Freeburg and Mascoutah combined for 34 runs and 22 hits the last time they met in a 17-7 Freeburg victory, but their softball regional semifinal game Tuesday was a completely different story.
Freeburg edged Mascoutah 2-1 as sophomore pitcher Miranda Schulte held the Indians to two hits, struck out 14 and also drove in a run to help the Midgets reach the Class 3A Triad Regional championship game.
“They were definitely coming at us strong,” said Schulte, now 13-4 as a pitcher while hitting .538 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs. “They weren’t going to let us have it like they did last time.”
Schulte drove in a run with a first-inning sacrifice fly while Josie Ledbetter’s RBI single in the third proved to be the difference in this low-scoring affair.
“I was scared to death playing these guys,” Freeburg coach Ben Howes said after his team improved to 22-6. “I followed then all year and I watched them, they kept getting better and better. They beat Central, then they beat somebody else ... they won 21 games.”
In a battle between two of the area’s top sophomore pitchers, Schulte outdueled Mascoutah’s Tieghan Morio. Morio held high-scoring Freeburg to five hits and one earned run, striking out five, but the Indians couldn’t get much offense going against Schulte.
“A lot different game, a lot different conditions,” Mascoutah coach Frank Evans said. “The wind’s not blowing out at 40 miles an hour. Same two pitchers, a lot different result.”
“She threw against us the first game and she didn’t have her control,” Howes said of Morio. “Tonight she had her control and she was tough. It was a gut-wrencher if you’re a coach and a heartbreaker if you were on the other side.”
After falling 1-0, Mascoutah (20-12) got a run in the fourth when Kennedy Bryant singled and scored on a throwing error on Morio’s grounder to third.
The Indians’ other good chance came on a two-out triple in the fifth by Amber Elbe, with Ledbetter just missing the ball on a diving attempt.
Schulte retired Maddie Nekola on a fly ball to first to escape the threat.
Schulte also quieted a lineup that featured a combined 19 home runs by Morio (eight), Bailey Prince (six) and Bryant (five).
“We’ve lived by the long ball, we couldn’t get one today,” Evans said. (Morio)’s got that ability to lose them really quick. We had our chances, in the first part of the game we didn’t push (Schulte) very hard. We didn’t see a lot of pitches, we were swinging at some pitches out of the strike zone.”
Bryant singled leading off the seventh for the Indians’ second hit, but Schulte retired the next three hitters to preserve the win.
“She’s done great all year,” Howes said of Schulte. “She’s an emotional kid and I thought she held her composure very well tonight. It was a big-game atmosphere and she seems to be the type of person that can rise to that occasion.”
Morio also pitched well for Mascoutah.
“I don’t know if our offense was aggressive as it usually is,” said Ledbetter (.366, four homers, 30 RBIs), one of three Freeburg players with 30 or more RBIs along with Schulte and Murray State recruit Jenny Homann (.463, five homers, 31 RBIs). “I don’t think that we were really on the pitcher, she was pitching really well today, busting us inside for sure. We definitely had to get used to that the first couple innings.”