Down 5-0 against a division foe it had already fallen to twice during the regular season, it would have been easy for the Homestead softball team to fold on Thursday evening. Instead, Homestead elected to hit.
The Highlanders (14-7) erupted for 15 unanswered runs as they stormed past Whitefish Bay, 15-5, in a WIAA Division 1 regional final at Thiensville Park. The game was called after a sacrifice fly from junior Michaela Rusch scored sophomore Julia Warshauer to give Homestead a final 10-run cushion in the bottom of the sixth.
"We fell into an early hole, but we were able to just stay positive and rally back," said Homestead junior Hannah Behnken. "We got used to their pitcher and were just able to find some holes and score runs."
The Blue Dukes (14-11) jumped out on Homestead starter Allie Beckers early, as a run-scoring double, single and sacrifice fly staked Whitefish Bay to a 3-0 lead after the first inning. They pushed their advantage to 5-0 in the second behind an RBI base hit by junior Allison Severin and a wild pitch that scored another run for the Blue Dukes.
"We knew from watching their pitchers that they can get a little wild at times," said Whitefish Bay head coach Jess Middendorf. "I told our girls to stay aggressive but swing at strikes. Our selectivity helped us to the early lead."
Homestead got on the board in the bottom of the second inning behind a Morgan Clark run-scoring double that pulled it to within 5-1, but the Highlanders would not start to get rolling until the fourth inning.
Following two singles and a sacrifice bunt, senior Sydney Beckers scored on a grounder to short, just eluding the tag of Whitefish Bay catcher Mieko Kuramoto at the plate for what would have been the second out to make it 5-2. A single and an error by Kuramoto brought Homestead to within 5-4, and the onslaught continued from there. A game-tying RBI groundout was followed by three more hits, the last of which put Homestead up 7-5 through four innings.
The Highlanders batted around again in the fifth, scoring six more runs in the inning. Warshauer broke a still-tight game open with a bases-clearing double that put the Highlanders up 11-5, and Homestead would add two more runs in the frame to pull ahead 13-5 after five complete.
"Our girls can really hit the ball. They hit some shots in the fourth and fifth innings and then our pitching settled down," said Homestead head coach Dave Keel. "Allie (Beckers) came back in and did a nice job for us.
Two final runs in the sixth ended Whitefish Bay's season.
"They started to time our pitchers, and we slumped a little bit at the plate," said Middendorf. "You could see that we got a little tight."
While the end result was disappointing, Middendorf saw the season as a positive step, one that included the program's first-ever victories over Homestead, and she has high hopes for 2015.
"We were able to accomplish the goals of beating Homestead and finishing over .500," said Middendorf. "Now we have to build upon this and move on to our next goal, to be able to beat Germantown."
Homestead advances to play either Germantown, another North Shore conference rival, in the sectional semifinal June 3.
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