QND softball team’s ability to battle and rally will serve it well in postseason
QUINCY — Eric Orne isn’t shying away from putting the Quincy Notre Dame softball team in high-leverage situations before the postseason arrives.
“These are championship Saturdays for us,” the veteran skipper said after the Raiders suffered a 7-6 loss to Tolono Unity on Saturday at The Backyard. “These are the kind of teams and the kind of games you’re going to have in the regional and sectional. You have to be ready.”
The Raiders realized they can put themselves in position to win such a game.
“We battled really well,” sophomore pitcher Caitlin Bunte said. “We kept trying to come back and we stayed confident. We tried to work together as a team. That’s what we have to do. We have to keep battling so we can make it over that hill.”
QND erased three deficits, only to see Tolono Unity, which was ranked 10th in the Class 2A preseason state poll, get a leadoff home run from Sophia Beckett in the top of the seventh to take the lead for good.
The Raiders (15-3) weren’t done though. Alyssa Ley led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, and Addi Zanger dropped down a sacrifice bunt that moved pinch-runner Paige Blivens to second base with one out. A strikeout and a flyout ended the game.
“We definitely have a lot of potential to make it over that hill,” Bunte said. “We have to keep pushing each other to make each other better.”
All it takes is seizing the momentum.
The Rockets built a 3-0 lead before the Raiders responded with three runs in the bottom of the second. With two outs, Payton Stupavsky doubled, Mackenzie Flachs walked and Bunte jacked a three-run home run to center field.
Two two-our runs in the fifth inning gave Tolono Unity the lead again, but QND put two runners in scoring position with one out in the bottom of the fifth as Brooke Boden singled and Ley doubled. After Zanger struck out, Logan Pieper came on as a pinch-hitter and stroked a double to right-center field to plate both runs and tie the game at 5.
“I knew I had a job to do,” Pieper said. “He put me in for a reason. I had a job and I had to do it.”
The teams traded runs in the sixth as the Rockets scored on a bases-loaded walk and Bunte smashed a solo home run to left-center field.
The Raiders couldn’t answer one more time in the seventh.
“But we really stuck together and battled,” Pieper said.
That’s as important as anything.
“We have the encouragement to keep everybody going and to keep everybody together,” Pieper said. “Even though we get down a couple runs, we can still come right back. It pushed us to be better and grow together.”
It’s going to make the Raiders a tough out in the postseason.
“I told them, ‘I saw something in you today that makes me feel good going into the next two weeks of the regular season,’” Orne said.
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