The finger is feeling fine said Germantown senior softball pitcher Kim Soderberg.
And that finger, broken about a month ago in a fielding accident, along with Soderberg's skill and her teammate's will, allowed the Warhawks to rally from a 6-0 first inning deficit and beat archrival Homestead, 10-7, in a WIAA sectional semifinal game Tuesday night in Germantown.
"Four weeks tommorrow, actually" said Soderberg, after pitching six-plus innings of two-run relief ball. "This was my first real game back. I was a little nervous coming in, but I hit my spots with my pitches. ...and we never got down. We just kept encouraging each other and helping each other get the job done."
Soderberg said the game was very similar to the two teams' first meeting in North Shore play earlier this season when Homestead jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second before Germantown rallied for a 14-10 victory.
With the win, the Warhawks (16-8) hopes of a third straight WIAA state tournament berth stay intact. They will host Greater Metro Coinference runner-up Brookfield Central in the sectional final on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the right to advance to the WIAA State Toiurnament in Madison, June 12-14.
Last year, Germantown beat Central, 1-0, in a dramatic thriller to advance to state.
Warhawk co-coasch Kurt Raguse was impressed all the way around.
"One run in six innings?" he asked rhetorically. "Our senior (Soderberg) really stepped up. Coming off an injury, not knowing what her stamina would be like, not knowing how long she'd be able to go and all she did was make one little mistake (a solo home run in the fifth).
"She just came out and did the job."
For Homestead coach Dave Keel, it was frustrating loss. The Highlanders had taken advantage of nervous sophomore Warhawk starter Michelle Moore, who opened the game with three walks, three wild pitches, a hit batsmen before being pulled by Raguse with four runs in and no outs.
"We had a good start but we couldn't finish and all that is credit to Germantown," he said. "Moore is a good pitcher but we had a good approach and were ready to go."
Soderberg actually was responsible for two runs as when she came in she allowed an RBI groundout, three hits and another run, before getting a critical throwout at the plate after a Highlander runner tried to score on a passed ball.
But after she got the Highlanders' Megan Manning to strike out looking to end the inning, she started dealing and Homestead started living on borrowed time.
Still, a 6-0 deficit was a 6-0 deficit.
"We preach all the time that we're a hitting team and that we can get back into this," said Raguse. "After we got back in the dugout (after the Homestead first) I asked them how many innings were left? '6' and how man outs do we have? 'a lot'
"The season was on the line and we were playing to get back to state."
A hit and a error allowed Germantown to scratch out a solo run in the bottom of thefirst and then the Warhawks really got back into it in the second, as Carly Szada and Michaela Buchholz each had two-run singles off Homestead starter Ally Beckers who had flummoxed the Warhawks two weeks ago in a 4-1 decision.
In the space of the inning, it was now a game at 6-5.
As Soderberg continued to deal, the Warhawks were able to tie the score at 6-6 on a booming home run by senior shortstop shortstop Erika Berry.
And after a one-two-three fourth by Soderberg, the Warhawks gave her the lead for good as junior Katelyn Schultz took advantage of three Beckers' walks to hit a titanic three-run home run to right-center to give Germantown the lead for good at 9-6.
Raguse said that Schultz had been struggling for much of the season but he noticed something in her stance in the batting cage the day before and that proved to be all the difference.
"I told her that she was hitting with a closed stance and that she was just on the ball all over the place," he said. "I told her she needed to close her stance during the game and look what happened, she made me look like a genius.
"She had struggled for much of the year, but if we can get her going right now that will really help us out."
Soderberg made her one small mistake and the Highlanders Julia Warshauer pounced on it for a solo home run to cut the deficit to 9-7 in the top of the fifth, but an error and an RBI double by Haley Johnson got the run back for Germantown and Soderberg put down the last six Highlanders in order.
She finished with five strikeouts and allowed only two hits the final six innings including the home run. She got great defensive help from third baseman Korey Rossman, who made one great play after another.
Soderberg was happy to get back into action.
"I was a little nervous in that position (with the big deficit)," she said. "We were in trouble, but I trusted my stuff and I had the defense behind me."
Soderberg said the Warhawks were super motivated by the 4-1 defeat to these same Highlanders two weeks ago that ended the North Shore champions 51-game league winning streak.
"That's all we talked about, we were super pumped up," she said. "This feels good, we have a real good mindset heading into the Central game. We play good defense and get good pitching we should be able to get the job done"
Because as Raguse knows, the heart is there.
"It would have been easy to put it in the bag and say we were done (after being down 6-0)," said Raguse, "but that's not the way we're built."
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