The Baraboo High School softball team’s bats eventually got going Wednesday night.
But Portage didn’t give an inch defensively and used a six-run fourth inning to hand the host Thunderbirds a 7-3 Badger North Conference loss at Pierce Park in Baraboo.
“That one big inning they had on us was really the difference,” Baraboo coach Dan Lewison said. “They hit the ball and we didn’t make a couple plays. We have to play a near perfect game to beat a team like that.”
“We’ve kind of rode the momentum,” Portage coach Connie Wampler said of how her team typically scores runs. “Once we get hot, we kind of stay hot. ... Everybody has been hitting up and down the order.”
It was a pitchers’ duel early, as Baraboo’s Emma Crary and Portage’s Paige Edwards each threw up zeros in the first two innings.
Portage’s Joia Simonson came on in relief in the bottom of the third inning and stranded a runner at second base.
The threat started when Haley Hannagan walked to lead off the inning, then moved into scoring position when Addie Filus hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Paige Lewison nearly brought Hannagan home, but her line drive struck Portage first baseman Gabrielle Garrigan and caromed to second baseman Katelyn Belleau, who tossed it to Garrigan to secure the out and end the inning.
“That was a really hard-hit ball,” Dan Lewison said. “We were just a couple hits away from making it really close.”
“When we’ve needed our defense to step up, they generally have,” Wampler said.
Then Belleau got it done with the bat, leading off the top of the fourth inning with a home run to give Portage a 1-0 lead. The Warriors weren’t done, as Payton Woodhouse doubled and pinch-runner Madison Loomis scored on an Olivia Limmex single. The Warriors eventually reloaded the bases and Woodhouse scored when McKenzie Brown was hit by a pitch.
Brianna Brandner provided the big blast, hitting a three-run triple to left field to clear the bases and give Portage a 6-0 lead.
“That three-run triple was a killer,” Lewison said. “But the girls stayed in it and fought back like they always do. ... The kids are competing and are having fun.”
Simonson struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth, as Baraboo was held to three hits through the first four innings.
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The T-Birds broke through in the bottom of the fifth.
Kirstyn Mathis and Filus each drew walks to get the rally started. Jade Parchem drove in the T-Birds’ first run of the night with a two-out RBI single, but Simonson limited the damage.
Portage tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning. Anna Kratz reached on an error, Brandner followed with an infield single and Simonson hit a one-run single to give the Warriors a 7-1 lead.
Baraboo made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh. The T-Birds loaded the bases with one out, as Filus reached on an error, Parchem was hit by a pitch and Paige Lewison singled. Callie Hammermeister’s groundout to first base brought home Filus, then Carolina Lewison drove in Parchem with a single up the middle.
“At some point they’re going to hit because they make good contact generally,” Wampler said. “So defensively you just have to be ready to go the whole time.”
The Warriors got out of the jam when Simonson induced a game-ending groundout and Portage hung on to sweep the season series, also notching a 14-3 home win over Baraboo on April 4.
Simonson picked up the win, striking out five while allowing three hits and one earned run in five innings of work. Crary threw all seven innings for Baraboo, allowing seven hits and three earned runs.
Paige Lewison was the lone T-Bird to finish with multiple hits, going 2 for 3 on the night. Macy Henry added a double in the loss.
Brandner went 2 for 4 with a triple to lead Portage, while Limmex finished 2 for 3.
“We’ve got improvements we still need to make,” Wampler said. “We didn’t get any bunts down today, which is disappointing, and we still need to work on picking up good pitches and line-driving those. Defensively though I think we’ve made good improvements and we’re taking advantage of what we get.”
Portage 000 600 1 — 7 7 1
Baraboo 000 010 2 — 3 6 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — P: Simonson (W; 5-3-1-4-5), Edwards (2-3-0-0-1). Bar: Crary (L; 7-7-3-2-1).
Leading Hitters — P: Brandner 2x4, Limmex 2x3. 2B — Woodhouse. 3B — Brandner. HR — Belleau. Bar: Lewison 2x3. 2B — Henry.
Follow Brock Fritz on Twitter @BrockFritz or contact him at 608-963-0344.