De Pere rallies late to topple Notre Dame
By Greg Bates
DE PERE – In a tight game, the De Pere softball hitters were getting a little too aggressive at the plate.
The Redbirds were swinging at a lot of first- and second-pitch offers by the Notre Dame Academy pitcher and weren’t having too much luck.
Trailing 8-6 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, De Pere coach Matt Eakin and his staff told the players to be patient at the plate.
Piecing together four singles and three walks – including a bases-loaded free pass with the game tied and two outs – De Pere scored a 9-8 victory in dramatic fashion in a Fox River Classic Conference contest on a cold April 4 afternoon.
“They went up with a positive attitude at the plate, saying, ‘I’m not going to let her beat me. I’m not going to let her beat me,’” Eakin said. “We get on base and had good baserunning. I think our girls did a great job at the plate. They weren’t defensive, they were aggressive, took the pitches they needed to take and waited for that one they could hit. I think that’s what really sparked it – one hit and then the other one hit. It creates chaos, and that’s good.”
De Pere shortstop Natalie Cerrato, who is one of seven senior starters, liked the determination from her teammates to pull out the victory.
“I could just tell by the looks in our faces that we should not have been down by two, so that gave us the motivation and fight to come back and win,” Cerrato said. “It was a tight one at the end. Obviously, a win’s a win, but we should have played better than that and should have executed more plays and done better at the plate.”
Notre Dame coach Steve Broekman was encouraged by the play of his team.
The game actually marked the first time the Tritons had been outside the entire season.
“One of our goals this year, our first goal, is we want to be competitive in every single game that we play, and we definitely were today,” said Broekman, whose team won just three games last season.
With the game tied at 6, Notre Dame (0-1, 0-1 FRCC) started off the top of the seventh with a walk by Sophie Le Mieux.
On the first pitch from De Pere reliever Paige Ravet, Katie Peters connected for a home run over the left field fence to put Notre Dame up by two runs.
De Pere (1-1, 1-1 FRCC) had its first batter retired in the bottom of the seventh before Alexandra Westphal started the rally with a single off Notre Dame pitcher Jadyn Kulesa.
Cerrato also singled, moving up pinch runner Mikayla McWilliams to second base.
Pinch hitter Brianna Patz stroked a single to score McWilliams and Cerrato was thrown out at third base.
Emily Blomquist walked to put the winning run on base.
No. 9 hitter Megan Behnke was clutch with a single to plate Patz to tie the game.
Rachel Kerkhoff then walked to load the bases.
Slap hitter Addisyn Pennings came up as coach Broekman moved left fielder Hannah Guyette into the dirt to give Notre Dame a fifth infielder.
Pennings worked the count to 3-0 before seeing two straight strikes.
The payoff pitch was high as Pennings laid off it for a walk-off walk.
“I guess at the end of the game, we realized that the bats and the hits were very important to us, so being patient at the plate and waiting for that perfect pitch to come by was very important for the outcome of the game,” Cerrato said.
Eakin was proud of his team’s late-game heroics to pull off the first victory of the season.
“The best part about today was watching us not go down when they hit the home run,” Eakin said. “She hit a nice pitch, and then in the bottom of the inning, we fight and that’s the positive of that. They didn’t hang their heads and I appreciate that.”
Early in the game, it looked as though De Pere might run away with an easy win.
The Redbirds put up four runs in the first as Alexander and Cerrato each had RBI singles.
But Notre Dame never wavered and took a 6-5 lead in the fifth as Peters had an RBI double and Bridget Kapic followed with a two-run single.
“We had some of those games last year where we fought back, and then we would kind of lose it at the end,” Broekman said. “This year, we’re not giving up. We fight till the end, every out, all the way.”
De Pere tied it at 6 in the sixth on an infield single by Pennings that drove in Kerkhoff.
Ravet picked up the win for De Pere, throwing the final three innings.
McKayleigh Piper started in the circle and allowed just one earned run.
Kulesa took the loss for Notre Dame.
Cerrato believes the comeback victory can be a good teaching tool for her and her teammates.
“We’ve got to play a lot better as a team, and we can’t underestimate any team no matter who they are. A team’s a team and a game’s a game,” Cerrato said. “It’s just how bad you want the game.”