West De Pere softball drops conference championship game
By Greg Bates
DE PERE — Tom Zimdars had a message for his team one night before playing its biggest game of the season.
The West De Pere softball coach ingrained in his players’ minds that the only way his team was going to lose to Seymour in a de facto Bay Conference title game May 14 was if the Phantoms allow the Thunder to execute its small ball.
In the first meeting against the two teams April 23, West De Pere pitcher Genesis Eggert held Seymour to just one hit and kept them off the base paths.
“Genesis tends to shut them down,” Zimdars said. “Their catcher is a beast, and we knew that but everybody else you tend to do a really good job on. The short game, we practice it. We worked really hard on it last night, and then they did the short game and they did a good job.”
With the game tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning, Seymour manufactured four runs on four hits – including a critical bunt single – that changed the tide of the game.
West De Pere threatened in the bottom of the seventh, but the potential tying run popped out with two runners on base as No. 6-ranked Seymour scored a 5-2 victory.
Seymour, which won its third straight conference title, fell to West De Pere 3-1 in their other contest this year.
The Thunder hitters came out more aggressively in the second matchup.
“We talked a lot in practice yesterday about that first game and how we only had one hit,” Seymour coach Karri Vanden Langenberg said. “We gave up two runs on errors, so we knew we had to play better defense, control the game a little more and have it at our pace.”
West De Pere (15-4 overall, 10-2 Bay) had plenty of opportunities.
The Phantoms, which outscored their opponents 52-2 in the previous five games, stranded 10 runners, including five in scoring position.
“Sometimes certain players respond better in that situation,” Zimdars said. “Their pitcher and catcher did a nice job when we had runners in scoring position, especially that first inning with the bases loaded, they pitched out of it. She did a good job.”
With both pitchers settling in after the first inning, runs were at a premium.
It wasn’t until the sixth when Seymour (19-1, 11-1) seized the moment to open up the game.
Seymour’s Chloe Evans came up with one out and Zimdars was careful having Eggart pitch to her.
The junior led off the game with her 12th home run of the season and has been swinging the bat well.
“She basically hit two home runs tonight – that second one just went foul,” Zimdars said. “We weren’t going to let her take us deep. We pitched her careful, and she still got a base hit out of it.”
Evans stroked a single and Diahanna King followed with a base hit.
Right fielder Taylor Degroot let the ball trickle by her and Evans came all the way around to score to break the tie, 2-1.
Paige Weyer walked and stole second to set up cleanup hitter Dinah King for a crucial at-bat.
With her twin sister, Diahanna, on third base, Dinah King laid a bunt down the first base line. First baseman Anna Young, who was playing in, fielded the ball and tried to tag King down the line.
However, Young never touched the ducking base runner as the run scored.
Weyer then scored on a passed ball and Olivia Wery followed by stroking a single to plate Dinah King to make it 5-1.
With one final chance in the bottom of the seventh, the Phantoms didn’t go down quietly.
Alexa Thomson led off with a single and Weyer retired the next two batters.
Hannah Bearson, who had an RBI double in the first inning to tie the game, singled.
Eggart then hit a single to right to bring in Thomson.
With runners at first and third, Brianna Destache popped out to end the game.
West De Pere finished with nine hits but struck out eight times and hit into a double play.
The Phantoms’ bats need to start collecting some clutch hits with the postseason right around the corner.
West De Pere will have its WIAA Division 1 regional opener May 21 against an opponent and site to be determined.
“You’ve got to bounce back, and these guys bounce back,” Zimdars said. “When we lose, these girls always bounce back with a vengeance, so hopefully that happens again.”