With senior Kelcie Bormann firing away from the pitcher’s circle with a solid defense behind her, Preston softball coach Sarah Manning doesn’t get too concerned when her team is in a tight game.
That certainly was the case as the fourth-ranked Trojans clung to a 2-1 lead against visiting Alburnett on Monday night in the Class 1A Region 3 semifinal.
“I know we can hold teams to two or fewer runs,” Manning said.
There was no need to sweat it out either — other than the heat and humidity — as the Trojans made the two runs they scored in the first inning stand up for the 2-1 win. Only 14th-ranked Janesville stands between Preston (28-6) and a return trip to next week’s state tournament in Fort Dodge. The two ranked teams go at it in the regional final at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Farley.
“We have the mentality to win. We just want to win. It doesn’t matter how,” said senior catcher Megan Zeimet, who delivered the only runs the Trojans needed with a two-run home run in the first inning.
Like her coach, Bormann (26-4) was comfortable with the slim lead. She limited the Pirates (28-14) to two hits, and her 12 strikeouts pushed her season total over the 300 mark to 311.
“I hardly ever get nervous,” Bormann said. “I’m just comfortable on the mound. I always feel comfortable. I’ve been playing softball since I was 10. Confidence in my defense helps a lot.”
Bormann set the tone on the offensive side, as well. With Preston serving as the visiting team on the scoreboard, she grounded the first pitch of the game through the hole into left field for a leadoff single.
“If I get on, we have good batters behind me who will get me in,” she said. “My goal is to get on base.”
Moments later, Bormann and Zeimet were crossing the plate after Zeimet blasted a 2-2 pitch from Jacqueline Naeve onto the small hill beyond the left-field fence for her second home run of the season.
“It was right down the middle,” Zeimet said. “Anyone could have hit it.”
Before Bormann even threw her first pitch she was sitting on a 2-0 lead.
“It takes off a lot of pressure knowing we’re ahead,” Bormann said.
Bormann and her defense took care of the rest in the field.
“It wasn’t my best outing; I was a little wild tonight,” said Bormann, who issued three walks — two on four pitches — and threw a wild pitch. “Still, I was proud of how I did.”
Bormann walked the leadoff batter in each of the first two innings, and it came back to bite her the second time. Danica Windfield walked and was sacrificed to second base, then scored with two outs when Kay Drymon’s line drive that was headed up the middle ricochetted off second base and was redirected into left field for Alburnett’s first hit. The bounce allowed Windfield to score easily.
Bormann allowed just two more baserunners the rest of the way, and only one of them got past first base. Marrissa Griffin was behind that threat when she reached on an infield single with one out in the third inning. She eventually stole second with one out and third with two, but Bormann struck out Naeve and Amber Wieland to end the threat.
The only other Pirate to reach base was Mackinze Carrothers on a two-out walk in the fourth. Bormann retired the final 10 batters after that.
The Trojans could have made things a little easier on themselves, but they left nine runners on base, including six in scoring position over the first four innings.
“I felt confident, but there was the worry that could come back,” Zeimet said of the missed opportunities.
But, backed by a flawless defense, Bormann made sure there was no need to worry.
PRESTON 2, ALBURNETT 1
Preston 200 000 0 — 2 7 0
Alburnett 010 000 0 — 1 2 3
Kelcie Bormann (W 26-4, 7 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 1 er, 3 bb, 12 so) and Megan Zeimet; Jacqueline Naeve (L 12-12, 7 ip, 7 h, 2 r, 2 er, 1 bb, 3 so) and Codi Stick. Multiple hits — None. 2B — Preston (Larissa Ruchotzke). HR — Preston (Zeimet). RBIs — Preston (Zeimet 2); Alburnett (Kay Drymon).