NASHVILLE — Freeburg broke open a scoreless pitching duel with a run on a passed ball in the fifth inning and added three more runs in the seventh to beat Nashville, 4-1, to win the Class 2A Softball Sectional title Thursday afternoon.
“We were expecting a pitching duel on a very hot day,” said Freeburg coach Becky Mueth. “You never know what you’re going to get on a 90 degree day, especially when we haven’t been used to playing in it, but Lizzy Ludwig has been tough as nails all year and obviously she came through for us again today.”
The Midgets (24-4) advance to the Johnston City Super-Sectional to play the winner of Trico and Massac County on Monday at 5 p.m.
“It’s pretty exciting to advance to the super-sectional,” Mueth said. “We were actually there in 2016 with a different group. At the beginning of the season we put some check boxes on a board for these girls and said conference champions one, regional champions two, sectional champions next, so now we’re going for the super-sectional.”
Nashville closed out its best season since the 2015 state championship team with a 24-5 record.
“I can’t be more proud of our girls,” said Nashville coach Shaun Renth. “We probably should have lost by a lot more, but we made some great defensive plays and that’s probably the best we played defense all year. Daphne (Kollbaum) made some nice plays at second base and even though Jordan (Donato) didn’t make that catch in centerfield she came a long way to just to get there. They played their hearts out, but sometimes you run into a pitcher who’s on and you have to tip your hat to her.”
Ludwig (19-1) came into the game with a sparkling 0.48 ERA and had sailed through the first six innings giving up just three base runners on a two-out single in the first, a one-out single in the fifth and a leadoff error in the sixth.
“I expected this kind of game today because we played them early in the season and it was a close game,” Ludwig said. “I really tried to mix the corners for all the girls. I focused on what they did their first at-bat and I tried to keep running with that making them hit my mistakes and stuff like that.”
Nashville right-hander Josie Woodrome (15-2) matched Ludwig pitch-for-pitch giving up just three base runners over the first four innings on a one-out single followed by a two-out walk in the second and a leadoff single in the fourth.
The Midgets finally got to Woodrome in the fifth, loading the bases with one out on base hits by Abby Benedick and Lindsey Muskoff sandwiched around an error on a sacrifice bunt that the first baseman dropped to bring Ludwig to plate.
Woodrome’s first pitch got through the legs of the catcher allowing Benedick to score from third to break the tie. Ludwig was then intentionally walked to reload the bases.
Woodrome got out the one-out jam on a strikeout and a fielder’s choice ground ball to short. Woodrome had to pitch out of trouble again in the sixth when Bailey Stambaugh led off and beat out a comebacker.
After Stambaugh was sacrificed to second, Gabbi Mueller reached on another infield hit, but when Stambaugh hesitated the outfielder was gunned out trying to advance to third. Woodrome closed out the inning on a pop fly to first.
In the top of the seventh Maleah Blomenkamp led off and tattooed a 2-0 pitch off the fence in center field for a standing triple. Muskopf then hit Woodrome’s first pitch that Donato made a diving attempt to catch but the ball rolled out of her glove allowing Blomenkamp to score the eventual winning win.
One out later on a 3-2 pitch Nicole Edmiaston blasted her seventh home run of the season to up the lead to 4-0.
Nashville tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh beginning with Whitley Hunter leading off and smacking her eighth home run. One out later Jill Kuhl hit a double to center, but Ludwig closed out the game on a ground ball to second and a ground ball to first to strand Kuhl at third.