Columbia High School clinched its 10th straight Cahokia Conference-Mississippi Division championship with the Eagles’ 4-2 win over Freeburg on Wednesday.
League titles are high on the list of annual goals in Columbia, but not as high as postseason victories. The Eagles clinched their conference championship last year against Freeburg, but it was the Midgets who earned their trip to the Class 3A Super-Sectionals with regional and sectional titles.
That’s what the 22-3 Eagles are after — and then some.
“Freeburg has always been our biggest competition in the conference, and to come out on top is a big achievement, and 10 times in a row conference champion feels pretty good,” said Columbia junior catcher Chelsy Pena. “(Winning conference) is up there, but we’d rather have those postseason wins, do good at that, and get the state win.”
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It was Pena who put the exclamation point on a three-run rally that broke up a six-inning pitchers’ duel Wednesday.
Tied 1-1 after five, Freeburg stranded the bases loaded for second time during the game in the top of the sixth. The Eagles turned the momentum on Freeburg starter Miranda Schulte, who had allowed just one unearned run to that point.
Pitcher Mikaela Kossina drew a one-out walk, Keeler Van Breusegen beat out the throw to first on a sacrifice bunt and Lindsay Wibbenmeyer walked to load the bases.
Another error, one of three committed by the Midgets, broke the tie. Then Courtney Weilbacher drove home what proved to be the game-winner on a ground out to the Freeburg shortstop.
Pena’s single put the icing on the cake.
“I’m mostly just proud of how the girls stayed calm and battled,” said Columbia coach Rhonda Major. “Freeburg is a very good team, and Miranda is a great pitcher. But the girls come out every game, especially in this conference, and play Columbia softball like they know how.”
Kossina allowed Freeburg six scattered hits and pitched around four walks to earn the win.
“She remained calm, which was good, and we really worked the outside of the plate today,” Pena said of Columbia’s starter. She knew what she needed to do, and she got it done.”
In two-thirds innings of relief, Kaelyn Rheinecker allowed a hit and walked two, but got Freeburg to strand the bases loaded for the third time.
Calli Wibbenmeyer had two hits and an RBI for Columbia. Lindsay Wibbenmeyer also singled during the game. The Eagles are scheduled to face Dupo at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
For Freeburg (15-9), Chasity Hill doubled twice while Schulte, Hannah Marquart and Abby Mirly singled. Chloe Schanuel and Haley Alt singled home the Midgets’ runs. They are in Sparta on Friday for a 4:30 p.m. game.