Late charge propels Bears to regional softball title

Bonduel tops Crandon, Manawa to move on
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Bonduel High School softball team rallied from an early deficit before putting together a big inning late to earn a 7-2 Division 4 regional title win over Manawa on May 25 in Bonduel.

Top-seeded Bonduel fell behind 2-0 after fifth-seeded Manawa scored in the first and second innings. The Bears tied things up in the bottom of the second, and the game remained deadlocked until the sixth, when the hosts erupted for five runs to pull away.

“For some reason, we always like to start down, so we know that we’re fine,” said Bonduel’s Hailee Thompson. “Coming back, I had total faith in our team.”

“For our seniors, it’s really special because they’ve done so much for our program, and at the end of the day, we work our butts off for them because they’ve put so much time and effort in, and our coaches are great to us,” she continued. “We just really put in all the time and effort behind the scenes that obviously you never see, but it truly pays off in the end.”

Thompson tied the contest at 2-2 in the second after delivering a bases-loaded single that plated two runs.

After some shaky defense helped Manawa score in the first and second innings off Bonduel starter Nakiyah Henning, the team decided to put Hailey Zernicke in the circle starting in the third.

Thanks to some stellar defense behind her, Zernicke was able to hold their Central Wisconsin Conference-East Division counterparts scoreless the rest of the game, not allowing a hit across those five innings.

“It’s nice to have defense behind you,” said Zernicke. “It gives you a lot more confidence when you’re pitching, and our defense really stepped up tonight — made a lot of big plays. It helped with the mindset in the circle.”

Thompson made several highlight reel plays from her shortstop position for the Bears. Third baseman Macy Niles also made her fair share of big plays.

“We kind of just told ourselves that we have to give it everything we got, nothing to lose,” said Niles. “So when we started playing really good defense, then we were able to hit and we brought the momentum up overall, and it was really nice.”

Henning made arguably the top defensive play in the fifth inning in deep left field.

With runners on first and second and only one down, Henning made a spectacular grab on a ball that looked destined to be a three-run homer. The off-balance catch kept runners at first and second, and Zernicke induced a groundout to end the threat.

In the deciding sixth inning, Bonduel was finally able to score some baserunners after stranding several over the course of the contest.

Allison Zernicke walked to start the inning, and then Joselyn Bohm stepped in as courtesy runner. Bonduel attempted to bunt Bohm over to second base, but the bunt attempt was pulled back. Bohm was still able to safely slide into second, and that play helped spark the big inning.

Abby Stoltenow walked before Tatum Sporisky reached on an infield single to load the bases. Thompson singled to bring home Bohm before Hailey Zernicke delivered a two-RBI single, scoring Stoltenow and Sporisky.

After a popup for the first out, Henning reached on a bunt single to load the bases again. Niles was plunked by a pitch to force home Thompson, and then Ella Hischke plated courtesy runner Sarah Garside with a sacrifice flyout.

“We just told ourselves that we had to do it now. You never want to wait until the last inning because you never know what can happen,” said Niles. “We all just picked each other up, and we were able to do it.”

“Once things are rolling, that’s when the team’s energy is pumping. Everybody is ready to go; everybody is fired up,” said Thompson. “We’re screaming in our dugout. We got a bunch of new cheers, and it’s just the life of the party in the dugout sometimes.”

Thompson made another diving catch to open the seventh inning, and Hailey Zernicke was able to work around a walk to finish off the win for the Bears.

Bonduel will host another CWC-East foe in the next round of playoff action, facing third-seeded Iola-Scandinavia on May 30 in Bonduel.

In its first postseason game, the Bears dismantled eighth-seeded Crandon 17-2 in a three-inning contest on May 23 in Bonduel.

Bonduel trailed 2-0 after a half inning before scoring eight runs in their half of the first. Bonduel added eight runs in the second and one in the third.

Stoltenow, Thompson and Allison Zernicke each posted two hits for the Bears, while Stoltenow, Thompson, Allison Zernicke, Sporisky and Henning drove in two runs apiece.

Thompson homered and scored three runs. Stoltenow, Sporisky, Henning, Allison Zernicke and Hailey Zernicke all crossed home plate twice. Henning earned the win in the circle.