Softball: Luxemburg-Casco sweeps Oconto Falls

Panthers tally just one run across pair of losses to Spartans
By: 

Greg Bates, Times Herald Correspondent

With the end of the regular season approaching quickly, every game becomes critical.

Oconto Falls softball coach Cory Albrecht knew scoring a pair of wins in a doubleheader vs. Luxemburg-Casco would go a long way in getting a favorable seed come playoff time.

However, Oconto Falls struggled to get a key hit while combining to score just one run as Luxemburg-Casco earned a sweep 5-0, 3-1 in North Eastern Conference action on a cold Friday afternoon in Oconto Falls.

“This was the week we wanted to get back on a roll,” said Albrecht after the Game 1 loss. “We wanted to get things going right before regionals, and it was one that got away from us a little bit.”

Oconto Falls (7-11, 7-8 conference) tallied six hits in the doubleheader opener and stranded six runners on base.

“The first few batters, we had line drives right at them,” Albrecht said. “We were hitting the ball and seeing the ball well, making good contact.”

Albrecht has watched his hitters be streaky at the plate all season. The players are hot one game and cold the next, but Albrecht is seeing progress from his young hitters.

“We are starting to see some improvements, we’ve just got to start making solid contact,” he said.

Luxemburg-Casco (11-4, 10-3), on the other hand, collected big hits when it needed them the most. The Spartans set the tone early, sending seven hitters to the plate in the opening inning against Oconto Falls pitcher Josie Tolzman. McKenzie Hanson had an RBI hit and Ally Dart – the team’s pitcher – followed with a two-run double to make it 3-0.

Luxemburg-Casco had a two-out rally in the fourth as Brianna Prevost stepped to the plate and delivered a two-RBI single.

Oconto Falls had its biggest threat of the game in the sixth. The Panthers had first and second with one out, but consecutive groundouts ended the inning without producing a run.

In the seventh inning, pinch hitter Sam Shallow stroked a single to get the Panthers in business. After an out, pinch hitter Abbi Remic grounded into a fielder’s choice. Oconto Falls’ last hope then flied out.

Oconto Falls managed just six hits off Dart, who wasn’t overpowering. However, Albrecht said she had a changeup that got the best of his hitters.

“We’re scratching our heads sometimes on why we can’t hit some of these pitchers that we’re facing,” Albrecht said. “It’s more a mental thing for us right now, I think, more than physical. We’ve just got to stay back and let the balls travel on some of these pitchers. Just drive the ball where the ball’s at. We’re trying to pull everything and trying to do too much. We’ve just got to get consecutive hits and get some momentum going on the offensive end.”

Luxemburg-Casco’s two key hits in the early innings made all the difference.

“Otherwise it was a pretty close game one or the other,” Luxemburg-Casco coach Don Schoen said. “Even at the end there, if they would have strung a couple together it could have got tight really fast.”

“Take those two plays away and we were right there,” Albrecht said. “You keep it a 1-0, 2-0 game and our confidence is a lot better on the offensive end.”

Tolzman pitched well for Oconto Falls, giving up 11 hits, two walks and striking out three. Her coach said Tolzman has been consistent all season in the circle.

“She’s putting it where we want it,” Albrecht said. “We know, she knows she’s not going to overpower anybody, she’s just going to pitch for outs. We’ve got other girls that throw faster, but Josie gets the job done. That’s the key, getting the job done, putting a good defense behind her. She’s definitely doing a great job this year.”

In game 2 of the doubleheader, Oconto Falls collected six hits but once again couldn’t string them together and fell 3-1.

Luxemburg-Casco put up three runs in the opening inning again as Prevost had a two-run single. Oconto Falls scored an unearned run in the third inning to cut its deficit to 3-1.

Haley Bell threw a strong game for the Panthers, surrendering two earned runs on six hits and striking out one.

The meeting to determine seeds for the playoffs will be Wednesday, May 16. Oconto Falls has a pair of state-ranked teams in its sectional with Freedom, ranked No. 5 in Division 2, and Seymour, ranked No. 6. The Panthers’ coaching staff is confident it can play with any team once the postseason gets underway on May 22.

“We’ve faced all the top teams in the regional – West De Pere and Seymour – and we want another crack at them, to be honest with you,” Albrecht said. “The Denmarks and Marinettes as well. We want a crack at all of them. As a coaching staff, we’re not afraid of any of the teams. We’ve just got to get the girls to believe that same thing.”