Cascade had been surging heading into last week, but a pair of road games against ranked area rivals Jesup (2A, No. 4) and Wilton (2A, No. 8) threatened to stifle their momentum. Instead, the Cougars (10-10) chose to rise to the occasion, securing a thrilling seventh inning 4-3 victory over the former and falling 10-8 in an offensive shootout with the latter. They have won eight of their last 11 contests.
Senior Morgan Kremer was the catalyst for all of the action that would unfold at Jesup June 17. The first baseman wasted no time in putting the Cougars on the board as she crushed a three-run blast (her fifth of the season) in the top of the first, sending Devin Simon and Whitney Clemens home ahead of her.
“We had been playing better to that point, so I think we thought we could compete with them. I had seen enough to know that Jesup’s two pitchers were hittable, and I told them that, which gave us some confidence heading into the game,” Cascade head coach Ron Lehman said.
The J-Hawks responded in earnest, erasing the instant lead the Cougars had taken with a three-run second led by the bat of leadoff hitter Zoe Miller (3-4, two RBI). At this point, Cascade pitcher Lidia Boffeli left the circle in favor of junior Sam Recker.
Recker would go on to shut out Jesup (17-6) for the remaining five innings, working 51 pitches for two strikeouts while allowing just three hits and walking four. A patient Cougar lineup kept hammering Jesup’s Rhianna Bigwood (three strikeouts, two earned-runs) to no avail until the top of the seventh brought Cascade their opportunity to seal the outcome.
The setup came after sophomore shortstop Taylor Menster opened the frame with a single.
“(Mae) Felton sent her over to second with a bunt,” Lehman explained. “Boffeli came up and had a big hit that got over the right fielder’s head, which of course ended up being the winning run. There was only one out, we probably should’ve gotten another run in, but that didn’t happen. We happened to shut them down that day. It was a big win for the kids, and we were all pretty excited to say the least.”
Boffeli, Clemens and Kremer all went 2-for-3 on the day to lead the Cascade hitting efforts.
Wilton (14-11) wasn’t taking any chances when they hosted the Cougars three days later. Freshman Peyton Souhrada went yard and sparked a big run for her Warriors that resulted in four runs in both the first and second innings. They tacked on another in the third for a 9-0 lead through the top of the fourth.
“We had way too many errors in the first two innings. Once they started hitting, they started hitting our pitcher a lot,” Lehman said. “The kids could’ve given up there, but they didn’t.”
The girls responded with a five-run fourth and a three-run sixth. In one highlight moment, Simon blasted a two-run homer to send Boffeli home. Senior Addy Weber also drove in two on the evening, with Kremer and Menster adding an RBI as well. The offensive spurt forced Wilton to pull Mila Johnson (3 1/3 IP, four earned-runs) in favor of eighth grader Charlotte Brown.
On the opposite end of things, Recker went on to relieve Hailey Hannan in an admirable fashion. She allowed just one earned run off five hits and five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings of work, but that effort was still not enough to erase the early deficit.
“Once again, we brought Recker in and she gave up two runs but she really pitched effectively and slowed them down,” Lehman said. “We had two on again in the last inning but we just couldn’t get them home to tie the game. They had a double play for the last out. That’s just the way the ball rolls sometimes.”
Clemens continued her hitting streak with a 3-for-4 effort that included a big double. Hannan was 2-for-2 from the plate, while Menster’s lone hit in four at-bats was an RBI double. Simon finished the day at 2-for-4, as did Weber.
Cascade had very nearly faced a third ranked opponent in 2A, No. 11 Beckman on Friday, but the weather forced the game’s cancellation. Had it happened, the Cougars would have had the benefit of playing the Blazers on their home turf.