BENTON – The ‘big plans’ Wawasee has for its softball postseason will now involve one more game on its home field.
Wawasee played a complete game Thursday evening against Lakeland in a 8-0 win in the championship game of the Fairfield Softball Sectional. The victory gives Wawasee its fifth title in program history.
“We’re rolling right now, and I’ll take it,” said Wawasee head coach Jared Knipper. “Things are coming together at the right time, and I like the way we are playing. We looked like a championship team this week. This team earned the title.”
After a shaky first inning, Wawasee pitcher Amber Lemberg settled into one of the better outings of her season. Lemberg struck out eight total batters and wiggled out of trouble in the first leaving a runner at second, then getting a lineout with runners on second and third in the fourth to escape more trouble.
“My nerves were really high and I was a little frustrated,” Lemberg said of her slow start. “Playing varsity in a sectional, it’s nerve-racking. When I got the first strikeout, I found my mojo.”
Lemberg’s moxie in the circle was matched at the plate, and the fourth became a key inning. Leading just 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, Meghan Fretz stepped to the plate and ripped a two-run single to put Wawasee up 3-0.
With two outs in the sixth, Wawasee opened the flood gates. Fretz added another RBI single followed by an RBI groundout by Paige Hlutke. Ale Brito and Madie Wilson added RBI singles and the rout was on.
“Plain and simple, they earned the win,” stated Lakeland head coach Sherry Severson. “They got the hits when they needed to. I thought we played as tough as we could defensively. Credit them for coming up with a bloop hit and a little momentum on their side.”
In all, Wawasee’s freshmen had quite a day. Fretz and Brito each had three hits, Wilson drove in two runs, and Lemberg settled in to fire a two-hitter, allowing just one batter to reach base in the final three innings.
“They are young and they are talented,” Knipper said of his freshmen class. “With the philosophy of this program, we had five or six goals we set at the beginning of the season and if we did those things we would be pretty successful. The 20 wins are the most in school history, and to top it off with a sectional, this is going down as one of the best teams Wawasee has ever had.”
Lakeland (15-13) was playing in its fourth consecutive sectional championship game, but has lost three of those games. Severson noted her senior class won 75 games, the most for a class in program history. But not having Jill Mangus in the lineup due to a broken hand suffered in last night’s win against NorthWood really left Severson with mixed emotions. Mangus had led the team in homers with 14 and had over 100 career RBIs.
Wawasee (20-10) will host Leo (23-6) Tuesday in a one-game regional at Wawasee. Leo, the Angola Sectional champion, beat two very good programs in Garrett, 12-0, and Dwenger, 2-1, to reach the regional. Wawasee, which hasn’t played in a regional since 2010, has never faced Leo in the postseason. The winner will move to the Twin Lakes Semi-state June 7 for a two-game grinder to advance to the state finals.