Momentum-swinging plays send Raiders home with regional title and another chance to play at The Backyard
CANTON, Ill. — Caitlin Bunte needed one pitch to erase a threat and one swing to start an onslaught.
It all took place in a matter of minutes.
“It’s what she’s done all year long. She made great adjustments in the circle and then comes up and hits a blast,” Quincy Notre Dame softball coach Eric Orne said. “That kind of got everybody loose and got us going.”
With runners at second and third base and two outs in the top of the third inning of Friday’s Class 2A Canton Regional championship, QND’s sophomore southpaw induced an inning-ending groundout to shortstop Abbey Schreacke. Moments later, Bunte led off the bottom of the frame with a solo home run to left-center field to give the Raiders a 1-0 advantage.
QND rolled from there, defeating Canton 10-0 to capture its fourth regional title in a row.
“When things get tense like that, and they get runners on, we know Bunte is going to do her job in the circle,” Schreacke said. “We’re always going to have her back. When we can make big plays like getting that last out it really does just release the tension on everybody.”
The victory gives the Raiders (22-4) at least one more game at The Backyard as they will host next week’s sectional.
“I like how we play at home. I think The Backyard is where we play some of our best softball,” Orne said. “I think the atmosphere is going to be great because it’s the late game and we’re under the lights. That’s exciting this time of year. You want to be doing that.”
Schreacke is eager for another chance to play on her home digs.
“It’s the best place to play and it’s our favorite place to play,” she said.
QND will play the winner of Saturday’s Buffalo Tri-City Regional title tilt between Stanford Olympia and Carlinville at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Macomb will face Auburn in the other semifinal at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s really exciting,” Bunte said. “All of us worked really hard to try and get here. Coach Orne talked this week about how we have to go in with a chip on our shoulder and we have to play hard because we don’t want it to be our last game.”
Another sophomore made sure the season continued.
Morgan Zanger, batting fifth in the lineup as the designated player, had three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-run double in QND’s five-run fifth inning.
“I was excited and nervous,” Zanger said. “I knew that I can hit. I just had to get through the nerves first.”
Orne said Zanger deserved the opportunity to play a larger role.
“She’s been working hard and getting in some extra hitting after practice. When we’ve had our practices she’s been stinging the ball,” Orne said. “I had a lot of confidence going into it and I think she did herself. I think that made a big difference in her approach today.”
“Morgan has worked her tail off all year. She’s done so well,” Bunte said. “She’s been put in these high-pressure situations yet she’s still able to perform and do her best.”
Addi Zanger, Alyssa Ley and Payton Stupavsky had two hits apiece for the Raiders. Stupavsky’s RBI single in the bottom of the 6th inning cemented the victory.
Bunte tossed a complete game and struck out six while scattering six hits. Canton (10-16) only had one runner reach third base.
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