Thunderbirds have Oconto’s number again
For the second year in a row, the Iola-Scandinavia softball team has advanced to the sectional round of the WIAA state tournament by beating Oconto.
The Thunderbirds won their second straight Division 3 regional championship Thursday, June 2, with a 5-2 win over the top-seeded Blue Devils in Oconto. I-S also needed extra innings to hand Bonduel a 11-10 defeat Tuesday, May 31, in the semifinal round.
The 13-10 T-Birds played Laona/Wabeno Tuesday, June 7, in a sectional semifinal in Gillett. If I-S won that game, the T-Birds would face the winner of the other semifinal, Neillsville or Stevens Point Pacelli, at 3 p.m. Friday, June 10, at Stevens Point’s Zenoff Park in the sectional final. The winner of that game advances to state.
I-S 5, Oconto 2
OC0NTO – The T-Birds made a 3-0 lead stand up against the Blue Devils, who fell to I-S 9-5 last year.
“We played a great game, a complete game in all areas,” coach Tom Anderson said. “I can think of a situation in which each girl contributed in a big way to play a part in this victory. What a great time to put it all together against a quality opponent as Oconto. We are very excited and are looking forward to sectional competition.”
Morgan Oppor went the distance to pick up the win. She allowed seven hits, including only one in the first four innings. She walked only one batter and struck out eight.
Mary Marx, Payton Erickson and Kiara Boutwell each had two hits, while Oppor, Elle Maus and Natasha Buster each had a double.
The T-Birds took an early lead in the top of the first inning, as Oppor doubled to right field, advanced to third on an error and scored on a perfect bunt from Marx.
I-S added two more runs in the fifth inning. Oppor reached on an error, Marx singled and both scored on Maus’ double over the left fielder’s head.
Oconto scored a run in the fifth to cut the deficit to 3-1, but the T-Birds responded with two runs in the sixth. Boutwell and Teresa Sprangers reached on a single and hit-by-pitch, respectively, and Buster followed with a double over the left fielder’s head to score Boutwell. Sprangers scored on Amanda Aanstad’s groundout to the second baseman.
“Oconto scored one more run in the sixth, but we made a great defensive play in that inning to set the tone,” Anderson said. “A groundball was hit to our shortstop, Whitney Tomczak. She threw a ball that short-hopped and went past our first baseman, Teresa Sprangers. Teresa hustled to pick up the ball and threw a strike back to Whitney, who was covering second base to get the Oconto runner who was trying to advance.
“What a great play,” he added. “Instead of sulking about a throwing error or letting the ball get by her, they both regrouped and made a fantastic play. We did a great job making some nice defensive plays like that all game and I can’t say enough on how well Morgan pitched. It was a complete team win.”
I-S 11, Bonduel 10 (9 inn.)
IOLA – The T-Birds had to come from behind twice against Bonduel to tie the game or face elimination. They scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning and added three runs to tie the game again in the eighth.
After holding the Bears scoreless in the top of the ninth, the T-Birds came up with a run in the bottom half of the frame to get the win.
Oppor pitched all nine innings for the win. She allowed 15 hits and three walks while striking out 10 batters.
Marx had four hits, including a triple, while Oppor and Erickson chipped in with three hits, including a double.
The T-Birds took an early 4-1 lead by scoring four times in the first inning. Marx and Erickson singled and eventually scored on bases-loaded walks. The two other runs were scored on errors.
After Bonduel cut the lead to 4-3 in the third, the T-Birds added a run. Oppor doubled and scored on a triple by Marx.
Bonduel scored three runs in the fifth and sixth innings to take a 6-5 lead, but I-S responded with a run in the bottom of the sixth, as Marx singled and eventually scored on an error to tie the game.
Bonduel scored again in the seventh. With the T-Birds needing at least a run to tie or lose the game, Tomczak drew a walk and moved to second on Boutwell’s sacrifice bunt. After an infield popout, Tomczak advanced to third on an infield hit by Buster. With two outs, Aanstad delivered a big hit to right field to score Tomczak and send the game into extra innings.
With momentum clearly on the T-Birds’ side, Bonduel responded with three runs in the top of the eighth. I-S again faced elimination if the T-Birds didn’t score at least three runs.
Oppor, Marx and Erickson singled to load the bases and Maus followed with a single to left field to score Oppor and Marx. Tomczak followed with a walk to again load the bases and Erickson scored to tie the game after Boutwell drew a walk. With no outs and the bases loaded, the T-Birds only needed to score one more run to win the game.
Bonduel shortstop Morgan Maule took charge and fielded two consecutive ground balls and proceeded to throw the potential game-ending runs out at home, with the second throw from her knees. To finish off the T-Bird charge, Maule caught the popout third out to send the game to the ninth inning.
The I-S defense finally held Bonduel scoreless in the top of the ninth. Morgan Oppor singled to lead off the bottom of the inning and moved to second on Marx’s sacrifice bunt. Erickson followed with a double off of the left field fence to score Oppor and to secure the victory.