The Denmark Lady Vikes varsity softball team is one game away from the 2018 WIAA State Tournament after a 4-3 win at West De Pere High School on Tuesday in a sectional semifinal game.
A two-run homer from senior catcher Abby Chada in the first got Denmark out to an explosive start.
“I think our team starts better when we lead first rather than later,” said Chada. “I think that gave us some extra motivation to get a great win like we did.”
Defensively, the Lady Vikes stood strong against a high-powered West De Pere squad as they protected a 2-0 lead, but in the fourth inning the Phantoms got a runner on base and did not let the opportunity slip away.
Freshman infielder Alexa Thomson took a base on balls leading off, the first and only walk dished out Denmark pitcher Grace Nys on Tuesday. Thomson was able to score from second base on an RBI single from junior infielder Anna Young. Junior outfielder Hannah Bearson also scored from third on a two-out past ball to tie the game heading into the fifth inning.
“We just said to relax and get out of the inning,” said Denmark head coach Mike Vakselis. “I was confident we were going to get chances to score again.”
Confidence paid off, but not without patience.
Denmark junior second baseman Alayna Derricks cracked a double leading off the top of the fifth inning. Derricks was stranded at first base for two batters, but then the order came back around for senior right field Breanna Collins and Chada—each had the patience to earn walks and loaded the bases with two outs on the board. Then, when opportunity struck, Derricks sprinted to the dish on a wild pitch to retake the lead for Denmark, 3-2.
A three-up, three-down winning for West De Pere and a scoreless sixth for the Lady Vikes brought on a high-pressure situation for the Phantom offense.
With the top of the order up, it led to a two-out RBI double for Young, who bats fourth. Despite the superb defense by Denmark, the elusive offensive tactics from the young Phantoms would tie things up at three runs apiece.
Senior experience proved the deciding factor in the seventh inning when Denmark asserted its superiority over West De Pere, whose senior-less roster committed crucial defensive mistakes when they could least afford them.
The top of the order was due up for Denmark—led by five seniors.
A base on balls for Taylor Ullman brought up Breanna Collins, who reached first on a fielder’s choice. However, the fielder threw it to second baseman Breanna Schneider who could not keep control, leaving both Ullman and Collins safe at second and first, respectively.
Denmark first baseman Taylor Wochenske followed a strikeout with a bunt attempt which De Pere pitcher Genesis Eggart tried to snag and throw to first baseman Anna Young.
Young was in bad position and couldn’t hang onto the ball, giving way to an Ullman score from third and Wochenske safe on first.
West De Pere got out of inning, but that came with a price. Denmark led 4-3 heading into the seventh.
Nys, again, proved her worth on the mound. She threw a three-up, three-down inning, her fifth in a gem of a game. Nys struck out eight, allowed just four hits and three runs in the victory.
“Honestly it just feels really good and makes me comfortable knowing that your teammates have your back and feel like family,” Nys said after the game Tuesday evening.
Nys has improved throughout her last season-and-a-half as the varsity ace, and her teammates have noticed.
“Compared to freshman year, she was throwing wild, and now she’s really controlled herself,” said catcher Abby Chada. “She’s doing great things for our team and also motivating our team to great wins.”
The Lady Vikes now find themselves where their season ended last year: in the sectional championship game. It’s no slight task, as the Lady Vikes painfully discovered last season, but it’s one for which this year’s squad ready.
“We got the experience last year, although we didn’t get it done,” said Vakselis. “We have had this circled on our calendar and now we have the opportunity to redeem ourselves.”
Denmark’s redemption will kick-off against Winneconne at 4:30 p.m. The neutral site sectional championship game will take place at Wrightstown High School with a trip to state on the line.