Softball: Folkers walk-off homer, Duncan shutout lift Morrison over Newman for regional title

Fillies ace sophomore throws two-hitter, strikes out 19 in nine-inning pitchers’ duel

Newman first baseman Sam Ackman tries to tag out a Morrison baserunner Saturday during the Class 1A Newman Regional championship in Sterling.

STERLING – Just when it seemed like the first run was about to score, an ace pitcher came through with a strikeout, or an infielder or outfielder made a clutch play to keep the game scoreless.

That’s how Saturday morning’s Class 1A Newman Regional championship between the Newman Comets and Morrison Fillies played out for eight innings.

Fillies sophomore Bella Duncan and Comets junior Ady Waldschmidt both brought their A games in the circle for the win-or-go-home matchup.

Ultimately, a Marissa Folkers leadoff home run in the bottom of the ninth inning was the dagger, as Morrison walked off with a 1-0 win and the regional title on the solo shot to right field.

“I knew I had to get it in somewhere and just hit it hard, and I had confidence in myself. I just swung hard and there it was,” Folkers said. “Right away when it hit the bat, I had that feeling, I was like, ‘That one’s gone.’ It felt so good hearing my teammates screaming for me, and I’m just so glad we won.”

“I knew it was gone right off the bat,” Duncan said. “And I could not be more proud of her.”

Both defenses made strong opening statements, as Duncan induced a groundout from the first batter she faced, then struck out two more after conceding a walk in the top of the first. Waldschmidt went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning with the help of junior Jess Johns’ double play on a flyout and tag at third.

Duncan struck out the side in the top of the second, and Waldschmidt threw two flyouts and a groundout around a Folkers walk in the bottom of the inning. Newman freshman shortstop Lucy Oetting made the first of her three highlight plays in the field for the first out, hauling in an over-the-shoulder catch in shallow center field.

The Comets (12-10) threatened to score in the top of the third after junior Addison Foster drew a leadoff walk and stole second with no outs while freshman Brenleigh Cook was up to bat. But Duncan had other plans. The sophomore struck out Cook and junior Madison Duhon back to back, then caught a Waldschmidt pop fly for the third out.

“We played really well together. We were all really excited,” Waldschmidt said. “We are really close, and it’s really, really emotional for all of us since we only have one senior [Carlin Brady], so it makes it even harder because it’s all for her, and we tried so hard just for her. We’ve seen her a lot, their pitcher, and we just couldn’t connect with it today. It just wasn’t our best game offensively, but defensively, I couldn’t have asked for a better team behind me.”

Newman senior catcher Carlin Brady reaches for a pitch Saturday during the Class 1A Newman Regional championship in Sterling.

Morrison (18-9) got runners on first and second in the bottom of the third after sophomore Kaylee Pruis blooped a one-out single to right field and Duncan drew a walk. But Waldschmidt and the Comets’ defense made a stand of their own. Junior Jordan Eads flew out to left field, then Waldschmidt struck out senior BayLeigh Brewer for the third out.

In the bottom of the fourth, Folkers drew a walk after consecutive Waldschmidt strikeouts. She stole second while freshman Bella Scachette was up to bat, but Oetting made another nice play on a low, hard-hit ball to short, and whipped a throw to junior Sam Ackman at first in the nick of time for the third out.

Newman’s best chance to score came in the top of the sixth when it had runners on second and third. Waldschmidt got things going with a leadoff double to left field, then Oetting walked with two outs and stole second while sophomore Amiya Rodriguez was up to bat. But Duncan kept her composure, striking out Rodriguez to avert the danger and keep the Comets scoreless.

“That was a very important inning for us, because if that run scored, we wouldn’t still be playing right now,” Folkers said.

“Going into the top of the seventh, it’s a total pitchers’ duel. Both teams were at 7, 8 and 9 in the order, both pitchers probably had allowed one or two hits at that point. It was going to come down to somebody making a play,” Newman coach JD Waldschmidt said. “We had several chances. We had a girl on second in back-to-back innings with nobody out, and we just didn’t get enough contact. But that’s OK. It’s part of athletics, it’s part of life, winning and losing. The biggest thing is we graduate one senior, and today is about Carlin, and Carlin will play at Sauk [Valley C.C.] next year. But everybody played well, and sometimes you just tip your cap to a good team, a really well-coached team, and I wish them well next week.”

Newman's Jess Johns gets ready to throw to first for an out against Morrison on Saturday during the Class 1A Newman Regional championship in Sterling.

In the top of the seventh, Duncan struck out three around a walk to Cook, then Waldschmidt went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning. Oetting made a spectacular play in shallow left field for the first out, turning to her left and backhanding a low ground ball, then spinning around and firing it over to Ackman at first.

“The play that Lucy Oetting made, that girl was a lefty, that was hit in a 5-6 hole,” JD Waldschmidt said. “For her to be able to backhand that, spin around and still throw a very athletic left-hander out, that’s probably the best play I’ve seen her make in the field.”

Duncan went 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth, then struck out three around a walk to Rodriguez in the top of the ninth.

Fillies freshman Allie Anderson nearly walked it off in the bottom of the eighth with what would have been a two-out, two-run double, but the fly ball landed inches outside of the right-field line, and was ruled a foul ball after a moment of deliberation.

“We definitely had our ups and downs, and we grew, and we had so many big highs,” Ady Waldschmidt said. “I think we had such a good year, and we still have one more year together. You see all of us, we’re mostly juniors, and we’ve all been playing varsity basically since our freshman year, and we’re going to be able to work up to that our senior year and finally get what we wanted.”

Folkers finished with two walks in addition to the decisive solo home run.

Duncan pitched a two-hit shutout in a complete game, striking out 19 with six walks.

“My riseball really was my best pitch that I threw today,” Duncan said.

Newman's Ady Waldschmidt fires a pitch against Morrison on Saturday during the Class 1A Newman Regional championship in Sterling.

Waldschmidt also threw a complete game, allowing one run on three hits, striking out seven with four walks.

“Overall, the expectations for this group were really high because we brought back everybody with the exception of one player. I thought we struggled to win a few games when it came down to crunch time,” JD Waldschmidt said. “An extra-inning loss to Sterling, a 2-0 loss to these guys earlier in the year. Newark, we lost by one, ranked second in state. We never quite got over the hump. We had a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that we were trying to work through, and it may have gotten the best of us.

“But overall, a great season. I couldn’t ask for any more effort from the school, from the athletic director, and from the team and the coaches. And a special shout out to the guy that’s the head of maintenance here, James Wood. Woody has just transformed our whole infield and outfield into a decent place to play. This used to not be a decent place to play, and I was not embarrassed to host a regional here today because of him. He has done a great job.”

Morrison will play West Central in the sectional semifinals at St. Bede at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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Dan Wussow

Dan Wussow

Dan is the sports editor for Sauk Valley Media. Previously, he wrote for The Post-Crescent in his hometown of Appleton, WI.