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Claire Harder

Waupun's Claire Harder gets down a bunt that plated Megan Gerber on a play that was scored as an RBI fielder's choice during the bottom of the fourth inning of the Warriors' 5-1, East Central Conference win over Kettle Moraine Lutheran in game one of a doubleheader between the two teams Thursday at Jerry Medema Fields. Waupun also won game two, X-X.

WAUPUN — One more at bat and Megan VanRuiswyk might have completed the cycle — and she said given the opportunity, she liked her chances to do so, too.

All it would have been was icing on the cake.

Not only did VanRuiswyk finish a home run shy of the cycle during game one of an important East Central Conference doubleheader with Kettle Moraine Lutheran Thursday afternoon at Jerry Medema Fields, the senior on Waupun’s prep softball team also wiggled out of every jam she encountered in the circle, leading the Warriors to a 5-1 victory that coupled with their 14-0 victory in game two kept them right on Kewaskum’s heels in what figures to be an ultra-competitive ECC title race.

No more information from game two was available in time to be included in this story.

“I’ve always kind of been like that — I like a little bit of pressure. And I know today my defense was working really hard for me, so I just felt good today,” VanRuiswyk said of twice stranding the bases loaded — including with the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh — and two other times stranding runners at third.

The offense for Waupun (6-1, 5-1 ECC) wasn’t plagued by the same trouble batting with runners in scoring position as KML (5-4, 2-4) was during game one.

In fact, Waupun got on the board right away in the bottom of the first when VanRuiswyk — who allowed nine hits but didn’t compound them with walks, issuing none — belted a leadoff triple ahead of No. 3 batter Kylle Hraban’s one-out, two-run homer to center.

VanRuiswyk’s only blemish came in the fourth, when she allowed three singles — the last of them an infield single that plated Mikayla Ott to cut the Warriors’ deficit to 2-1.

But Waupun, which didn’t commit a single error in the field, answered immediately in the bottom half, going back in front by two runs when Megan Gerber led off with a double and then slid home safely ahead of the throw when Clarie Harder bunted into an RBI fielder’s choice, making it 3-1.

And Waupun tacked on two more insurance runs in the sixth, the first when courtesy runner Mckenna Cunningham — she was running for Hraban, who after homering drew a pair of intentional walks and a five-pitch walk scored on an error and the second when Mckenna Harmsen — running for Erin Schmitt after Schmitt reached on a bunt single — scored on Katrina Pokorny’s RBI groundout.

Then in the next half inning, VanRuiswyk got Ott to ground out with the bases loaded to preserve the victory.

The two wins Thursday against KML (honorable mention in Division 3 according to the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association/WisSports.net coaches poll ) were important because Waupun (eighth in D3) has a game to make up on Kewaskum (third in D3), the current ECC frontrunners at 6-0 – in the conference title race.

The Warriors will get a rematch with the Indians on May 8 and then — if things go according to plan between now and then and if Waupun wins that contest — they’ll have to answer the bell again two days later when they have a doubleheader against Campbellsport (6-2, 4-2), another of the ECC title contenders and the fifth-ranked team in D3.

Because of all the postponements throughout early- and mid-April, the season has been condensed and games now — doubleheaders mostly — have a greater late-season feel to them.

VanRuiswky isn’t concerned.

“I almost think it feels like it’s earlier in the season yet,” she said. “Overall, I think we’re right where we want to be at this time of year. There is tougher competition (in the conference) this year, but we’re going to rise (to the challenge).

“I hope.”

Game 1

WAUPUN 5, KETTLE MORAINE LUTHERAN 1

KML 000 100 0 – 1 9 1

Waupun 200 102 x – 5 11 0

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-k): KML – Katie Scherf (L, 6-11-4-3-3). Waup – Megan VanRuiswyk (W, 7-9-1-0-3).

Leading hitters (two or more hits): KML – Mikayla Ott 2x4, Andrea Busalacchi 2x3, Jordyn Heckendorf 2x3. Waup – Megan VanRuiswyk 3x4, Megan Gerber 2x4, Erin Schmitt 2x3, Claire Harder 2x3. HR: Waup – Kylle Hraban 1. 3B: Waup – Megan VanRuiswyk 1. 2B: Megan VanRuiswyk 1, Megan Gerber 2. RBIs: KML – Jordyn Heckendorf 1. Waup – Kylle Hraban 2, Claire Harder 1, Katrina Pokorny 1.

Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8.