaawi.org) later this week.
Belmont 11, River Ridge/Cassville 1
(from Tuesday, May 10 @ Belmont)
RR/Cassville 100 00 — 1 4 1
Belmont 100 55 — 11 16 0
Leading hitters — RR/C: Sturmer 2x3; B: Maddie Rand 3x4, Sadie Willborn 3x4, Brook Knebel 3x4, Ali Travis 3x3, Lydia Leahy 2x3. 2B — RR/C: Schier; B: Brianna Ernst, B. Knebel, Willborn. HR — B: Paige Nolan.
W — Sadie Willborn (5–1, 5IP, 4H, 1ER, 7K, 2BB). L — Okey (4.1IP, 16H, 11R, 7ER, 1K, 0BB).
Belmont 14, Black Hawk 5
(from Thursday, May 12 @ South Wayne)
Belmont 211 500 5 — 14 15 4
Black Hawk 113 000 0 — 5 6 0
Leading hitters — B: Maddie Rand 5x5, Paige Nolan 4x5, Brianna Ernst 2x4, Abby Althause 3x4; BH: Herbst 3x4. 2B — B: Althaus, Rand 2; BH: Herbst, Moore. HR — B: Nolan.
W — Paige Nolan (10–4, 7IP, 6H, 5R, 2ER, 4H, 1BB). L — Ritschard (7IP, 15H, 14R, 14ER, 4K, 5BB).
Belmont 12, Potosi 2
(from Friday, May 13 @ Belmont)
Potosi 020 00 — 2 3 0
Belmont 217 11 — 12 8 0
Leading hitters — P: none; B: Maddie Rand 2x4, Brianna Ernst 2x3. 2B — B: Paige Nolan, Ali Travis, Sadie Willborn. 3B — B: Rand.
W — Paige Nolan (11–4, 5IP, 3H, 2ER,7K, 1BB). L — Emily Langmeier (7–6, 2IP, 3H, 3R, 3ER, 1K, 4BB).
Platteville 4, Belmont 1
(from Saturday, May 14 @ Platteville)
Belmont 000 001 0 — 1 6 3
Platteville 100 030 x — 4 9 1
Leading hitters — B: Maddie Rand 2x4, Brianna Ernst 2x3; P: Abby Wein 2x3, Kaycie Wagner 2x3, Amber Lancaster 2x3. 2B — B: Nikki Knebel, Rand; P: Wein, Wagner, Lancaster. HR — P: Brecke.
W — KD Hoyer (11–3, 7IP, 6H, 1ER, 9K, 3BB). L — Sadie Willborn (5–2, 6IP, 9H, 4ER, 6K, 1BB).
Belmont 4, Cuba City 2
(from Saturday, May 14 @ Platteville)
Cuba City 200 000 0 — 2 5 1
Belmont 000 220 x — 4 5 1
Leading hitters — CC: Jessi Marti 3x4; P: Abby Althaus 2x3.
W — Paige Nolan (12–4, 7IP, 5H, 2ER, 2K, 3BB). L — Wiederholt (6IP, 5H, 4R, 2ER, 6K, 3BB).
Belmont 8, Highland 6
(from Monday, May 16 @ Highland)
Belmont 020 132 0 — 8 12 4
Highland 100 040 1 — 6 7 5
Leading hitters — B: Maddie Rand 2x5, Brook Knebel 3x5, Paige Nolan 2x4; H: McMannes 2x3, Kosharek 2x4. 2B — B: Abby Althaus, Rand, B. Knebel; H: Kosharek. 3B — H: McMannes. HR — B: Caitlyn Gilbertson.
W — Sadie Willborn (6–2, 5.1IP, 6H, 5R, 3ER, 13K, 1BB). L — Rose (4IP, 7H, 5R, 3ER, 2K, 3BB). SV — Paige Nolan (1, 1.2IP, 1H, 1R, 0ER, 2K, 0BB).