After being marred by mental miscues earlier in the week, the Portage softball team pulled a 180-degree turn on Thursday night.
The Warriors took advantage of a number of Waunakee mistakes, rolling to an 8-3 win in a Badger North Conference game on a rainy, breezy afternoon at Kiwanis Field. Senior Joia Simonson struck out nine and gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk in the complete-game victory as Portage avenged its 10-run loss to Waunakee earlier in the season.
“A lot of the stuff we talked about from our Tuesday game, we executed much better today than before,” Portage coach Connie Wampler. “I think the recommendations we gave them and things we worked on in practice we saw happen tonight in the game, and that’s always good when it happens.”
Portage (9-4, 7-3 Badger North) scored four unearned runs on three Waunakee errors, including two of its three in the second inning when it took a 3-1 lead.
After sophomore Payton Woodhouse drew a full-count walk to open the home half of the frame, senior Olivia Limmex hit a grounder to shortstop. Waunakee senior Caitlyn Kesilewski was unable to force out courtesy runner Madison Loomis at second base and fired to first to try to get Limmex, but the throw got past first baseman Kaylyn King.
The error allowed the speedy Loomis to scoot around and score to tie things at 1, and Limmex ended up at second. After Limmex stole third, Portage senior Lauren Pace drew a walk.
After a failed double steal wiped out Limmex at home and advanced Pace to second, freshman Sydni Kratz singled before junior Lacy Chappell grounded out to the pitcher to score Pace and put Portage on top 2-1. Portage junior Anna Kratz reached on another Kesilewski error, which allowed Sydni Kratz to score from second to push the advantage to 3-1.
“We knew that getting the ball in play, you never know what’s going to happen with the weather tonight,” Wampler said. “That was the key.”
Portage tacked on another run in the third on an RBI single by Woodhouse to go up 4-1, but Waunakee didn’t take long to get back into the game. Waunakee (8-5, 5-3) cut the Portage lead to 4-3 with a pair of runs in the third on a two-out, two-run single by junior Avery Lehr before Portage ended the threat.
From there, it was all Portage as the Warriors scored four more runs to close things out. Portage countered the pair of Waunakee runs in the fourth with two of their own as No. 9 hitter Anna Kratz scored on a passed ball after reaching on a one-out single to make it 5-3. Junior Brianna Brandner later scored on a Simonson groundout after singling to left field.
Portage finished off the scoring with two more unearned runs in the sixth as Kratz and Brandner, who each had two hits, scored on a throwing error to make it 8-3 and finish things off.
“I think they felt more comfortable up at the plate tonight,” Wampler said. “And they were much more energetic in the dugout too, so I thought we kept energy throughout the game, which kept them going up at the plate.”
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Waunakee took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Kesilewski took Simonson deep for a leadoff home run. The right-hander retired the next six straight batters and held Waunakee to two runs the rest of the way.
Simonson had plenty of help in limiting Waunakee as the Portage defense came up with some big plays. With a runner on third with one out in the top of the third inning, Simonson got Kesilewski to line out to shortstop Sydni Kratz, who flipped to third base to double up Waunakee senior Ally Ronk.
Simonson later stranded a pair of runners in scoring position in the fifth before Limmex threw out Waunakee junior Trista Ripp trying to advance to third on a Lehr single.
“There was good communication tonight, heads-up awareness of where the runners are and where the hitters are trying to go,” Wampler said. “I thought we looked more comfortable and confident in what we were doing tonight.”
Portage will look to keep things rolling on Saturday when it takes on Merrill and Waterford in the Portage Invite.
PORTAGE 8, WAUNAKEE 3
Waunakee 100 200 0 — 3 7 3
Portage 031 202 x — 8 7 1
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Wau: Ronk (L; 6-7-4-5-3). P: Simonson (W; 7-7-3-1-9).
Leading Hitters — Wau: Lehr (2x3). 2B — Fullenkamp, Ronk. HR — Cait. Kesilewski. P: Brandner (2x4), A. Kratz (2x3).