Bulldogs’ run stopped by Turner
By Erik Buchinger
New London’s fifth consecutive state appearance ended in the WIAA Division 2 semifinals in a 3-0 loss to Turner in Madison on Friday, June 9.
Turner scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the first inning, which was the last time a player crossed home plate for the remainder of the game.
“That first inning kind of gave them the momentum, and we just couldn’t get it back,” New London pitcher Leah Porath said. “It’s my first time pitching here, and I think it was about getting comfortable and getting a feel of the mound. Unfortunately I should’ve jumped out faster and gotten more comfortable, but they’re a great team and hit the ball hard. There’s really nothing we can do about that.”
Turner rallied with four hits in the first inning off Leah Porath , who threw six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits and no walks with one strikeout.
“They got their hits in the bottom of the first, but after that, it was close all the way through,” New London head coach Tony Porath said. “The girls didn’t quit.”
The Bulldogs did not allow another run, thanks to a few defensive plays in the outfield.
“Our outfielders did a phenomenal job today,” Leah Porath said. “They kept the ball in front of them, they made phenomenal plays that stopped more runs from scoring and gave us a chance to come back.”
Faith Carothers made a few running catches in right field in the fourth inning, followed by a run-saving grab in deep centerfield by Kate Christian to end the fifth, which she said was one of the best catches she’s ever made.
“Our outfield played great,” Christian said. “We saw the ball well off the bat in the outfield, and we got good jumps on the ball.”
Tony Porath said plays like those were a big reason New London made it to state.
“Wasn’t that amazing? I kept telling them to stop making those routine plays look so hard out there,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what they’ve done all year. The outfield has been fantastic. If you look at our team, the reason we’re here playing today is because we’ve played good defense and made plays like that.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs were held to just one hit, a sharp single to leftfield hit by Leah Porath in the third inning.
Turner’s Kailyn Packard came into the game with a 15-2 record and a 0.68 earned run average. She threw a complete game and allowed no runs on one hit and three walks with 10 strikeouts to earn the win.
“She’s just a good pitcher all around,” Leah Porath said. “It’s hard to stay off some of the high pitches. She’s a very fast pitcher, so you have to think really fast.”
The Bulldogs had a few scoring opportunities, but were unable to come up with the big hit to put a run across.
In the top of the first inning, New London’s McCoy Mix led off the game with a walk and moved to second on Leah Porath’s walk. Carothers’ sacrifice bunt advance runners to second and third with one out, but Erin O’Connell fouled out to third base, and Madison Ruckdashel struck out looking to end the threat.
The only other time New London got into scoring position was in the sixth when a walk and an error put runners at the corners with two outs, but Christian grounded out to the pitcher.
“They got a few key hits that we didn’t get,” Christian said. “We had times where we left runners on base. She threw hard and hit her spots. I think we just had a hard time on the high ones, we chased a few of them.”
Even though New London’s trip to state ended without a championship, Tony Porath said it’s an honor to be one of the four Division 2 teams competing in Madison.
“I know a lot of coaches that would love to be here one time,” Tony Porath said. “We’re very fortunate, and we don’t take this for granted. We played hard, and looking around, this is going to leave great memories for us.”
Tony Porath said he is proud of his team with how well they played and how well the players got along throughout the season.
“I’m not disappointed, and I’m very happy we’re here,” Tony Porath said. “I’m proud of the girls. It’s been so much fun because they’re such a good group of girls, and they get along so well. I told the girls if you take some good girls that will play together, you will become a great team, and that’s what they did.”
After her final high school game, Leah Porath said she will take these memories with her forever.
“The team chemistry and never taking things for granted is what we’re going to take away from all of this,” Leah Porath said. “Being with this team and the teams I’ve been on, it’s always been such a blast coming here. Win or lose, it’s always been fun, so in my future, that’s what I’m going to look for is those people that can make those memories with you.”