NEW LONDON –
Even successful teams need a little bit of a confidence boost.
For the New London softball team, that pick-me-up came in the form of a 3-0 victory over Division 1 powerhouse Stevens Point Area High School on May 22.
The Bulldogs (25-5) will be making their third consecutive trip to the WIAA state softball tournament and face La Crosse Logan (26-1) in a Division 2 state semifinal at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 11, at Goodman Diamond.
New London may not have made the trip without the win against SPASH on that Friday afternoon, according to senior pitcher Shelby Sommer.
“Throughout the season, we have had our ups and downs, but it’s been really good because we stuck together as a team,” she said. “We worked hard at practice and came together in many games. And we came in clutch together, and I’ll keep saying that it was the SPASH game.
“We played that game a few weeks before regionals. That was a huge game for us and a huge win for us because it gave us the mentality knowing that we can beat good teams.”
New London co-coach Laura Turner agreed with Sommer that the SPASH victory did wonders for the team’s psyche.
“It all started towards the end of the regular season,” Turner said. “It was a big win that we had against Stevens Point in terms of getting that intensity going again and going, ‘OK, here we go. This is what we need to do.'”
Sommer was the winning pitcher when New London won the state title in 2013 and also when the Bulldogs finished as state runner-up last June.
She has had another solid season, compiling an 18-4 record and ERA of 2.03, and is excited about making the return trip to Goodman Diamond.
“It doesn’t even feel like I’ve graduated yet,” she said. “And I don’t think it will until we finish softball all the way through. I’m just really excited to be going back to state because it would have been depressing not going your senior year, especially because we made it so far.”
Senior infielder Alanna Beyer leads New London in hitting (.527) and is also a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs.
She said the experience of being at state the past two seasons is a big help as the Bulldogs compete for their second championship in two seasons.
“(The experience) does help a lot. You’re definitely not as nervous and a lot more confident,” Beyer said. “And if something goes wrong, we’ve been in that situation. We’re been down before and we came back right at the end, so we know that it’s never over and that we can come back and win it.”
Turner agreed that the state experience should help the Bulldogs.
“The mental preparation is not nearly to the degree that it needs to be with teams that have never been down there before,” she said. “I remember our first year, we had to talk about a lot of different stuff. We do still now because there’s a lot of new people too, but the girls that have been down there the last couple years, they know what we mean and to have that confidence being able to go into the game and just enjoy the experience.
“That’s the thing that we’re really trying to stress this year is to enjoy the experience. When you enjoy your experience, you’re gong to play your best.”
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @PCRicardo
DIVISION 2 STATE
Turner (27-2) vs. Waupun (26-4), 6 p.m.
La Crosse Logan (26-1) vs. New London (25-5), 8 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.