Chargers' 'smallball' tops Hale in softball sectional
Bunting, running works for Hamilton
West Allis - A fascinating study in contrasts developed during the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal softball game between West Allis Hale and Sussex Hamilton on Monday evening.
The Huskies entered the game with a powerful lineup led by Rachel Seefeldt and Sarah Mueller, who had combined for 22 home runs and 83 runs batted in this season.
The Chargers countered with their version of "smallball," featuring plenty of bunting and aggressive baserunning.
In this game at least, the BB guns got the best of the big guns, as Hamilton prevailed, 6-4.
End of a strong season
The Chargers advanced to sectional play today, while the Huskies finished their strong season at 17-7, the second consecutive year they have notched 17 victories.
"It was a great season," Hale head coach Kay Nichols said. "It was better than a lot of people thought it would be."
The season was ended, though, by the Chargers, who actually caught the Huskies off guard with their approach.
"They definitely executed with their 'smallball,' " Nichols said. "That's something we haven't seen a lot this season, and our girls weren't prepared for it. They weren't ready. His (Hamilton coach Jim Lawinger) strategy worked well, and it definitely put the pressure on us."
Nichols said the Chargers had not played that type of game in either of the teams' two meetings this season, both won by Hale, 6-3 and 4-1.
"He's bunted in the past, but he really stepped it up today," Nichols said. "I give him credit for coming with an aggressive strategy."
Lawinger said, "In the big games, you've got to get the job done. We've got to put pressure on the defense, we've got to hit the ball and we've got to make the plays."
Early pressure key
The Huskies tried to put pressure on Hamilton in the first two innings with leadoff hits. In the first, Tyler Jeschke doubled, but she was thrown out at third base on a fielder's choice grounder. Jenny Schmidt started the second with a single to left field and was bunted to second, but Hamilton starter Sydney Sprinkel struck out the next two hitters.
The Chargers got on the board in the third when Whitney Wnuk walked, went all the way to third on a bunt and then came home on a squeeze bunt from Katie Weber.
They added three in the fourth on just one hit, scoring on a fielder's choice, wild pitch and another squeeze bunt from Emily Jansen.
Trailing 4-0, the Huskies finally came to life in their half of the fourth. Seefeldt and Mueller both singled, with Seefeldt coming home on an error. With the bases loaded and two outs, Teara Morgenroth lined a two-run single to right field to bring Hale within 4-3.
Hamilton wasted a two-out double by Jenny Shernell in the fifth when Hale starter Mueller struck out Taylor Vigani after falling behind 3-0 in the count.
Seefeldt then blasted a pitch over the right field fence to tie the game at 4-4 in the fifth. Mueller followed with a double but was stranded at second.
In the sixth, Sami Williams of Hamilton reached on a bunt single, stole second and came home on a two-out single by Jansen for a 5-4 lead.
Hale put the tying run on base in its half of the inning but the Chargers escaped when shortstop Shernell fielded a hard bouncer, stepped on second and threw to first for a double play.
The Chargers tallied again in the seventh when Weber hustled home on a throw after one runner was out at the plate on a squeeze bunt attempt.
No answer from Huskies
Hale could not answer. Seefeldt doubled for her third hit of the day, but the game ended when Shernell nabbed a shot up the middle by Mueller.
Seefeldt and Mueller combined for five hits, but apart from the one home run by Seefeldt, the Chargers were able to keep them in the park.
"They're probably the two best hitters in the state," Lawinger said. "To shut them down and win it, you can't write a better storybook finish."
The Huskies had won a regional championship last week by beating Hartland Arrowhead, 11-3, on May 31 and Waukesha West, 12-2, on May 29.
Jessica Knurowski started the Arrowhead game with a two-run single in the first and Emily Navarette and Mueller drove in runs in the second. The Huskies put away the contest with a five-run sixth, including a three-run blast from Seefeldt.
Seefeldt finished with four RBIs, while Knurowski had three hits and two RBIs; Sarah Sheard two hits, with a double and triple, and an RBI; and Marissa Lehn, Mueller and Navarette each two hits and one RBI. Mueller held the Warhawks to three hits.
"We had lost to Arrowhead earlier in the season (3-2), and we knew it was a game we could have won," Nichols said. "When all of our girls show up to play, we truly believe we can beat any team."
Jeschke went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in the earlier victory over Waukesha West, while Schmidt had two hits and two RBIs. Mueller again gave up three hits for the victory.
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