Columbia kept the pressure on Freeburg in the semifinal of the Waterloo Class 3A Regional Softball tournament, scoring in all but one inning to defeat the Midgets, 6-3.
Columbia rallied from early 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to outlast a Freeburg team that entered the game winners of 11 out of their last 13.
The Midgets jumped on Columbia pitching in the first inning by loading the bases twice and sending eight batters to the plate. But their inability to break the game wide open would prove costly in the end.
“I’m real proud of the girls for not panicking,” Eagles head coach Rhonda Major said. “It was obvious the first couple innings weren’t typical of how we played all year, but we stuck with it and continued to fight. We got the bats going and put some runs on the board.”
The Eagles are playing well as well as they have all season in the last week with wins over Freeburg and Class 4A powerhouse Edwardsville. Columbia will face the Waterloo Bulldogs (33-1) in the regional’s championship game Saturday at 11 a.m.
“Waterloo’s always a fun game, its always fun to play your cross-town rivals” said senior Kaylee Bastien, who had four hits Wednesday, including a fifth-inning home run for the Eagles. “It’s what we look forward to as players. It’ll be a fun game.”
After loading the bases in the first and second innings it looked as if Freeburg might have its way against the Eagles pitching. But a strikeout to end the second inning settled Columbia pitcher Brina Rujawitz, who didn’t allow a run over the final five innings.
“I just told her you have to bear down throw your pitches and let you defense help you out. I think that shows a lot about her” Major said.
Columbia was down 2-0 before its first at-bat, but the Eagles tied the score in their half of the inning. They scored three more in the bottom of the second before taking the lead for good in the third.
It was the top of the order that set the tone for Columbia going 7-for-8 and driving in three of the Eagles six runs while scoring four runs on their own.
Bastien was 4-4, including a deep home run to right center in the bottom of the fifth to give Columbia a 6-3 lead.
“It felt good,” Bastien said. “That’s the first one for me all season and it happened at a right time, I’m just glad we could put the runs up to win the game.”
Freeburg wrapped up its second straight winning season under second-year coach Ben Howes. The Midgets were 20-8 overall and the surprising co-champions of the Cahokia Conference-Mississippi Division with just two seniors on the roster.