LITTLE CHUTE — The last time West De Pere had a girls sports team advance to any state tournament was in the 1970s, so there was a lot on the line when the Phantoms took on Ripon in a WIAA Division 2 sectional softball final on Thursday afternoon.
After 11 innings of intense back-and-forth play between the teams, the second-seeded Phantoms continued an impressive postseason run with a 4-3 upset of the top-seeded Tigers.
“This is the first time West De Pere has gone to state for softball, second time in school history for girls,” said Phantoms senior second baseman MacKenzie Dorow, who drove in the team’s winning run in the bottom of the 11th on a one-out double. “I just needed to do it (at the plate for my team). I just saw the ball from the hip, just saw it and hit it.”
Dorow was 0-for-5 when she stepped to the plate in the 11th, but she powered the ball into the gap between right and center to bring home Phantoms freshman Jennifer Timm, who had five hits in the game.
“I knew she had it in her (to get that big hit),” Phantoms coach Carrie Jones said about Dorow. “She struggled (during the game). We tried her on the right side, we tried her on the left side, but what it came down to is that she had to get in there and play how she knows how to play.”
The game was filled with drama. When it looked as though one team was building momentum, the other would step up to the challenge.
It started in the first inning when the Tigers (24-3) went up 2-0, only to have the Phantoms (19-9) cut the lead in half in the bottom half on a booming home run over the fence by senior first baseman Heidi Van Sistine.
Then in the second inning, the Phantoms tied it at 2 when senior right fielder Lindsay Vogels reached first base on a Tigers’ throwing error that scored courtesy runner MariJo Evers.
From there, both teams had their chances, but it wasn’t until the ninth inning when the Tigers broke through to go up 3-2 after senior catcher Lily Jorgensen made it home on a double by senior left fielder Taylor Vander Plas.
The Phantoms again battled back, and Van Sistine came up huge with another towering home run to get things back to even.
“When she gets in there, I’m 100 percent confident that she’s going to get a hit,” Jones said about Van Sistine. “She’s clutch.”
Also coming up clutch was the team’s pitcher, senior Emma Leuman, and the team’s defense, stranding three tigers base runners in the 10th and 11th innings.
Leuman finished with 14 strikeouts while giving up just one walk and eight hits.
The Phantoms will face Baldwin-Woodville (26-1) in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Thursday in Madison.
“We just want to play our hearts out,” Van Sistine said. “Try to have no errors, just do everything we can and hopefully get the ‘W.'”