High school sports teams often count on experienced players to have a successful season.
That’s not the case this year for the Weyauwega-Fremont softball team, which heads into the WIAA state tournament this week after finishing the regular season May 21 with a 3-1 win over Pacelli.
The Indians had already wrapped up the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference earlier in the week with a 3-0 win over Bonduel and entered tournament play with a 23-3 record and a No. 1 seed in their Division 3 bracket.
Pitchers Kiley Akey and Cadyn Ehrenberg are two big reasons why the Indians posted a 14-0 record in CWC-8 play, as well as wins over a pair of defending state champions.
There’s a good reason if they’re names don’t sound familiar: they’re freshmen.
“They both bring something a little different,” coach Todd Breuer said. “Cadyn has a little different windup. She throws about the same speed, but because of her delivery and her style of windup, I think that’s enough to throw batters off. You look at Kylie’s ball, I think Kylie has more movement, but Cadyn has that different spin. What both of them have done for the program is huge in so many different ways.”
“I know we have a talented group of girls and we know what each other can do,” Ehrenberg said. “We have that chemistry that allows us to be this good. We just have to stick together.”
She recalled her first start, a 10-1 nonconference win April 6 over Waupaca.
“I felt a lot of pressure when I first threw against Waupaca and I was very nervous,” she said. “It seems like years ago. I definitely got less nervous throughout the season, even when Kiley’s pitching and I’m playing third.”
Akey had a feeling last summer that the Indians might have a special season this year.
“Last summer, when we all got to play together on a traveling team, that really helped us,” she said. “It was really fun getting to play with them and I think that helped build us up a lot as a team.”
It didn’t take long for Akey to find that varsity softball isn’t the same as playing on a summer league or middle school team.
“It’s a lot more intense and there are better hitters, but there’s a better goal,” she said. “I’ve always dreamed of state.”
Akey’s sister, Karissa, is a junior on the team that also includes seniors Miranda Potratz, Jordan Krause and Liz Hillskotter; juniors Jordan Rucks, Kaitlyn Hickey and Rachel Knorr; sophomores Taylor Flease, Trena Pomahac, Genna Knorr and Hailey Krause; and freshmen Alexa Greening and Kati Kettleson.
Although having two pitchers is a luxury that many other softball teams don’t have, the Indians also have solid defense and hitting this year, according to Breuer.
“I always talk about three phases of the game: pitching, defense and hitting,” he said. “We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year talking about goals and one of the goals was less than two errors a game. We definitely achieved that and we’re slightly over one (per game) right now. Our defense did an outstanding job. We don’t have nine girls batting .350 or .400, but we have nine or 10 girls that can bat. Some nights, the bottom of the order comes through. Some nights, the top of the order comes through.
“Another thing we have is the mental part of the game,” he said. “Tonight, their leadoff hitter (in the seventh inning) hit a triple, they scored a run and we didn’t flinch. We’ve been doing that all year.”
The Indians outscored their CWC-8 opponents 122-25. Two of the team’s three losses have come to state-ranked teams: a 4-1 setback in the March 24 season opener to New London, last year’s state runner-up in Division 2, and a 7-0 defeat May 12 to Stevens Point, a state qualifier last year and a team currently ranked in the top 10 in the state in Division 1. The other loss was a 2-1 defeat April 25 to Kewaskum, a team that has won 20 games this season.
The team’s 23 wins include a 7-3 victory May 5 over defending Division 2 state champion Mosinee and a 7-2 decision over Oakfield, last year’s Division 4 champion.
It was Akey’s turn to take the mound May 21 and she held the Cardinals to four hits.
The Indians only had three hits off of Pacelli’s Kaylee Krostag, but came up with three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning before Pacelli scored in the seventh.
“One of my worries tonight was the girls knew they had conference wrapped up,” Breuer said. “This game didn’t really affect anything, but I did not want them thinking like that. I felt like it was a playoff atmosphere. The girls felt it and it was exactly what we wanted. I was hoping we could score a few more runs, but right now, they’re the second-best team in the conference. There’s a reason for it. They’re a good team. It was a great way to end our first season and start a new season.”
The Indians opened tournament play May 27 against Lourdes Academy or Amherst. If W-F won the game, the Indians will host a regional championship game Friday, May 29, possibly against No. 2 seed Iola-Scandinavia or third-seed Shiocton. The Indians have defeated both teams twice this season already in CWC-8 matchups.
“We have a lot of talent,” Breuer said. “I think we’ve got it together, so we just have to keep going forward. Every game from here on out is going to be very tough. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to be exciting.”
And just as they have all season, the Indians will rely a pair of freshmen.
“I know we have hitters and a solid defense,” Akey said. “You don’t feel as bad if there’s one grounder. You know your team will be there to help you. I have confidence that we can do well.”
“Whatever coach Breuer wants us to do, we do,” Ehrenberg said. “We just get the job done.”