MOUNT HOREB — Funny how confidence works, isn’t it?
So many times, things that seemingly should cause it to disappear actually act as a catalyst.
Such was the case for Beaver Dam’s prep softball team over the weekend, having been blown out by Oshkosh West in game one of a doubleheader only to rebound and win game two.
Momentum snowballed into Monday evening, and now, the Golden Beavers are on the other end of the coin, 11-0 winners over Mount Horeb to claim a share of the Badger North Conference title with the Vikings.
“Losing 10-0, that sucks a lot of energy out of them. But they weren’t scared to come back the second game and show them, ‘We are able to compete with these good teams,’” Beaver Dam coach Abby Schmitt said of the game one loss to West, which entered Saturday’s doubleheader with a 16-4 record.
The result was a 1-0 victory — but more importantly, it also was, Schmitt said, an attitude of, “We are a great team.”
The Golden Beavers (15-3, 12-2 Badger North) went into that doubleheader mired in a rollercoaster week that began with a 2-1 loss to Baraboo — dropping them out of a first-place tie in the loss column with Mount Horeb — followed by a ho-hum 4-1 win over cellar-dwelling Reedsburg.
On Monday, Beaver Dam put to rest any notion that it wasn’t deserving of being co-conference champion.
Ginny Bryant’s two-out, RBI single in the top of the first inning opened the scoring and Haley Allen followed with an RBI double, giving the Golden Beavers an early 2-0 lead over Mount Horeb (13-6, 12-2).
And the Golden Beavers never let up the rest of the way, finishing with 13 hits, scoring in every inning but the second and easily making a winner out of Audriana Edwards — who routinely worked out of trouble from behind in the count to twirl a one-hitter, walking three and striking out five over five innings of work because the game ended early due to the mercy rule.
“We had practice this morning. They were hitting off the hitting machine, and they were getting their hands loose and getting them to the ball,” Schmitt said of what keyed the hit barrage. “We couldn’t practice on Sunday because it would have been too many days in a row, so we took a rest day on Sunday and I let them kind of rejuvenate. And then we came back to practice this morning and we were able to get extra cuts in and see the ball.
“They came in ready.”
Did they ever.
Bryant came through again in the third inning, delivering a two-run single this time to make it 4-0 before Carlee Lapen’s two-out RBI single tacked on another run.
Hitting truly was contagious among the Golden Beavers in this one.
“Yeah,” Bryant said, “seeing all your teammates hit gives everyone else confidence.
“You want to get it, too.”
Staked to a big lead, Edwards added to it in the fourth, punching an RBI single to right to make it 6-0 before Riley Czarnecki would come home on a wild pitch to make it 7-0.
Beaver Dam delivered the dagger in the fifth.
Riley Schwartz’s RBI single made it 8-0, Lapen stole home on a double steal to account for the next run and then Gabby Fakes’ RBI groundout made it 10-0.
Czarnecki provided the exclamation mark, punctuating the Golden Beavers’ big day at the plate with a solo homer to center on a sort of excuse-me swing.
But the ball went over the fence nonetheless.
“That’s what I was telling the girls: ‘Just put your hands through the zone and the bat will take the ball,’” Schmitt said. “She might not have been ready for that swing, but she’s so strong and her hands are so strong that she was able to push it out of the park.”
It was Czarnecki’s only hit of the evening, but one through nine in the order, all but one girl had a hit — and the one who didn’t reached on a walk.
Getting those two runs right away started the engine.
“That was a big thing,” Schmitt said. “We came in and we said, ‘We need to score first and we cannot let up until the game is over.’
“And they did so.”
Against a team that dealt them a 9-6 loss exactly one month earlier, no less.
The difference between now and then?
“Earlier in the season we weren’t quite sure who we were as a team,” Schmitt said, “and now by the end of the season, we’re starting to understand that we need to show up every game and we need to show other teams what we’re able to do. The two losses that we had in conference, I think it really opened their eyes that we need to show up every game ready to play and do what we can do.”
“We’ve come a long ways since the first time we played them, staying more consistent,” added Bryant, who was 2-for-4 with 3 RBIs on Monday. “We did that tonight with getting runs early and keeping on building on that.”
Fakes, Beaver Dam’s leadoff batter, led the hit parade, going 3-for 4. And in addition to Bryant, Allen and Lapen also had two hits apiece.
All of that offense wasn’t really necessary because of how well Edwards pitched, though.
“She was painting the corners — she was putting the ball wherever we were asking her,” Schmitt said. “The batters knew where it was going but they still were struggling.”
“My curveball was just on point today, completely,” added Edwards.
Pitching with an early lead also made a big difference — “It for sure does. It gets me right out of my head,” she said — as did knowing her teammates had her back.
That latter factor was especially beneficial when she got behind in counts.
“I would get down on myself a little bit, especially when I got in a 3-0 count or a 3-1 count, and I would look at them and they would bring a smile to my face,” Edwards said. “It kind of just helped me get back into the mindset of, ‘This is a team sport — I’m doing this with my teammates.”
The sophomore will be doing her thing with many of those same teammates for a while to come, too.
After finishing sixth in 2019 with a 5-9 record before last year’s season was wiped out by COVID-19, the Golden Beavers, a youthful bunch filled with freshmen and sophomores, are back trending in the right direction.
“It’s just nothing but positivity coming out of this,” Schmitt said. “We finished in the bottom of the conference the last year that we had a season, and now we’re at the top.
“It just shows that we can do nothing but improve from here.”
BEAVER DAM 11, MOUNT HOREB 0 (5 INNINGS)</&hspag3>
Beaver Dam 203 24 — 11 13 1
Mount Horeb 000 00 — 0 1 4
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-k): BD — Audriana Edwards (W, 5-1-0-3-5). MH — Lucy Dahlk (L, 5-13-7-2-2).
Leading hitters (two or more hits): BD — Gabby Fakes 3x4, Ginny Bryant 2x4, Haley Allen 2x2, Carlee Lapen 2x3. MH — None.
Extra base hits: 2B: Lapen, Allen. HR: Riley Czarnecki (BD).
Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8 or contact him at 920-356-6753.