There’s a sign on the back of the press box at the Oshkosh West softball field that lists years the team has brought home a conference title.
It’s going to need a little paint.
The Wildcats wrapped up the 2013 Fox Valley Association softball crown on Saturday, winning the title outright following a defense-led 2-0 win over Kimberly.
“It feels really, really amazing to get our number on that board finally,” said catcher Kelly Wallace, one of four seniors on the roster.
“We’ve been playing well the last couple years and finally we got over the hump of beating the top teams in the conference and finally took it,” fellow senior Marina Hereford said. “So it feels really good.”
Oshkosh West, which finishes the league season with a 16-2 mark, entered the game knowing it had secured at least a share of the title. The Wildcats were a half-game ahead of Appleton East.
But being co-champions wasn’t on the mind of the Wildcats.
“I think that because we knew either way we would at least tie for the conference, I think that took some of the pressure off of us,” Lexi Holsten said. “We didn’t want to share the conference title though, so that did keep some of the pressure on us.”
Kimberly, which had beaten Fond du Lac earlier in the day, kept the pressure on the Wildcats as well but the right arm of Callie Troutfetter and the defense played behind her were too much for the Papermakers.
“Our defense has been playing really well this year behind Callie and Callie has obviously been pitching really well,” Hereford said. “I think that gives us more confidence going into our batting and in the whole game I guess.”
Hereford started the string of highlight-reel defensive plays when she made a sliding catch to rob Kimberly’s Payton Mix of a hit to start the second inning.
The Papermakers’ Madi Surprise followed by blooping a ball into short center field. West second baseman Chantal Bougie went back on the ball and used a leap to get a glove on it, popping it further up in the air. That allowed centerfielder Bailey Schultz to dive and make the grab.
“Our girls read the ball, covered their areas well, covered all gaps — it didn’t feel like there were any gaps on the field today. They did a great job,” Troutfetter said. “It’s a relief, but it gets me extra pumped up. It gives me a little extra oompf on my ball knowing I can give them whatever I can and I know my defense has got my back.”
Schultz had a second great catch for the first out of the third when she tracked down Summer Zachow’s fly ball in deep right-center field and made a leaping catch.
Not to be outdone, Holsten made a diving snag of a line drive to rob Megan Kleist of a hit in the sixth inning; Meg Krautsch made a backhanded stop and strong throw from deep shortstop; and Troutfetter scrambled to a ball that ricocheted off her leg to get the out in the seventh inning.
“If I’m on the other side of those, I’m pretty ornery,” West coach John Kloehn said. “Our defense really made a turnaround from last year. Every time you saw a play out there, that was effort. I’m so proud of these kids. They did a great job.”
With all that defense, West didn’t need much offense — which was a good thing because Kimberly pitcher Abby Menting held the Wildcats in check as well.
West managed just six hits in the game — two by Schultz — and scored its two runs in the third inning needing just one hit.
Hailey Hendrix started the rally when she reached on a dropped third strike, which Holsten followed with an infield single that advanced Hendrix to third.
Bougie then laid down a perfect bunt that scored Hendrix with the first run. Two batters later, Bougie scored on a Troutfetter ground and that would be all the offense West would need to wrap up one of the titles the players wanted.
“I’ve wanted to be champions and then go to state all four years, so it’s kind of exciting,” Holsten said. “We’re on the right track.”
Notes: Meg Krautsch also had a hit for the Wildcats, as did Troutfetter and Wallace. … West loaded the bases with nobody out in the second but failed to score. … Menting finished with two strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter for the Papermakers.
Game ball: Bailey Schultz for going 2-for-3 and making a pair of spectacular catches in center field.
Numbers game: 0, the number of hits Kimberly registered off Troutfetter, following Jenna Smelzinski’s single to lead off the game.
Kimberly…000 000 0 — 0 1 1
Osh. West…002 000 x — 2 6 1
WP: Callie Troutfetter (7 IP, 0 BBs, 5 Ks). LP: Abby Menting (6 IP, 0 BBs, 2 Ks).
Leading hitters: OW — Bailey Schultz 2×3.