TOPEKA – History repeated itself and that’s just fine.
Last year on its way to the state finals, Bremen’s softball team had to get past Central Noble in the sectional final. The two met again for this year’s Class 2A Westview Sectional 35 championship on Friday, but this time the Lady Cougars came in as the fourth-ranked team in the state.
The top-ranked Lady Lions were up to the challenge though, and once again disposed of CN, this time by the score of 9-1 to move on to next Tuesday’s regional at No. 5 South Adams (Berne, Ind.). First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. Bremen defeated South Adams in last year’s regional.
“I’ll take it every time,” said Bremen head coach Mike Huppert after getting a Gatorade shower from his players shortly after the trophy presentation.
This is the sixth sectional title in the last seven years for the Lady Lions and 16thoverall.
CN deployed the same strategy as last year by using a slower pitcher at the start, hoping to get the Lady Lions off-balance then bring in fireballer Madison Bremer to close. That plan worked for one batter.
Even with a strong wind blowing straight in, Erin Coffel hit a shot that would have been long gone on a normal day, but still made it over the fence – barely – and the visitors had a lead they would never relinquish.
“Great start,” added Huppert. “I thought the outfielder was going to catch it over the fence, it was that close. I’ll take a start like any day.
“I can’t speak for their coaches (about the pitching strategy). It took us a couple of innings to get going in the sectional opener against a slower pitcher. We anticipated Bremer, but we’ll take advantage of whatever they give us.”
The second inning was even better for Bremen – way better. After RBI singles by Caitlyn Myers and Hannah Rowe, the Nos. 8 and 9 batters in the order, Central Noble walked Coffel intentionally with two outs and two on. Caitlyn Traxler, the No. 3 hitter, then blasted a grand slam to clear the bases and completed the six-run inning.
“Go ahead and walk her,” Huppert said of his thoughts at the time. “She’s the third-best RBI hitter in the state. She came through big time.”
“(Walking Erin to face me) has happened a couple of times during the season,” Traxler admitted. “They didn’t think I was as much as a threat. I knew they would pitch in the zone because they didn’t want to walk me with the bases loaded so I just waited for my pitch. I just tried to hit it hard. I was really excited (when it went out) because we just wanted to show what we can do and it was a great feeling to get the momentum going for our team.”
McKenna Myers tripled and scored on Carly Snyder’s bunt single in the third inning for the team’s eighth run. Rowe had her second RBI single of the game in the fifth for the final run.
“We’ve got to have production from the bottom of the order and we did again,” continued Huppert. “Carly had a couple of great bunts. Caitlyn came through with an RBI and Hannah Rowe came through with two outs. What a confidence booster. She made a great swing. When everybody is doing that, we can’t wait to get the next batter up and they’re thinking, ‘I’m going to do the same thing.’”
Coffel, Traxler, and McKenna Myers all matched Rowe with a pair of hits.
The Lady Cougars could only scratch out one run off Kaelyn Shively (7IP, 7H, 4Ks, 2BBs).
“She could have had a few more strikeouts, but blue (the umpire) is going to call what blue calls,” Huppert said of his ace. “She got a couple of big strikeouts when we needed them though.”
The Bremen defense behind Shively was stellar as well. Traxler made two diving catches, Coffel made a couple of nice plays deep in the hole at shortstop, Shively started a double play on a line drive and Caitlin Myers battled the wind to make two fine catches in left field.
“We only had seven chances the other night (when Shively pitched a perfect game), but we were making plays all over the place. You have to be ready for anything.
“We can’t get too cocky or overconfident. We’ve still got to play the game. Take that six off the board and it’s 3-1. We’re going to stay aggressive and take what our opponents give us. We did it almost perfectly. There are a couple things I could nitpick, but I’m not going to bring it up now.”
• BREMEN 9, CENTRAL NOBLE 1
At Topeka (Sectional championship)
Bremen 161 010 0 – 9 10 1
C. Noble 001 000 0 – 1 7 0
Kaelyn Shively and Carly Snyder; Jenica Berkes, Madison Bremer (4) and Bridgette Gray.
3B – McKenna Myers (B)
HR – Erin Coffel (B), Caitlin Traxler (B)
Records: Bremen 25-2, Central Noble 21-4 (final)