WEST LAFAYETTE – They would not be denied.
With almost the whole team back from a state finals appearance last year – but a loss – the Bremen High School Lady Lions finished this spring’s postseason run in style with a 2-1 win over Tecumseh to claim the Class 2A state softball championship at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium Saturday.
“I feel pretty good and I recommend it,” said an emotional Mike Huppert, Bremen’s eighth-year head coach.
The two teams came in ranked as co-No. 1s at the end of the season and the outcome was not secure until center-fielder Rylee Hershberger snagged a liner with the tying run aboard, setting off a wild celebration at least a year in the making.
The victory is Bremen’s first state title in softball in four attempts all-time and the school’s first state crown in any sport since 1994.
Winning pitcher Kaelyn Shively spun a three-hit complete game, striking out seven and walking three to finish the season with a perfect 23-0 mark from the circle. She was also named the Mental Attitude Award winner for Class 2A after the game.
“This feels amazing,” said Kaelyn Shively. “I cannot explain it. I have the best teammates. We were super loose in warm-ups. I knew we’d get there.”
After being shut out by a freshman pitcher in the state final game last year, Bremen found itself in the same predicament as the Lady Braves used two walks, a seeing-eye pop-up just over the infield and a sacrifice fly in the first inning and held that 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth.
The lead may have been bigger if not for some outstanding defensive plays by the Lady Lions, including a diving stop by second baseman Caitlin Traxler in the second inning, left-fielder Caitlyn Myers diving to keep a single from turning into extra bases in the fourth and catcher Carly Snyder throwing out a runner at second from her knees.
“Carly threw out that runner at second, we made catches when we had to, Traxler made that great play. It was all nine (players),” added Huppert.
Tecumseh freshman pitcher Ashtyn Green (6 H, 6 Ks, 2 BBs), had faced just four batters over the minimum after four innings, but Myers led off the fifth with the first of her two hits on the day, then when Hannah Rowe laid down a bunt to move her over, the throw to first was wide and Bremen was finally in business with two on, no out, and the top of the order coming up.
Initially asked to bunt, lead-off batter Hershberger laid off the first pitch, then took the second as well. Given the green light on the third pitch, the senior ripped a line drive single into left field. The ball went under the left-fielder’s glove for a two-base error, scoring Myers and pinch-runner Paige Thompson for what turned out to be the winning runs.
“No way one run was going to beat us,” said Rylee Hershberger. “In the dugout, we were saying how we needed more energy. So we made a pact to have more energy and pick each other up. That’s what we did.
“The first pitch I was supposed to bunt, but I didn’t think I had a good chance so I took it. The second pitch was a fake-bunt swing and it was a ball. Then after that, coach said go ahead and hit. This is my chance. I was just thinking hit the ball and get on base and that’s what I did.”
“We took advantage of a mistake,” Huppert said. “We were going to bunt them over, but I talked myself out of it because then they would walk Erin (Coffel). So it came down to, let’s try to bunt on the first pitch, then swing through and (Rylee) rakes it.”
With Hershberger on third and still no outs, Tecumseh’s gamble to intentionally walk both Coffel and Traxler paid off as Hershberger was nailed at home on a fielder’s choice, then a strikeout and line out ended the inning.
With the late lead though, Shively seemed to get stronger and put down the Lady Braves’ Nos. 3-4-5 hitters in order in the sixth, then struck out two in the seventh before Hershberger’s game-ending put out.
“They hit it to me all game so I was expecting it,” Hershberger said of the final play. “When it was finally in my glove, tears just started coming down my face from enjoyment.”
And getting that state title.
• BREMEN 2, TECUMSEH 0
At West Lafayette
Class 2A State Championship
Tecumseh 100 000 0 – 1 3 2
Bremen 000 020 x – 2 6 1
Ashtyn Green and Emma Holder; Kaeylyn Shively and Carly Snyder.
Records: Bremen 29-2 (final), Tecumseh 26-4 (final)