‘We were so close’: Raiders unable to get final out before Spartans rally to win sectional semifinal

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A pair of Quincy Notre Dame softball players share an emotional embrace after their season ended with Wednesday's 9-6 loss to Stanford Olympia in the Class 2A Williamsville Sectional semifinals. | Addi Zanger photo

WILLIAMSVILLE, Ill. — The Quincy Notre Dame softball team went from utter delight to bitter disappointment in less than an inning.

With it, the Raiders’ season hit its end.

Morgan Zanger’s three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth gave QND a two-run lead in the Class 2A Williamsville Sectional semifinal against Stanford Olympia, but the Spartans answered with a five-run, two-out rally in the top of the seventh to advance with a 9-6 victory.

The Raiders were one strike away from earning their spot in Friday’s sectional championship game against Auburn, but the Spartans’ Lydia Rutledge fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before hitting a two-run triple to left field that gave Olympia the lead for good.

“They battled, they battled,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “We were so close, being one out away. So it’s kind of hard to accept right now, but just incredibly proud of this team and what they did.”

The Raiders (19-5) gave themselves an opportunity.

Stanford Olympia’s Danika Frazier staked the Spartans to a 2-0 lead when she followed Kat Springer’s single with a home run to center field. QND starter Cailtin Bunte settled in after that and didn’t allow another run until the sixth.

Meanwhile, the Raiders got to the University of Illinois-bound Frazier in the third inning.

After Brooke Boden walked leading off, Morgan Zanger singled and Lauren Miller walked to load the bases. Payton Stupavsky dropped a single into right field to plate two runs and tie the game.

“We came in with the right attitude and we were really excited to just go out and give it our best,” Zanger said. “And we did, and we put some hits together in big moments and we worked through it really well. We’re really good at staying together.”

Boden’s single in the fourth inning drove in Alyssa Ley, who had singled and advanced on a passed ball, to give the Raiders the lead. It stayed that way until the sixth when the Spartans’ Gabby Frye drove in two runs with a one-out single up the middle.

That one-run lead didn’t last long.

Ley led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, Boden reached on an error and Zanger drove a three-run home run to center field.

“I feel like I’ve been due, perhaps, because I’ve taken a couple of games where I haven’t gotten hits,” Zanger said. “I’ve reached the base, but I haven’t made that solid contact that I’ve wanted. And today, I just felt like I saw it a whole lot better. And I went in and had no thoughts in my head and it went really well.”

The Raiders had a chance to extend the lead as Miller walked and Marah Becks reached on an error one out later, but a popout and a groundout ended the threat.

Bunte retired the first two hitters in the top of the seventh on a lineout and a groundout but consecutive singles by Springer and Frazier plated one run, trimming the deficit to 6-5. A catcher’s interference call allowed Springer to reach safely before Rutledge tripled.

The Spartans tacked on two more runs on a Frye single and a Sarah Cross triple.

Bunte singled leading off the bottom of the seventh, but Frazier got three consecutive outs to end the game.

“I talked to Caitlin after the game and I just told her you’ve got to use this as motivation,” Orne said. “We just got to be able to find a way to get that 21st out that we missed out on today. But like I said, what great at bats we had by Morgan Zanger and Morgan Winking, just up and down the lineup. We kept battling and to do that to give ourselves an opportunity to win was amazing.

“It hurts right now, and you just gotta figure it out.”

Zanger finished 4 for 5 with three RBIs, while Stupavsky went 3 for 4 and Winking and Ley each had two hits. Bunte struck out 13 and walked none, allowing seven earned runs and 11 hits. Frazier allowed 13 hits and five earned runs while striking out six and walking four.

“You can’t ever count yourself out,” Zanger said. “The game is not won before you go into it because we’ve played a whole lot of teams that are really, really good. We go into it knowing that we’re the underdogs and we just gotta fight through it. We can’t underestimate our team because whenever we’re put together, we work together really well and we can make some really cool things happen.”

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