ELKHART – The Wawasee softball team is the team to beat in the Northern Lakes Conference.
There’s no secret to that.
The defending league champion Warriors have all the pieces to make a lot of noise in the league and beyond this Spring.
Wawasee looked like the league’s best squad once again in downing host Elkhart Memorial 16-3 in six innings in NLC play Wednesday night.
The experienced and talented Warriors were simply way too much for a young and inexperienced Memorial team.
Wawasee plated nine runs in the first inning en route to improving to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in league action. Memorial drops to 1-9 overall and 1-1 in NLC play. The Chargers, who graduated seven seniors from last year’s team that finished 12-16 and won the Warsaw Sectional title, has been outscored 136-19 this season.
The Warriors, who boast nine seniors back from last year’s 23-6 team, looked the part of a seasoned group from the opening pitch. The first six batters of the game reached base for Wawasee. The Warriors sent a total of 13 hitters to the plate in the 25-minute top of the first.
Wawasee took advantage of a pair of walks, a hit batter and four errors by Memorial to open the game. Senior Kayla White cracked an RBI double and also had an RBI single in the first frame.
“Our energy level was a lot higher today than on Monday (in a 6-1 win at Warsaw),” said first-year Wawasee coach Mike Barger. “Today we were energized and when we are energized we are a dangerous team. As the NLC plays on, everyone will give us their best shot. We’re the team to beat.
“We had some bloopers and they made some mistakes in that first inning. In the later innings, we hit the ball harder and that’s what we’re looking for. We want to continue to attack and we did that tonight. Everyone is doing their part right now for us.”
Memorial got a pair of runs in the second to make it 9-2. Wawasee plated two in the third to make it 11-2 and one in the fifth for a 12-2 lead. The Chargers scored one in the home half of the fifth to extend the game. Wawasee closed the game with four runs in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run triple by senior Hannah Haines.
Barger has raised the bar for his team, which is ranked No. 13 in Class 3-A in this week’s coaches’ poll.
“This team is very talented and very experienced,” offered Barger. “Piece by piece, we’re putting it together. It’s starting to show. Every day we find a piece.”
Amber Lemberg showed her toughness in the circle for the Warriors. The senior went the distance despite dealing with shin splints. She was sporting a pair of large ice bags following the game.
“Amber toughed it out tonight,” noted Barger.
Lemberg allowed just two hits. She struck out 10 and walked just one.
Haines, the outstanding cleanup hitter, had two hits and drove in four runs for the Warriors. The quartet of White, Lemberg, Meghan Fretz and Aubrey Kuhn each also had two hits. White drove in two runs and scored three times. Fretz and Kuhn each also scored three runs.
Sydney Ryan, one of two seniors, had a double for Memorial.
Wawasee won the junior varsity game 16-1.
Wawasee hosts NorthWood Friday in NLC play and has its own invitational on Saturday. Memorial plays at Goshen in league action Friday night.