Raiders embrace challenges, produce in late-inning situations to fend off feisty Blue Devils
QUINCY — The manner in which the Quincy Notre Dame softball team ran roughshod through the first third of its schedule meant the Raiders weren’t put in many late-game situations that challenged their resolve.
Then came Monday.
After Caitlin Bunte laser-beamed a two-run home run to right field in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Raiders a one-run lead, Quincy High School responded the next inning with Paige Kurfman’s one-out RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 3.
Suddenly, every at-bat took on added importance.
“Ten-ruling people is fun, but at the same time, when we go see harder teams that can make plays, we have to be able to find a way,” QND catcher Payton Stupavsky said. “We haven’t really seen that or had to do that.”
It didn’t keep her from coming up clutch.
Pinch-hitter Morgan Zanger singled with one out in the bottom of the sixth, and after pinch-runner Laela Hernandez-Jones stole second base, Stupvasky drove a sharp single to right field to plate the go-ahead run and kickstart a three-run inning that propelled the Raiders to a 6-3 victory at The Backyard.
“I came up there knowing the team needed me,” Stupavsky said. “Caitlin had delivered before with the home run, giving us the lead earlier. Then (the Blue Devils) came back. So I was trying to relax and calm down and focus. I wanted to do it for the girls who help me everyday.”
Bunte then made sure the lead wouldn’t be threatened, setting the Blue Devils down in order in the seventh, including striking out the final two hitters. The sophomore left-hander struck out eight, walked none and allowed two earned runs and seven hits.
She had to show her own resolve after allowing single runs in the first and third innings.
“The Blue Devils had a competitive edge the first three innings,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “They really came out focused and did a great job putting us up against the wall. We had to fight a little bit.”
Jaylen Lubbert’s two-out single in the first inning was followed by Kurfman tripling to right field for a 1-0 lead. In the third, Kate Mettemeyer doubled on a hard grounder inside the third-base bag and scored on Avary Hlubek’s single up the middle in the next at-bat.
“We hit the ball from the get-go and forced them to have to play defense,” QHS coach Darrell Henze said. “I want to see us play with no fear and build off that. I know what our weaknesses are, but I also know what our strengths are. Our strength is with our bats and hitting when we need to hit.”
The Raiders (14-1) got one run back in the fourth when Abbey Schreacke led off with a walk, went to third on Brooke Boden’s single and scored one out later on an errant throw on Addi Zanger’s sacrifice bunt. In the fifth, Carlee Gilker led off with a walk for QND, and Bunte followed with the two-run home run — her sixth round-tripper of the season.
“We got some really good at-bats where we just got some people on base and moved the lineup,” Orne said. “We worked at it.”
The fact the Raiders had to dig in and grind through at-bats in the late innings is valuable experience, especially in a week in which matchups against Buffalo Tri-City, Alton Marquette and Tolono Unity await.
“Our competition is being upped because our schedule is loaded at the end of the year,” Orne said. “We showed some experience, and when some things didn’t go our way, we handled it.”
Kayden Smith limited the Raiders to five hits as the QHS right-hander struck out five, walked six and allowed five earned runs. Kurfman had two of the Blue Devils’ seven hits, while Boden had two of the Raiders’ knocks.
“I always have a lot of faith in our team,” Stupavsky said. “We work really hard and well together to get where we are, and I think we just have to keep doing that everyday.”
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