The 2020 season was my first as head coach of the Baraboo Thunderbird softball team. Our previous head coach resigned in November of 2018. I wasn’t looking for the high school job, but there weren’t a lot of choices either that late in the year. I was hired as the coach in late December of 2019. Getting the job so late wasn’t ideal, but I was the president of the Baraboo Thunder Girls Softball Association so I knew these girls very well.
The 2020 was going to be a rebuilding year for us. We only had four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and a slew of incoming talented freshmen, several of which would end up on the varsity squad.
Our regular season went very well. We had some growing pains, but we were improving and ended up placing 4th in the Badger Conference North. Not bad for a team as young as we were. We were fortunate enough to earn a #8 seed in regionals which meant we were to host a playoff game. We drew Madison Memorial in that game.
Throughout the entire season we fell behind early in games and the regional game was no different. Camryn Decker from Memorial was in control early and we were behind 4-0 entering the bottom of the fifth inning before we got things going. Junior Macy Henry led off by reaching on an error and junior Aria Schindler followed with a base on balls. Following a strike out, senior Addie Filus would then reach on another error and we had the bases loaded with one out. Senior Haley Hannagan would hit a pop up, but Henry would be able to score on the play to make it 4-1. Senior Jade Parchem and freshman Paige Lewison would hit consecutive singles to make it 4-3. Our rally ended there, but we had pulled within a run. Both teams went quietly in the sixth and we retired Memorial in order in the seventh. The game got super intense in the bottom of the seventh right through the finish.
Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh with one out, Hannagan singled. The next batter struck out which put us at two outs with a runner on first and our best hitter up, freshman Paige Lewison. At that point Paige was really our best option to get a hit. The other kids on the team were really scuffling that day as we did only muster five hits in nine innings. It was a big gamble on many fronts, but we stole Hannagan and she beat the throw which was up the line. Paige then fouled two pitches in a row off. Now the count was full and Paige delivered a bullet off the left field fence for a double to tie the game. We were tied 4-4! The place went berserk and I was a very proud uncle!
The top of the eighth didn’t get started very well for us. The leadoff hitter singled. But on a 1-0 count, the runner tried to steal and we threw her out; the only runner we threw out all year! The batter at the plate would go on to single, but we would get through the inning with no further damage. We went quietly in the bottom of the eighth.
In the ninth, Memorial would lead off with a single and the runner would advance to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a passed ball with no outs. We would get the next batter to strike out, one out. The next better bunted and she would reach, but the runner at third didn’t come home. First and third and 1 out. We’re in trouble. But on the first pitch, the Memorial batter hits a screamer right at our first baseman, senior Callie Hammermeister snares it, steps on first and we are out of the inning, double play! Our fans are going crazy! We head to the bottom of the ninth.
Senior Addie Filus was due up in the bottom of the ninth. Addie had a ton of pop, but would have a tendency to strike out a lot.
Addie would take the first pitch for a strike. But on an 0-1 count, Addie hit a bomb that ended up half way up the hill in dead center field to send us home with a walk off victory. It was an incredible moment for our team and program. It clinched a winning record in a year that no one would expect us to achieve that. The best part was that a parent has this moment recorded. If would like to see the walk off homer search for Baraboo Softball on Facebook and scroll about ½ way down and look for videos. It’s the featured video.
While I’ve not been involved in softball at the high school level very long, I’ve been involved in a lot of baseball games and as a player and a coach at the high school and Legion baseball level for 30 years plus and this game is easily in the top 5 all time for me and for the kids, they have a memory that will last a lifetime.
Publisher’s Note: Dan and his wife Sarah have been married for 22 years. They have two daughters, Elise who is a sophomore in college at Arizona State and Caroline a sophomore at Baraboo High School.Caroline is on the team along with two nieces, Paige a sophomore) and Paityn a freshman. He coached American Legion Baseball from 1991-2001 and was the program coordinator from 2002-2011. His team won a AA state championship in 1999 and hosted the state tournament three times during those twenty years. Dan started coaching softball in the Baraboo Thunder program in 2012 and took over as president two years later. He was an assistant JV coach in high school in 2017 and became the head coach of the high school softball program in 2019.
Tomorrow Memorable game story will be from Necedah Head Coach Tracy Anderson. Be sure to keep checking back daily for great fastpitch stories and information. The story tellers do not have to be high school head coaches. If you have a memorable game story, just type it up and email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.