After last week's lackluster 4-1 loss to Homestead that broke the Germantown softball team's 51-game North Shore Conference winning streak, Warhawk co-coach Kurt Raguse read the team the riot act about its lack of aggressiveness at the plate.
Well, senior shortstop Erika Berry and the rest of the team heard the message loud and clear Thursday night, as the four-year letterwinning Berry hit a first pitch leadoff double to start the game and then launched a two-run homer in the second as the Warhawks cruised to an 11-2 WIAA regional final victory over North Shore rival Nicolet.
"It's kind of hard sometimes when you don't hit as well as you'd like to," said Berry, who finished with three hits on the night. "As a leader I just try to set an example. We all try to help each other out."
It succeeded as the Warhawks finished with 19 hits for the game.
The Warhawks (15-8 overall) will try to use that example as they take dead aim at their third straight WIAA State Tournament berth. They will host archrival Homestead at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 3 in a sectional semifinal game. The sectional final will be back at Germantown on Thursday, June 5. Top-seeded Brookfield Central will host DSHA in the other sectional semifinal.
It's a wide open sectional, there for the taking, said Raguse.
"Anybody can beat anybody," said Raguse, and then he laughed when he discovered that the team was going to play Homestead again.
"Here we go again," he said.
The offense got off to a positive start in the first as after Berry's double, she was sacrificed to third by Haley Johnson and then scored on Carly Szada's sacrifice fly.
But the Warhawks really revved up in the second inning, notching six hits including Berry's majestic moon-ball of a two-run homer down the leftfield line. It was her second home run of the season.
That big blast had been preceded by a two-run single from second baseman Bailey Kochevar. Kochevar, a recent call-up from the junior varsity, would finish with three hits and four RBI on the night.
"She's a solid defensive second baseman," said Raguse of Kochevar, "but the primary reason why we brought her up is that we were just not getting enough production out of that position. She started out slow, but lately, she's been helping a lot."
And when Germantown tacked on three more runs in the third (another two-run single by Kochevar keyed the rally for the Warhawks), that's all pitcher Jordan Wood would need.
She struck out five of the first six batters she faced and finished with eight "Ks" in four shutout innings before giving way to Kim Soderberg, who is battling back from a broken finger.
"Jordan really set a tone for us," said Raguse.
Germantown closed out its scoring in the fourth as Michaela Buchholz had an RBI single and Sarah Richmond knocked in two runs with a single of her own. In that frame, the Warhawks succeeded in chasing Knight starter Amanda Mehl. Reliever Ania Kotecki did manage to shut the Warhawks out in the final two innings.
Nicolet's returning NOW All-Suburban shortstop Edyn Herbert gave the Knights something to cheer about in the fifth with a booming two-run home run to right-center off of Soderberg, but it wasn't enough.
It was a frustrating night for Nicolet coach Teri Green whose team finished a competitive season at 10-12 and whose team had played a close game with Germantown in the regular season closer last week.
"We had played two tough full games against them (in the regular season) but they got the hits tonight," said said. "Their aggressiveness on the basepaths (the Warthawks were always taking the extra base on hits) really hurt us too, It's not how we really wanted it to work out."
Raguse hopes the Warhawks continue to hit.
"We've been trying to get them to do that all year," he said. "We've been trying to get them to understand that if they come out and hit the (other team's) mistakes early on, they will be successful.
"I like it when they make me look smart like that."
Berry said the team will try to remain smart.
"We're going into sectional pretty confident," she said. "We just have to go in there and play clean on every ball, play as hard as we know how. We'll have each other's back and try to stay positive."
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