The last time the Central Cougars lost a game on the softball field it was their third in a row and head coach Gigi Kohrmann wondered out loud and in front of her players what had happened to the team that kicked off its season by winning 11 of out its first 12.
Aside from a few shifts in the batting order, Kohrmann can’t pinpoint where the Cougars regained their stride, but they rebounded by winning six in a row, including Saturday’s 17-6 short game of Mater Dei to clinch the championship of the Class 2 A Vandalia Regional. It’s Central’s second regional title in as many years.
After that May 3 loss to Freeburg on their own home diamond, Kohrmann wasn’t sure the Cougars would make it to this point.
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“At some point, they just finally got their heads in it and said ‘hey, people aren’t going to just give us wins, we have to work for them,’” Kohrmann said. “We’re going to come across some good teams going forward, but we’re playing as good as anyone right now.”
Central (22-9) will face Tuscola in the Shelbyville Sectional semifinal, Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
Mater Dei finished 16-8 with just one senior, first baseman Jenna Toennies, on its roster.
At some point, they just finally got their heads in it and said 'hey, people aren't going to just give us wins, we have to work for them,'
Gigi Kohrmann, Central head softball coach
“We do have a lot of youth and that was something coming in we talked about — ‘are we a year away or not? ‘Obviously, it looks like we are,” said head coach Ron Schadegg. “We just have to keep our heads up, lose with class, walk out of here and just find ways to improve. Hopefully next we get another opportunity to play in this game and find different results.”
The Cougars managed to scratch out a pair of runs despite stranding five base runners through two innings. But Mater Dei sophomore Rylie Johnson blasted a three-run home run off Central starter Kaylee Schrand to put the Knights ahead 3-2.
The game broke in the top of the third.
Central regained the lead with a sacrifice fly from Kirsten Thomas and an RBI single by Tori Dall, who drove home three runs in the game out of the eighth spot in ther order.
With two outs, Olivia Wesselman hit a ground ball up the middle that was back-handed deep behind second base by Sydney Englehart. But Englehart couldn’t beat out the runner to second for the inning-ending force out.
Abby Ratermann followed with a two-strike singled that drove home two more runs and kept the inning alive. Kaitlyn Smith and Schrand — the ninth and 10th batters of the inning — each singled runs home to make the score 8-3.
“I remember going deep (in the count) and I started to get myself a little nervous,” Ratterman said of her rally-saving hit. “I knew there were people on base and that they were coming in because it was close at that point. I just tried to be as confident as I could and do my thing. I could tell my team was pretty excited and I was too, so I think that was the turnaround.”
We do have a lot of youth and that was something coming in we talked about — 'are we a year away or not? 'Obviously, it looks like we are.
Ron Schadegg, Mater Dei softball coach
Central sent 13 batters to the plate in the top of the fifth, scoring eight runs to shorten the game. Mater helped with seven errors in the inning to spoil what was, to that point, a clean game defensively.
Ratterman doubled and scored to lead off the inning and closed out the scoring later with a one out RBI single.
“The girls finally started to put their hits together,” Kohrmann said. “In this game, you have to put the bunts down, you have to move the runners around. They are all doing their jobs right now and I think they’re having fun. Softball is a fun game.”
Mater Dei junor lead-off hitter Logan Braundmeier hit two solo home runs in the game. Sophomore Ally Beckmann followed Brandmeier’s fifth-inning blast with one of her own.
Rattermann finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs, a sacrifice and a walk. Schrand was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and pitched four and a third inning, allowing seven hits while striking out five.