BENTON – It’s one down and two to go for the Wawasee softball team.
The Lady Warriors opened up postseason play against Tippecanoe Valley on Tuesday night and shut out the Vikings 6-0 in the quarterfinals of the IHSAA Softball Sectional 21 at Fairfield High School.
Wawasee starting pitcher Amber Lemberg was the beacon of success for the Warriors as she dominated in the circle, striking out 11 Viking batters and giving up just one hit in seven innings pitched. The freshman stole the show with her work in the circle, but Wawasee still needed success at the plate in order to get the victory.
The Warrior offense came to life in the second inning when Danielle Gunkel drove home Kylee Rostochak to give Wawasee the 1-0 lead. Gunkel was then brought home on a RBI double from Meghan Fretz. Ale Brito came through for Wawasee to get Fretz home to cap the three-run second for the Warriors.
Valley threatened in the top of the third with the bases loaded but Lemberg worked herself out of the jam, eventually ending the inning on a strikeout. Wawasee then added another run in the bottom half of the inning thanks to Alli Ousley and Rostochak. Ousley led-off the inning for Wawasee with a triple, her lone hit of the day, Rostochak then scored Ousley on an RBI single, putting Wawasee up 4-0.
Gunkel once again stepped up for Wawasee at the plate in the fifth inning by driving home Cristina DeLaFuente, giving Wawasee a 5-0 advantage. Gunkel finished her day with two of Wawasee’s 10 hits, two RBIs and a run scored.
Wawasee may have had its best offensive play in its final inning at-bat. Senior Courtney Crabtree scored from third base on a suicide bunt from Madie Wilson to put the Warriors up 6-0, Wilson would end up with a hit on the play.
Lauren Early picked up Valley’s lone hit but was left stranded. Tenaya Shull was walked twice, becoming Valley’s most frequent base runner.
Defensively the Vikings hurt themselves with three errors, one of which led to a Wawasee run. Kassidy Shepherd pitched all six innings for Valley in the circle, giving up five earned run, no walks and no strikeouts.
After the loss, Valley head coach Todd Volk talked about the future of his program.
“I’m real proud of my girls,” said Volk. “To look at where we started from and to see how much we improved, it’s a good sign. If you look over at Wawasee, that’s a team where probably 80-percent or more of those girls played travel ball in the summer and are very dedicated. That’s where we need to get.
“We had a few mistakes out there today, but I’ve been very pleased with them all year. We’ve had terrific seniors who were great leaders, and that isn’t always the case. I’ve been blessed with seniors that are great role models. Those seniors have sort of set the example for our younger girls and now our underclassmen know what to expect as we keep building this program.”
Wawasee has had an unusual amount of success with it’s very talented and very young team and for head coach Jared Knipper, it’s all about being patient and doing the right things.
“We did our job today and that’s what we have to keep doing,” Knipper said. “We try to score a run every inning and stay smart on defense, for the most part we did that today. If we can continue to do that, I don’t think there is anybody else that can beat us, as long as we do our job and play defense.”
Wawasee will get a shot at redemption as it will take on defending sectional champion Fairfield tomorrow following the 5 p.m. semifinal game between Lakeland and NorthWood. Wawasee fell to Fairfield 7-1 earlier this season.