Play at plate denies softball team a chance at state tourney
Rival Homestead stops Warhawks once again
Germantown - After 105 pitches, Homestead pitcher Rachel Behnken's next strike sent the Highlanders softball team to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament for the second straight year as they held on to eliminate North Shore Conference rival Germantown, 3-2, on Saturday.
Holding a slim 3-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, Germantown's Lauren Renard laced a double to score sophomore Addy Green who lead off the inning with a single. Jennifer Tschetter, who walked with two outs, was waved around to try and score the game-tying run.
Homestead (17-8) centerfielder Hannah Young quickly threw the ball in, missing the cutoff, but Behnken was there to fire a strike home to catcher Amy Keel who placed a perfect tag on Tschetter to end the game and Germantown's season.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team," Homestead coach Dave Keel said. "Young actually overthrew the first cutoff, but Rachel was right there and made a great turnaround. That's the way you diagram it. It doesn't always work that way, but that's the way you diagram it."
The victory sent the defending WIAA state runner-up Highlanders back to the state tournament Thursday, where they will challenge Southeast Conference champion Kenosha Bradford (25-2) in a 1:30 p.m. quarterfinal at Goodman Diamond in Madison. It is the fifth state trip in six years for the Highlanders.
It also marked the fourth straight season that Homestead has eliminated Germantown in WIAA sectional play including the last two sectional finals. The North Shore champion Warhawks, who had their eight-game winning streak broken with the loss, had beaten the Highlanders twice in the regular season and were looking for their first state berth since 1997.
The two rivals were deadlocked in a 1-1 tie as Behnken pitched out of jam after jam. The senior sneaked out of the first, third and fifth innings with runners on second and third. Germantown (17-6) finished 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position as Behnken finished with eight strikeouts.
"She just never quit," said Keel of Behnken. "That's the mark of a quality kid and a quality player."
Warhawks pitcher Hannah Klebesadel (11 strikeouts) was cruising in the eighth inning getting the first two batters out, but she issued her first walk of the game to Keel to keep the inning alive. Then, Klebesadel's once stout defense began to crack. Behnken worked a full count before hitting a grounder to third that Jennifer Weyker rushed and Erika Swoboda couldn't scoop as Keel scored all the way from first.
Megan Bailey then grounded to short and it appeared that Green had a chance to tag out pinch runner Melissa Masters but decided to throw to first, but the throw was low as Masters scored to push the Highlanders lead to 3-1.
"That's not us," Germantown co-coach Amy Barbiaux said. "It was a big pressure game and things like that are going to happen."
Controversial call starts scoring
Homestead grabbed an early 1-0 lead when Klebesadel made an illegal pitch (the equivalent of balk in baseball) with a runner on third base when she dropped the ball on the mound. The umpires gathered together and confirmed their ruling. Barbiaux did not agree.
"That was a tough one to swallow because we would have been up 1-0, not tied," Barbiaux said.
Behnken, who pitched all three games in the Highlanders' state tournament run last season, said beating Klebesadel (who had dominated the Highlanders in two previous games) and Germantown was huge.
"To be honest I was really nervous," Behnken said. "As a team, though, we had a really good confidence level. We practiced against her type of pitching and really tried to lay off the rise balls."
-With additional reporting by Steven L. Tietz
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