By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CAMANCHE — Everything appeared in perfect alignment for the Camanche Indians to clinch at least a share of the Big East Conference softball title Monday on their home field.
They carried the momentum of a 1-0 victory in the first game into the second, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning. And even when Marquette Catholic answered by getting two of those runs back in the bottom of the first, a two-run home run by Jordan Nissen pushed the lead back to five in the top of the second.
But, Marquette’s team that’s loaded with players back from last year’s state tournament squad, remained calm, kept chipping away and eventually came away with an 8-7 victory.
“After the first game that we lost and that first inning when they got five runs we could have put our heads down and given up, but all year we’ve been a team that’s come back when we’ve been down,” Marquette senior Sarah Lampe said.
Besides earning the split, the win guaranteed the Mohawks at least a share of the league title.
“It’s a great feeling to come away as conference champs,” Marquette’s Bella Berthel said. “It was definitely a nerve-wracking game. Our team really pulled through.”
Camanche still can share the title if it can sweep Calamus-Wheatland on Wednesday night.
“We came in tonight and I told them we have to win at least one and beat Cal-Wheat to at least share the title, so we might as well win the first one,” first-year Camanche coach Erin Schlotfeldt said. “So they came out and played hard there. I know they were really excited to win the second game, and it didn’t work out for us and they were really upset. But we can still spoil Marquette’s celebration and make them split the title with us.”
The opener was a pitchers duel between Camanche’s Morgan Mussmann and Marquette’s Danielle Bender. Although Marquette put more runners on base, the Indians managed to push the only run across the plate.
Allie Lefebure, Camanche’s right fielder who cut down a runner at the plate trying to score on a flyout in the third inning, started the rally. She led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a smash back up the middle.
A sacrifice bunt by Sydney Grell advanced Lefebure to second, and she advanced to third on Mussmann’s single to left. Addison McDanel ran for Mussmann and moved to second on a groundout, while Lefebure remained at third.
That brought up catcher Jordan Goldbeck, Camanche’s No. 9 hitter, with two outs. She hit a tapper in front of the plate, and Bender charged to field it and tried for the play at the plate instead of going to first, where she might have had a better chance for an out. The throw was late, and Lefebure slid across the plate with the only run of the game.
“Two outs and you’re going on anything, so I just went my hardest, and we were lucky enough that they didn’t get home with it,” Lefebure said.
“I thought they were going to get me,” Goldbeck said. “I didn’t really know what happened. I thought they threw when I got to first, and coach is like, ‘No, you’re safe.’ I was like, ‘Oh, that’s good. We scored then.’ “
A sweep seemed imminent when the Indians battered Marquette starter Nicole Blum for five hits and five runs while batting around to open Game 2.
“It (the first win) definitely got our confidence up,” Goldbeck said.
Lindsey Grams and Kylie Vogel started the game with singles, and a walk to Nissen loaded the bases. With one out, Lefebure launched a deep fly to left that left fielder Theresa Koos got to but couldn’t catch for a two-run double. Maddie Parker and Goldbeck added run-scoring singles later in the inning.
“Then we think we’re OK,” Lefebure said.
“We don’t keep going with it,” Goldbeck said. “That’s something we need to work on.”
The Mohawks, meanwhile, refused to wilt.
“It took a lot of guts for us to come back,” Berthel said. “We were all down. Everybody was trying to keep everybody up.”
Sarah Lampe and Blum started the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles, and they both scored on a single by Berthel.
“It’s great to have people on base when I’m up to bat because it gives me the confidence to know that I can get a base hit and score two runs,” Berthel said.
Bender came in to pitch in the second, and Vogel led off with a single and Nissen followed with her blast over the left-field fence to make it 7-2. But, Bender settled down after that.
“Jordan’s awesome home run, then we feel safe, but we still need to keep scoring,” Lefebure said.
“I felt good that we were able to come out and get as many runs, but when they switched their pitchers up I think it was probably the best move they could have made,” Camanche coach Erin Schlotfeldt said. The whole demeanor of the game kind of changed then. We didn’t play with the sense of urgency that we need to score more runs.
Meanwhile, the Mohawks kept coming back.
Marquette scored twice in the bottom of the second, one run coming in on a groundout and the other when Blum got in a rundown between first and second that allowed Lampe to score.
The Mohawks pulled even in the fifth, thanks in part to an error that prevented a forceout at second. Later in the inning Berthel delivered again, with a two-run double to center field that tied the game at 7.
“It got us very pumped up,” Berthel said. “I was very confident, and the whole dugout was pumped up. We knew we could come back and win.”
Marquette won it in the sixth when Koos led off with her third hit of the game. A pair of sacrifices moved her to third base, then Lampe, a left-handed slap hitter, lofted a fly ball over pulled-in left fielder Grell for a double that gave the Mohawks their first lead of the day.
“I was pretty much just thinking, make contact,” Lampe said. “I knew if I got it over the outfielder’s head that would be ideal, but my thing is I see contact and wherever it goes, it goes. I just happened to place it perfectly that time.”
Marquette couldn’t exhale quite yet, though. Camanche threatened when Mussmann and Parker opened the seventh with singles. But Marquette escaped once when courtesy runner Baily Mensinger was thrown out trying to score on a grounder and again when a pitch got past Berthel but ricocheted hard off the wood portion of the backstop and bounced back to her, preventing a runner from trying to score from third.
“Thank God for that backstop,” Berthel said. “I saw the ball go past me and I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ It’s a good thing they have a wooden backstop. It just bounced right back to me, a lifesaver there.”
Now, it’s up to Camanche and Calamus-Wheatland to determine how the conference race ends.
“It makes me a little nervous (losing the way they did), but knowing that we didn’t get this last game and we didn’t get for sure the conference title, that we’re going to play 10 times harder to beat Cal-Wheat so that we do get to at least share the title,” Lefebure said.
CAMANCHE 1, MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 0
Marquette 000 000 0 — 0 7 0
Camanche 000 010 x — 1 4 0
Danielle Bender (6 ip, 4 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 3 so) and Bella Berthel; Morgan Mussmann (7 ip, 7 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 6 so) and Jordan Goldbeck. Multiple hits — Marquette (Blake Banowetz 2); Camanche (Goldbeck 2). 2B — Marquette (Banowetz). RBI — Camanche (Goldbeck).
MARQUETTE CATHOLIC 8, CAMANCHE 7
Camanche 520 000 0 — 7 12 1
Marquette 220 031 x — 8 11 2
Morgan Mussmann (2 ip, 5 h, 4 r, 4 er, 1 bb, 1 so), Kelsey Sexton (3 ip, 4 h, 3 r, 2 er, 0 bb, 5 so), Mussmann (1 ip, 2 h, 1 r, 1 er, 0 bb, 0 so) and Goldbeck; Nicole Blum (1 ip Multiple hits — Camanche (Kyle Vogel 3, Maddie Parker 2); Marquette (Sarah Lampe 3, Theresa Koos 3, Berthel 2). 2B — Camanche (Allie Lefebure, Vogel); Marquette (Berthel, Banowetz, Lampe). HR — Camanche (Jordan Nissen). RBIs — Camanche (Lefebure 2, Parker, Goldbeck, Nissen 2); Marquette (Berthel 4, Liz Gonner, Lampe).