Part 2 -- 2021 WIAA State Softball Tournament
Hello Fastpitch Fans.
Here’s hoping that your 4th of July fireworks experience was as good as mine was in Baraboo.
This segment of the state tournament report will focus more on our observations, thoughts, statistics and notes.
Everyone talks about pitching speeds. I had one of my Pocket Radar devices with me at all the games we watched and save for the two games we had to watch from the right field bleachers at the UW-Green Bay facility we were checking speeds all the time -- even after my device fell from the top row in front of the media center to the concrete below. Those little devices are well built.
The fastest pitches we saw were thrown by junior pitcher Paytn Monticelli of Cedarburg but she was not throwing as fast in the game at Bay Port High School as I’d seen her throw when the Bulldogs played the Pumas in Poynette. On that day in Poynette she delivered many pitches at 68 mph and a few at 69. At Bayport she was still moving it along quickly at 65-67 where she allowed Burlington just four hits and allowed just one earned run among the four she allowed. One of those unearned runs however, was the game winner where she hurried to retire the third out to end the bottom of the seventh but threw high to first allowing the game-winning run to score. Burlington pitcher Morgan Klein was delivering her slants in the 58-61 mph range consistently. We did not get to the tournament until just before the fourth Division 1 quarter-final game so I have no speeds for the pitchers from Beaver Dam, Chippewa Falls, Sussex Hamilton or Wilmot. Sun Prairie freshman pitcher Taylor Baker was consistently in the 59-62 mph range while Kaukauna junior pitcher Skyler Calmes was consistently in the 57-59 mph range with her top speeds.
Junior pitcher Morgan Smetana of Baldwin-Woodville moved quite a few pitches toward home plate at 65-66 mph but consistently sent them onward at 62-64 mph in the game against Marinette. Meanwhile Marinette senior pitcher Sydney Nemitz was humming her offerings in the low 60s at times as well. Catholic Memorial senior pitcher Abby Smith pitched consistently in the mid to high 50s while Claire Berg of Jefferson started out at 60-62 but by the 5th inning had faded to the mid 50s on most of her fastest offerings.
In Division 3 junior pitcher Annika Lord of Dodgeville won two games delivering pitches in a wide range from 47 to 57 mph. She kept the batters off balance using a variety of speeds in a great variety of places. She was a girl pitching and not just a girl throwing pitches. Senior Tenley Gassner of Lomira moved the ball along all game long at 56-58 mph and had a really nice change of pace. Both sophomore Bethany Ahrens of Peshtigo and sophomore Taylor Graf of Prescott were delivering their offerings consistently in the 56-58 mph range.
In Division 4 we saw Blair-Taylor sophomore pitcher Abby Thompson throwing in the mid-50s while Juda/Albany freshman pitcher Avary Briggs throwing in the low to mid-50s but both of those pitchers also had to pitch with wet, slippery softballs during that semi-final game. Mishicot junior pitcher Ashlyn Bennin had pitch speed in the mid 50s while Phillips’ junior Jada Eggebrecht was also offering pitches in the mid 50s.
We did not get a chance to watch the Division 5 games. As noted in Part 1 of this recap we did not get to the tournament early enough on Monday to catch the D5 semi-finals and had to get our campsite set up during the time the D5 title game was played.
Here are some things we noted and observed during our state tournament experience. We saw players with as many as five bats sticking out of their backpack type bags. When I started playing men’s fastpitch in 1964 all the bats were wooden. I used a Louisville Slugger Speed Swing and used a lot of them because they were broken by the hard slants I had to face in those games. In 1969 our young team in Poynette bought two of the first-ever aluminum bats which had a wood handle. Those “”Orbit Launchers” as they were called were tremendous bats and I used the green one for many years. It was 34 inches long and weighed 36 ounces. Then I switched to a Green Bombat that was 34 inches long and weighed 38 ounces. I still own both of those bats.
During one game the home plate umpire James Basinger of Greenfield stood at attention while saluting the flag during the national anthem. James has a military background and salutes the flag in that manner. It was a cool tribute to the U.S.A.
The seating at UW-Green Bay was temporary and provided by a company known as Always Available Seating out of Greenleaf, WI. It was tight as the rows are close together and one had to have their legs spread apart so they didn’t cram their knees into the back of the person in the row lower than them. Sitting there for four or five games in a day required some breaks to say the least.
Parking was $10 per day. On Monday if you paid the ten bucks at Bay Port High School it was also good at UW-Green Bay and vice versa. Unlike UW-Madison if you left during the day you did not have to pay again to get back into the parking lot. The proceeds at UW-Green Bay according to the Phoenix players collecting the fee were what the UW-Green Bay softball program got in exchange for putting in all the hours at the lot entrances, the entry tent as well as driving golf carts to offer rides and much more. It was well worth the ten bucks in many ways.
It was a “squishy walk to get to the main entrance tent because of the rain they had in the area. A combination of that rain and clay soil caused standing water in the ditch to get to the tent and on the surface of the field that we had to traverse to get there.
As I stated in Part 1 of this recap, the artificial turf created a type of fastpitch unfamiliar to people who are not accustomed to playing on that kind of surface. Bouncing balls, balls that skidded on wet turf and balls that took some nasty bounces. One second sacker took a second bounce directly on the front of her defensive mask. I was surprised that after that shot to the facemask that she was not checked for concussion protocol before play resumed. We saw a bunt bounce twice and require a hard-charging third sacker to catch it as high as she could reach and due to the length of time that high bounce was in the air she failed to get the bunter out at first on what was intended to be a sacrifice bunt. We saw bunts intended to be safe hit bunts hit just in front of home plate then die and roll just a few feet making a play on those speedy, fleet-footed runners really tough. There were a number of bunt singles in the entire tournament.
There were ground rule doubles as well. During two of the games there was a ball hit into the power alley in leftcenter field. Both of the balls we watched bounced twice before going up and over the six-foot high outfield fence. The first one we saw actually hit the fence on the second bounce then skidded up and over the fence. The second one simply bounced over the fence without touching the fence. Both of those blasts would have been easy triples but resulted in ground rule doubles. Of course, keep this in mind in regards to those ground rule doubles. Had the balls not gone over and the batter was going for third there would be a chance that a thrown ball from the outfield or relay could get away from the third sacker or be off line enough to allow that batter to score. Neither of the ground rule doubles we saw had lead runners aboard at first base that required them to stop at third. Neither of the batters who hit the ground ruile doubles scored after hitting them.
We saw lots of slap hitters who could bunt for the hit as well as slap. We saw some interesting defensive alignments to defend those types of batters. We saw teams that had great scouting reports on batters and saw some shifting on defense that was based upon those scouting reports and the ability to make pitches to batters who struggled to hit em where there were no defenders. We also saw some kids that were able to hit the gaps created by the gambling shifters.
I told my son that there seems to be a movement in the game to no longer use a “knee pinch” or “”pivot” on that back foot to hit a ball. We saw many players fail to knee pinch and thus there were many foul liners sailing over the opposite bench areas and out of play fences. We also noted that there was a lack of shifting after those balls kept sailing over the opposite of the field.
I had not seen a batter get hit in the face with her own foul ball since the first game of the first year that batting helmets were required to have a face mask but we saw my second one ever during this year’s state tournament. If you think about what it takes to have a ball come off a bat and strike the batter directly in the face you have to realize that contact has to take place way out in front of where a batter would really make that contact.
The announcers at the games were great. If there would be one thing I would ask them to add to their “schtick” it would be to announce what position they play such as, “No batting, the catcher, #2 Betty Boop!” Not everyone knows the players from both teams and just a little reminder of what position they play adds to the announcing.
The concessions and the workers in them were superb and reasonably priced. The restroom facilities at both sites were also superb.Indoor plumbing was appreciated by all.
There was one rule not enforced as tightly as the book says it should be. During the dry games (not raining) we saw pitchers ask for a different ball on many occasions and get one. We saw foul balls trampoline off the backstops netting and the pitcher got a different ball. We also saw some foul balls thrown back in and get used for the next pitch. During the rainy games the umpires or catchers were tossing a different and hopefully dryer ball to the pitcher on nearly every pitch that was not caught directly by the catchers. That is the way it should be.
There was a lot of rosin bag use. I always watch closely how pitchers use rosin. It’s a bit of an art to use one. A person needs to create their own rosin bag system. Some kept the bag in a back pocket while others gently dropped to the turf while others tossed it down a bit harder. One pitcher used the bag before every pitch she threw and it was a rosin bag like no other I had ever seen or found on the internet since the tournament ended. She was seen actually applying rosin from the bag directly on the ball she held in her glove. That system was halted by the home plate umpire.
There were just four home runs during the 19 games and one was of the inside the park variety and probably the first one since the days of the state tournament on the slowpitch facility Saratoga Complex in Waukesha where the fences were 280 or more for men’s slowpitch. There were three homers over the 200 foot fence at Bayport High School (2 by the same player shortstop Anna Frafjord of Sussex Hamilton) and one inside-the-park home run by Jubany cf Anna Skoumal.
Here are the cumulative stats from the entire tournament that I compiled from all 19 games played.
280 total safe hits
56 extra base hits
19 triples (has to be a record number)
3 Automatic Home Runs and 1 Inside-the Park homerun
29 stolen bases
8 would be base stealers thrown out
19 sacrifice bunts
9 sacrifice fly balls
1 catcher interference call
43 base on balls
7 batters hit by a pitch
1 umpire hit hard by a line drive into foul territory
That ends today's portion of the recap.
Have a great day and as always,
Keep It Rising!