TOPEKA — Coming into Thursday night’s Westview Sectional championship game with LaVille, Bremen had just three home runs on the year. The No. 6 Lady Lions doubled that stat in Topeka.
Sabrina Gilley got Bremen started with a leadoff shot straight out to center, and two at-bats later, Chelsea Huppert went yard again, that one a two-run blast to right center to give the Lions an initial three-run lead. The Lancers kept it nip-tuck until the fourth time through the Lions order in the fifth, and Huppert added her second two-run bomb of the night in the sixth, pushing Bremen out to a 10-run advantage in an eventual 13-1, six-inning championship affair with LaVille.
Bremen now advances to play at Adams Central in the one-game regional next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Huppert finished the game 4-for-4 on base with five RBIs and three runs scored, and her two-homer heroics helped her cause inside the circle as well as she surrendered just one run off six hits with five strikeouts to one walk lasting five innings for the Lions before Lexi Pate came in to close it out in the sixth.
“She’s been swinging a hot bat the last couple of games,” said Bremen head coach Mike Huppert of Chelsea, his daughter as well as his ace and clean-up hitter. “She had about a six-game lull in there where she was getting jammed. Backed her off the plate a little bit, she had a good practice last night. I’m so proud of her. She’s just a father’s daughter, coach’s daughter and one of those deals where she listens and she wants the ball at the end of the game, she wants the ball at the beginning of the game, and I’m just as proud of her as everybody, but it’s a little special when she gets two dingers in the championship.”
As it had throughout the sectional, Bremen got off to a fast start in the championship Thursday. But as in their extra-inning semifinal win over Prairie Heights Tuesday, the Lions left the door open.
Gilley got the ball rolling with her first home run of the year, Meagan Stouder drew a walk, stole second and took third on a wild pitch from a seemingly flustered Hannah Herbster, but the two bags were moot as Huppert quickly drove her in taking a 2-2 pitch to right center. Taylor Lashbrook singled with one out, stole second and took third on a passed ball at the plate but was ultimately left stranded as Herbster regained her composure to induce two routine outs and leave LaVille trailing by a manageable 3-0 deficit after what seemed like the start of a very long inning for the Lancers.
The home team on the scoreboard answered back in the bottom of the inning when Herbster lined into left and stole second to set the stage for Bridget Craft’s RBI double, as the junior catcher fought off Huppert in an eight-pitch at-bat to drive in her battery mate with a rip to the left field fence.
Sydney Cannon walked, but Huppert rung up Lynae Hostrawser for the inning’s final out to leave Bremen in the lead, 3-1, and the Lancers struggled to get through against Huppert again as she scattered just four more hits on the night — including a single from Herbster in the third as she finished 2-for-3 at the plate.
“Our kids have battled all year long. We’ve had ball games where our entire lineup hits the ball,” said LaVille coach Scot Shearer. “Give Bremen a lot of credit tonight. They took the bottom of our order out of the game. We know the top part of our order is going to make contact and put the ball in play. Hannah Herbster did that tonight and a big hit by Bridget Craft there to score the first run and make it close.”
As Huppert settled in against the Lancer lineup, Herbster did the same for her team with three strikeouts and just 11 batters faced as the score remained 3-1 over the next three frames.
But the top of the Bremen order came back around for the fourth time in the top of the fifth, and the Lions broke it open big time with seven runs off four hits, two walks and a hit batter.
Gilley singled, Stouder was hit by a pitch and Baker packed the pillows with none out singling on a slow-rolling bunt down the first baseline to set the table.
Huppert battled back from a 1-2 count to coax a walk in eight pitches and score Gilley, Lashbrook drew a second straight walk to score Stouder, and Mikayla Gardner’s sacrifice fly to center scored courtesy runner Maci Moren. Emily Molden’s hard grounder through the gap at short scored Huppert courtesy runner Breann Wilson, and Rachael Czarnecki reloaded the bags putting the ball in play to short. Shelby Zellmer drove in Lashbrook courtesy runner Jessica Gall grounding out to second for the side’s second out, and Gilley’s flare into shallow right scored the inning’s final two runs to push Bremen out to a comfortable 10-1 cushion.
“From there it was number four, five and six coming up. It was sweet to get that bunt,” said Bremen’s boss. “We were still playing for some runs because it was still tight at that time. The bunt, they were playing a little deep, slow infield, perfect bunt, set the tone for that whole inning.”
The Lancers went down in order in the bottom of the inning, and the Lions pushed it out to double digits with three extra-base rips in the sixth as Baker opened with a double, Huppert homered her in, Gardner tripled down the right field line, and Molden drove her in with a hard chopper over short, bringing the score to its final margin. Cannon drew a walk from Pate, and Kendra Borton singled with two out to give the Lancers one last gasp in the bottom half of the inning, but they were ultimately left stranded as LaVille closed the year at an even 13-13 with the loss to its NSC rival just two nights after winning a 13-11, eight-inning thriller over Fremont.
The team bids goodbye to three seniors in Lynae Hostrawser, Cannon and Christana Newkirk.
“Our team has battled all year long. Finishing the year 13-13, this group has overachieved with six players moving into new positions,” said Shearer. “They’ve just done a nice job of just battling and fighting the whole year.”
Bremen, meanwhile, improves to a sterling 23-3 mark with the win and the team’s first sectional title since the program’s run to state in 2008.
“We knew it was going to be tough from game one all the way through,” said Mike Huppert. “I told you the first night we were playing it one game at a time. We stayed and scouted the other night even after our game went so long. We wanted to see who we played. The message before we even got off the bus is they want it just as bad as we do. We have got to play flawless, we’ve got to hit the ball, and that’s what we did.”
It’s a championship that, for Chelsea Huppert, was made all the more sweet by the longstanding ties between teammates on this year’s squad.
“It’s great. We’ve worked so hard for this,”she said. “I’ve been playing with these girls since 12U and summer ball. It’s fun when you get to win with your friends.”
• BREMEN 13,
LaVILLE 1 (6 inn.)
At Class 2A Westview Sectional championship
Bremen: 300 073 — 13 11 0
LaVille: 100 000 — 1 6 1
Chelsea Huppert (W), Lexi Pate (6); Hannah Herbster (L)
2B: Brooke Baker (B), Bridget Craft (L)
3B: Mikayla Gardner (B)
HR: Huppert 2 (B), Sabrina Gilley (B)
Records: Bremen 23-3, LaVille 13-13 (final).