The Ripon Tigers softball team needed a sweep of a doubleheader of the Freedom Irish to control their own destiny in the Eastern Valley Conference.
Unfortunately, they could only split.
The Tigers split their Saturday doubleheader with the Irish, winning game 1, 6-5, and falling in game 2, 17-9, at Murray Park.
“In the back of our minds, we figured we had to win two to have a chance at a conference championship,” Ripon coach Jeff Krentz said. “That’s a good team (Freedom) over there and they hit the ball up and down the lineup.”
Ripon looked well on their way to winning the first game, picking up three runs in the first two innings. But Freedom tied the game in the fifth inning with three runs and took their first lead on a solo home run by Taylor Hanus in the sixth inning.
But the Tigers would answer in the bottom of the frame, as Ana Sparks crossed the plate to make it 4-4.
“We are a veteran club,” Krentz said. “Our kids never give up. They are always playing hard. They are always positive. They always know they can come back.”
Freedom again put Ripon on the hot seat, getting a run from Jessica Runge to put them up again 5-4 in the seventh inning.
However, Ripon and Kallin Splittgaber had other ideas. Ripon loaded the bases and Kayla Putzer scored a run to tie the game.
Up came Splittgaber, who ripped a single just passed Runge’s glove, scoring Alyssa Lind to give the Tigers the first game win.
“Mentally I was just going up there just knowing I had to put it in play,” Splittgaber said. “I just had a lot of confidence up there.”
It looked as though Splittgaber would be the hero once again for Ripon in game two. After Freedom put the first run on the board in the first inning, Ripon erupted for a seven-run third inning, highlighted by a grand slam from Splittgaber to make it 7-1 Tigers.
But almost instantaneously, it was ripped back by Freedom, who also scored seven runs in the bottom half of the inning, highlighted by a Samantha Schumacher grand slam to make it 8-7 Irish.
“You go from the highest of highs to pretty much a low,” Krentz said. “You figure we have this ball game in check, but right away they just start hitting the ball.
“It wasn’t like they had cheap hits or we walked them, they just had solid hits out there.”
Ripon was able to tie the game on a Libby Borgardt single in the fourth inning, scoring Lind, but the momentum was just two much, as Freedom rattled off another five runs in the bottom half and never looked back.
Splittgaber went 4-for-8 over the two games and drove in five runs for the Tigers.
Ripon now faces just a couple of games early next week before heading into the WIAA tournament later in the week. They know they need to get back on the right track quickly to get some momentum going before tournament play.
“We just need to keep playing Ripon ball,” Splittgaber said. “We all have to limit the errors, the mental errors and physical errors, and just keep hitting like we can.”
Ripon 6, Freedom 5
Freedom… 000 031 1 — 5 5 4
Ripon… 120 001 2 — 6 6 4
WP: Libby Borgardt (7 IP, 2 BBs 3 Ks) LP: Hannah Doxtater (7 IP, 4 BBs, 4 Ks)
Leading hitters: RIP — Brooke Brewer 2×3 2B, RBI; Kallin Splittgaber 2×4 2B, RBI; Kayla Putzer 2×4.
Freedom 17, Ripon 9
Ripon… 007 101 0 — 9 10 3
Freedom… 107 640 x — 17 15 3
WP: Taylor Hanus (4 IP, 0 BBs 3 Ks) LP: Borgardt (6 IP, 5 BBs, 5 Ks)
Leading hitters: RIP — Splittgaber 2×4 HR, 4 RBI; Alyssa Lind 2×4; Jordan Krentz 2×4 2B; Shae Moderow 2×4 2B. FREE — Samantha Schumacher 3×4 HR, 2B, 6 RBI; Samantha Sheriff 1×4 HR, 3 RBI; Brittani Theobald 3×5 2B, 3 RBI.