After getting shut out out in its season opener last week, the Portage softball team was anxious to push its first run of the season across.
It didn’t take the Warriors long as they notched eight runs of the opening two innings en route to a 10-4 win over visiting Mt. Horeb in a Badger North Conference game at Kiwanis Field. Senior Joia Simonson went 2-for-4 with a double while freshman Sydni Kratz went 2-for-3 to lead the Warriors.
“It was good to see confidence-wise the girls were ready to go right away,” Portage coach Connie Wampler said. “They knew Mt. Horeb had played well against Waunakee on Thursday so they knew we want to jump on them early to set the tone for the game.”
Portage (1-1, 1-1 Badger North) wasted little time getting on the board against the Vikings, scoring three runs in the home half of the first inning. After Brianna Brandner reached on an error to open the frame, the speedy junior stole second and third to get into the scoring position.
Senior Olivia Limmex followed suit by working a walk before giving herself up on a double steal in order for Brandner to score and give Portage the quick 1-0 lead. Simonson kept things going with a single before junior Katelyn Belleau reached on a fielder’s choice and freshman Sydni Kratz walked to load the bases.
After junior Gabrielle Garrigan went down looking, senior Lauren Pace drew an RBI walk before Belleau scampered home on a wild pitch to extend the lead to 3-0. The three-run first inning was just the start for the Warriors as they tacked on five more runs in the second to seize control at 8-0.
Junior McKenzie Brown singled to open the inning before Brandner walked and the pair advanced on a passed ball. Limmex then delivered a sacrifice fly before Simonson laced an RBI double to make it 5-0.
After a Belleau walk, Madison Loomis, courtesy running for Simonson, swiped third and MaryKate Shlimovitz stole second while courtesy running for Belleau. Kratz, who went 2-for-3, ripped an RBI single to pad the lead to 6-0 before Shlimovitz scored on an error and Pace ripped an RBI single to extend the advantage to 8-0.
“I think since we didn’t score anything Thursday and that we can score runs by putting the ball in play, it just gave all the girls the confidence to push hard,” Wampler said.
With a comfortable lead, the Vikings showed signs of life in the top of the third. Mt. Horeb scored a pair of runs in the frame on a two-run single by sophomore Marissa Rumler, but the Vikings stranded a pair to keep the lead at 8-2.
Portage didn’t wait to extend the lead back out to eight at 10-2. Brandner scored on a groundout by Limmex in the bottom of the third, and Kratz came on home on a groundout by Peyton Woodhouse after singling to start the fourth inning to make it 10-2.
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With the advantage back at eight, Simonson and the Warriors defense kept the Vikings at bay the next three innings, stranding a Vikings runner at second in the fifth and escaping a leadoff walk in the sixth. Down to its last three outs, Mt. Horeb put together one last rally attempt.
The Vikings worked back-to-back one-out walks before senior Ashley Lange singled to load the bases. Senior Jadyn Holmen delivered an RBI single before a passed ball allowed junior Natalie O’Connell to score on a dropped third strike and make it 10-4. Simonson closed the door, however, getting freshman Lucy Dahlk to ground out to end the game.
Simonson got the complete-game win, fanning 12 while giving up four runs on five hits and five walks. Wampler lauded the right-hander for keeping the Vikings off-balance, especially with an effective changeup, and the Warriors defense for stranding six Mt. Horeb runners.
“It was nice to have some situations like that so we can see what we need to work on and do talking-wise,” Wampler said. “Joia is a veteran, so she’s confident knowing that she’s going to make the pitches she needs to make, and it’s good to see the defense behind her helping out.”
The Warriors still have areas for improvement after being retired in order in each of their last trips to the plate and some defensive miscues, but Wampler knows those will improve in time.
“We did talk about closing the door earlier, finishing games and staying aggressive at the plate,” she said. “but I’m really happy we got to see that stuff because they’re all things that help us for the next game.”
Mt. Horeb 002 000 2 — 4 5 2
Portage 351 100 x — 10 7 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so): MH — Dahlk (L, 3-0-7-5-3), Holman (3-0-1-0-1). P — Simonson (W, 7-0-4-5-12).
Leading Hitters — MH — none. P — Simonson (2x4), S. Kratz (2x3). 2B — Simonson.