By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – Wawasee had its moment of hope, its reason to hang around. Dwenger had the bangers to mash.
The No. 7 Saints shook off an early Wawasee home run to build a 6-1 victory at Tuesday’s Class 3-A Wawasee Softball Regional.
An error in left field allowed Dwenger’s first run to score in the top of the first, but Haylee Allen limited the damage with a pair of flyouts to end what could have been a much bigger problem.
While the natives were already feeling squeemish watching Dwenger dig in in the first, Wawasee reversed course right away with one swing from Kiaundra Olson. The senior shortstop crushed an Olivia Tellez offering into the people over the left field wall for a solo homer, and frankly, a stunning 1-1 tie as she jumped on home plate.
That score held up until the third, where Dwenger got a two-out RBI from Hannah Harnish to take a 2-1 lead. While not a giant mountain to climb, as Wawasee proved in the first inning, its climb up Mt. Everest was becoming more difficult as Tellez was getting stronger and some of the physical mistakes began to pile up.
One of the bigger mistakes came in the fourth. Allen got two outs to start the inning, but left pitches in the zone for Elly Doyle and Cecelia Garrett to bunt their way on, and the defense didn’t do her any favors on the coverages. That allowed All-State candidate Avery Greider to take the first pitch she saw and hit a towering homer to left for a 5-1 lead.
As Greider rounded third, the air in Wawasee’s balloon was quickly following the Saints down the third base line.
“We missed a couple spots on the mound, made a couple errors and then we just couldn’t recover from losing that momentum with the pickoff,” Wawasee head coach Chloe McRobbie said. “They fought hard. I feel like they wanted it but not enough to fight against a team that is going to bring it every inning.”
Wawasee would coax three walks in the bottom of the fourth, but once again found out why Greider is an All-State candidate. Her cannon arm gunned down Casey Drake at third in a bases loaded situation, which gave Tellez some room to work, getting Jaci Worrell to ground out to end the threat.
Tellez would strike out seven Wawasee batters in the final four innings as the Saints wouldn’t budge en route to its second straight regional title and third overall.
Tellez had 11 strikeouts in the complete game, allowing four hits and four walks. Her counterpart Allen allowed 11 hits in the loss, striking out six and walking two.
“I told them the sky is the limit until they decide that they don’t want it more than the other team,” McRobbie said. “The postseason is anyone’s game, and I feel like we really stuck with that. Having the lowest record in the sectional and being able to come out as champions. The girls weren’t really phased by a 27-4 record even though it is a little intimidating. I told them not to hang their heads and be proud of how far they came because nobody thought that Wawasee would be here, but here we are.”
The Saints (28-4) will take on Guerin Catholic opposite St. Joe and Kankakee Valley at the Twin Lakes Semi-state this Saturday.