Bundle of returning talent has QND softball players eyeing another deep postseason run


The return of senior third baseman Brooke Boden, who will also pitch, gives the Quincy Notre Dame softball team a bonafide leader in pursuit of another shot at a Class 2A state tournament appearance. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Brooke Boden hasn’t forgotten just how close the Quincy Notre Dame softball team came to winning a state trophy last season.

“I’ll be sitting in class and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, man,’” the senior third baseman said. “I just look back on it and think, ‘Wow, we were there.’”

The Raiders’ epic postseason run last spring, which included a seventh-inning rally in the sectional semifinal and an 11-inning victory in the sectional championship, ended with a 7-6 loss to Effingham St. Anthony in the Class 2A super-sectional with the tying run left on base.

“I think about that game almost every day,” Boden said.

It’s not to dwell on it, but instead to get motivated by it.

And motivation is no issue with this group.

“We’re still capable of going after a state tournament berth this year,” junior pitcher/first baseman Caitlin Bunte said ahead of Thursday’s season opener at Southeastern. “We carry a lot of talent with us. We’re just excited to see what comes.”

It could be something special.

The Raiders finished 24-5 last season with a strong senior class anchoring the attack. Their graduation — the biggest turnover QND coach Eric Orne has seen in two decades — means they will open the season with three new starting infielders and some shifts on the infield.

Yet, there’s experience at the corners, in the pitcher’s circle and behind the plate to go with a determination that’s palpable.

“We have to put in the hard work now,” Boden said. “A lot of the work happens now so we can trust ourselves in making a play, getting a hit, getting on base when it matters most.”

Said Bunte, “A lot of us carry that love for the game. If we can join together and put all of our heads together, we can definitely continue and push further.”

They will be the tone-setters. Bunte earned Class 2A first-team all-state honors last season as she hit .620 with a .675 on-base percentage and a 1.152 slugging percentage. She had 11 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs and 36 RBIs with 41 runs scored and just nine strikeouts in 114 plate appearances.

In the circle, Bunte started 16 games, threw 129 ⅓ innings and put together a 16-5 record with a 1.95 ERA. She struck out 162 and walked 16.

Boden hit .471 with a team-leading 14 doubles and 30 RBIs. She also went 6-0 in the circle with a 1.41 ERA over eight starts and 34 ⅔ innings. She struck out 51 and walked five.

They will share the pitching duties this season.

“They are going to be expected to pitch a lot of hard innings,” Orne said. “They have to be stronger, show a little more maturity this year.”

Alyssa Ley, a junior, shifts from second base to shortstop and will anchor the infield defense, while senior Payton Stupavsky returns behind the plate where she had a .969 fielding percentage and threw out four would-be base stealers.

The competition at second base and in the outfield is ongoing, but Orne is confident this group has the talent to fill those spots.

“There’s some inexperience in the outfield,” Orne said. “They’re still working through that process, but we’ll figure it out.”

To give his team the opportunity to adjust to a new lineup and cut down on the wear and tear of his pitchers, Orne scheduled the season to open a week later than usual and cut back on the number of games. He hopes a fresher team will be ready for another postseason run.

The Raiders expect it.

“The chemistry of knowing each and trusting each other goes a long way,” Boden said. “There are a couple aspects that need some work. By the time our first varsity game rolls around, we’ll be just fine. And we’ll keep getting better from there.”

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