PORTAGE — The Luxemburg-Casco prep softball team entered Friday’s Poynette Jamboree against Waupun averaging seven runs in 11 games.
But that didn’t stop Waupun coach Tom Hagstrom from throwing sophomore pitcher Delaney Stelsel to the wolves by giving her the ball against the Spartans — an honorable mention team in the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Division 2 rankings — for her first varsity start.
Stelsel was up for the challenge, but the defense behind her committed four errors, including one that allowed the winning run to score in walk-off fashion, as Luxemburg-Casco prevailed 4-3.
“I was hoping for a good game, but I didn’t want it that close,” Stelsel said. “I’ve played in games like that before, so I was ready and I knew how to be strong for it.”
Stelsel lost her first start when left fielder Katrina Pokorny misjudged a fly ball with one out in the bottom of the seventh and runners on first and second base in a tie game. The ball got past her, allowing the winning run to score.
The Spartans (9-3) scored one of their earlier runs off a Waupun error, but Stelsel believed the Warriors defense played well enough to keep them in contention. She finished her varsity starting debut with two earned runs surrendered on four hits in 6⅓ innings, with no strikeouts and one walk.
“I feel like it was a minimal part of the game that we just need to keep working on,” Stelsel said. “If we get those down, we’ll get better.”
Pokorny did her part to push the game to the bottom of the seventh in the top half of the frame, putting the ball in play with two outs and the bases loaded and Waupun (12-5) down a run. Pokorny’s ground ball was misplayed by shortstop Jenny Jorgensen, allowing a run to score to tie the game at 3.
“It’s a clutch play to hit the ball in play. That’s what we talk about — being able to put the pressure on the other team in any which way,” Hagstrom said.
Waupun outhit the Spartans 8-5 and the offense held its own against Spartans pitcher Allison Dart, who pitched seven innings with four strikeouts while giving up three runs — one earned — on eight hits and four walks.
“The girls hit the ball well against a good pitcher,” Hagstrom said. “That’s a strong pitcher. She beat us two years ago when we were here (for the Jamboree).”
All game long, the Warriors answered when the Spartans scored. Waupun entered the top of the sixth down 2-1. With senior McKenna Cunningham at third and Rachel White at first, Hagstrom called for White to steal second. When she did, Cunningham raced home to tie it at 2 with one out.
“They threw down there and we had an idea they might do that, so we were ready for that,” Hagstrom said.
Waupun trailed 1-0 after the one inning, but evened things up in the second when Erica Huenink doubled to left field to knock in a run.
The Warriors’ offense lifted a lot of weight off of Stelsel’s shoulders.
“I was really excited about our offense,” she said. “I felt like we were pretty strong on defense, but bringing it back with offense was really good.”
Stelsel said she knew she had to remain calm in the face of any adversity. When she gave up a home run to Kendall Prevost in the fifth inning that broke a 1-1 tie, it didn’t deter her confidence.
“I’m really happy with the way I pitched,” she said. “I felt like I pitched a good game with this being my first start this year. I’m really (excited) to see where it all goes next.”
Stelsel said she trusted Kylle Hraban, Waupun’s senior catcher, to help things go smoothly for her.
“Kylle is a really good player and I’ve looked up to her all these years,” Stelsel said.
Waupun didn’t have long before its second game of the night against Rice Lake (4-6). Pokorny pitched a complete game with five strikeouts while giving up just one earned run on six hits in an 11-1 victory.
The Warriors scored five runs in the second inning before using a six-spot in the seventh to blow things open. White went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, while Hraban had a triple and two RBIs.
The Warriors have a tough week ahead, with a Tuesday doubleheader against Kewaskum, ranked second in Division 2, and a game at Campbellsport, an honorable mention pick in Division 3, on Thursday.
“This is getting us ready for the big games coming up,” Hagstrom said.
LUXEMBURG-CASCO 4, WAUPUN 3</&hspag3>
Waupun 010 001 1 — 3 8 4
Luxemburg-Casco 100 011 1 — 4 5 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — W: Stelsel (L; 6.1-5-2-1-0); LC: Dart (W; 7-8-1-4-4).
Leading hitters — W: Pokorny 2x3. 2B — Pokorny, E. Huenink. LC: Routhieaux 2x3. HR — Prevost.
WAUPUN 11, RICE LAKE 1</&hspag3>
Waupun 050 000 6 - 11 9 0
Rice Lake 000 010 0 - 1 1 0
Pitchers — (ip-h-er-bb-so) — W: Pokorny (W; 7-6-1-0-5). RL: Pepka (L; 2.1-4-5-2-0).
Leading Hitters — Waupun — White (2x4). 3B — Hraban. Rice Lake — 2B — Batzler. 3B — Drost.