BELMONT — The Belmont softball dynasty added to its trophy collection Friday afternoon.
Two weeks after wrapping up a third straight Six Rivers West Conference title, coach Jeff Hodgson’s Braves defeated fourth-seeded Barneveld 4–2 Friday afternoon to win the WIAA Division 5 Belmont regional title.
The Braves have now won 14 regional titles in the past 20 years and 16 conference titles during Hodgson’s 23 seasons as head coach.
Belmont sophomore Sadie Willborn outdueled Barneveld’s Audrey Hendrickson and the Braves’ offense scratched out enough runs to advance.
Willborn (16–2) held the Eagles to two runs on four hits in the complete game shutout to earn her 16th win of the season. She struck out two and walked three.
Belmont (26–2) got on the scoreboard first when Willborn whistled an RBI single to left in the bottom of the first to plate senior Briana Ernst.
Barneveld (14–6) answered with a run in the top of the second, but the Braves regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning when senior third baseman Maddie Rand reached on a two-out single and later scored when Barneveld’s second baseman mishandled a Ernst ground ball two batters later.
The score remained 2–1 as Willborn and Hendrickson traded scoreless innings until the Braves broke through again with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Sophomore shortstop Nikki Knebel led off with a walk and sophomore catcher Abby Althaus was hit by a pitch.
Senior Lydia Leahy moved the runners up a base with a sac bunt, then sophomore Callie Wiegel laid down a perfect safety squeeze bunt to plate Knebel. Rand followed with a single to left field and Althaus scored to make it 4–1.
Barneveld got a run back in the sixth, but Willborn set the Eagles down in order in the seventh to end the game.
With the win, Belmont earned a playoff rematch with the Southwestern Wildcats, who ended the Braves’ 2016 season in a Division 4 regional final game a year ago en route to a state runner-up finish.
Belmont defeated Southwestern (21–7) 3–1 Tuesday afternoon and advanced to play Black Hawk (14–11) in the Belmont sectional final at 5 p.m. Thursday
Top-seeded Belmont received a first-round and opened the WIAA regional playoffs with an easy 18–3 four-inning victory over eighth-seeded Riverdale on Thursday.
Ernst went 2-for-4 with four RBIs and three runs scored. Senior Caitlyn Gilbertson went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Knebel went 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs.
Rand and Althaus also had three hits in the win.
WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal
#1 Belmont 18, #8 Riverdale 3
(from Thursday, May 25 @ Belmont)
Riverdale 003 0 — 3 2 5
Belmont 294 3 — 18 16 1
Leading hitters — B: Maddie Rand 3x4, Caitlyn Gilbertson 3x4, Briana Ernst 2x4, Nikki Knebel 2x3, Abby Althaus 3x4. 2B — B: Ersnt. 3B — B: Knebel.
W — Sadie Willborn (15–2, 3IP, 2H, 3R, 0ER, 6K, 0BB). L — Allie Grimm (3.2IP, 16H, 18R, 11ER, 1K, 1BB).
WIAA Division 5 regional final
#1 Belmont 4, #4 Barneveld 2
(from Friday, May 26 @ Belmont)
Barneveld 010 001 0 — 2 4 3
Belmont 110 020 x — 4 5 0
Leading hitters — Barn: Hendrickson; Bel: Maddie Rand 2x4. 2B — Barn: Walker.
W — Sadie Willborn (16–2, 7IP, 4H, 2R, 2ER, 2K, 3BB). L — Hendrickson (6IP, 5H, 4R, 2ER, 9K, 4BB).