Already in control with a 2-0 lead headed to the sixth inning Wednesday, the Freeburg softball team put things completely out of reach after that.
The Midgets pushed across six more runs after two were out and delivered an 8-0 nonconference victory over the Belleville West Maroons as Kimmie Hoffmann led the way by going 4-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs.
The current junior class has helped restore Freeburg to the upper levels of the Cahokia Conference again after some tough seasons in recent years. With five starters hitting .429 or higher and two solid pitchers in junior Josie Ledbetter and freshman Miranda Schulte, the Midgets are back.
“We had a pretty solid freshman year and last year everything just took off,” said Hoffmann, a junior who helped the Midgets win 15 games a year ago. “This year everything’s coming together like it’s supposed to.”
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The win pushed Freeburg’s record to 15-5 and the Midgets are unbeaten at 6-0 in Cahokia Conference-Mississippi Division play. West is 16-9.
Back-to-back bloop singles just behind first base and a West error helped ignite the big sixth inning. The second bloop hit came courtesy of Haley Alt, driving in a run before a Maroons’ error gave Freeburg a 4-0 lead.
Freeburg’s speed-burning leadoff hitter Amber Matchett delivered an RBI single to keep the sixth inning flowing and Hoffmann followed with her fourth hit of the night, a two-run single that gave her 19 RBIs this spring.
“What a great leader and catcher,” said Freeburg coach Ben Howes, in his second season as head coach after serving previously as Freeburg’s principal. “She’s a left-handed catcher playing out of position. Outfield is her position, but she does such a great job we catch her and she makes us go. She gets on and it’s a lot easier for our 3-4-5 hitters.”
Matchett was 3-for-4 with a double and RBI.
Hoffmann’s triple in the first inning off West starter Bethany Dain (4-4) preceded an RBI single by Jenny Homann that put the Midgets on top to stay. Freeburg’s Cheyenne Bivins tripled in the fourth and scored on an RBI groundout by Savannah Stevens.
Bivins is one of six freshmen on the varsity roster from a class that includes talented pitcher-outfielder Miranda Schulte. Schulte is 9-1 as a pitcher with a 2.46 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings and she’s also hitting .427 with seven doubles, four homers and 18 RBIs.
Ledbetter got the pitching call Wednesday and was rock solid with a little help from her defense.
“Josie was outstanding,” Howes said of his junior, who also is hitting .441 with 10 doubles, four home runs and 28 RBIs,.
Ledbetter allowed five hits and struck out four, but several solid line drives hit by the Maroons settled into the gloves of Freeburg fielders rather than rolling to the fence.
“Like Olivia Young, she hit a nice shot but it went right to the right fielder,” said West coach Casey Garrett, a former star pitcher at Florida State. “They were good at knocking a lot of good hits down and then that sixth inning happened. As a pitcher, those are the worst hits ever ... little dingers right behind first base. They’re hits in the book, that’s just what they are.”
Garrett credited Ledbetter, who forced the Maroons to strand six baserunners.
“She was just doing what she needed to do,” Garrett said. “She threw strikes, kept it low and our batters didn’t make adjustments on it. They’re definitely a good team, but I feel that the score should have been a lot closer than what it was.”
It might have been had the Maroons not been missing four injured starters. The injured list include two of the team’s top hitters, Alliyah St. John (ankle sprain) and Hannah Biermann (groin injury) and pitcher McKenzie Sisk (hamstring). Megan Glaeser didn’t start Wednesday after dealing with a broken nose, but entered as an early substitute in the outfield and played most of the day.
Howes likes the way the Midgets are playing and their blend of talented veterans and younger players.
“Their pitcher really battled well,” he said of Dain. “We got a couple little seeing-eye hits down the first-base line that kind of opened that (sixth) inning up. We know that we have to come ready to play every night.”