Seneca sunk by bad second inning

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Center fielder Kendra Chambers (6) catches a fly ball during the state tournament semifinal against Oakfield on Monday. Left fielder Bridget Hagensick moves in. (Photo by Charley Preusser, Crawford County Independent)


If it could go wrong it did go wrong for the Seneca softball team in the second inning of the WIAA Division 5 State Tournament Semifinal Game that was held in Green Bay on Monday.

Seneca went three up and three down in the top of the first inning, but all three hitters made contact with the ball.

Their opponent, the number one seeded Oakfield, took advantage of a missed played bunt. Seneca pitcher Philomena Hall fielded the bunt and tried to throw out the runner at first, instead of tagging her.

Hall’s throw went past first baseman and scored the runner from second.

Then, Oakfield’s left fielder tripled to left field to score the runner.

So, it was 2-0 at the end of one inning.

Seneca again went three up and three down in the top of the second inning. Then, it happened–the disastrous second inning that wouldn’t end.

Seneca got the first out on fly ball caught by center fielder Kendra Chambers. Then, shortstop Amya Aspenson misplayed a ball and the batter reached on an error. Then there were two more infield errors and walk.

Oakfield’s number four batter drove a ball up the middle into centerfield and scored two more runners.

A misplayed ball from short to third base was followed by four more infield errors.

The Seneca breakdowns  resulted in eight runs for Oakfield to make the score 10-0.

Seneca never recovered. Neither Oakfield nor Seneca scored for the rest of the game. It ended in the top of fifth inning, when Seneca failed to score and game was called in favor of Oakfield on the 10-run rule.

For the game, Seneca’s only hits were Nicky Trautsch’s single and Aubrey Wallin’s single.

Pitcher Philomena Hall never got in the groove she had all season. The sophomore pitcher had just one strikeout, three walks and a hit batter.

Seneca coach Sara Wall was as shocked as everyone else by what happened.

“That’s just not my team I saw out there,” Wall said after the game.

Wall noted the infield did struggle a bit fielding on the artificial turf in the second inning. Seneca never played on artificial turf, although Wall worked to get them on an artificial turf field for a little practice.

Wall was frank about the experience level of the team gong to the state tournament. She noted that except for seniors Anya Aspenson, the shortstop, and Nicky Trautsch, the first basemen, the entire team was sophomores and freshmen.

Neither of the two freshmen, Kylie Stluka and McKenzie Sime, nor the six sophomores had ever played high school softball before this season. The six sophomores never played last year because the season was cancelled due the COVID pandemic.

Frankly, this Seneca team may have been one of the most inexperienced teams to ever play in the state tournament–only two players had ever played high school softball before this season.

“Well we’re a young team,” Wall said. “We’ll get some confidence playing next year and comeback as a more experienced team next year. We have a lot of good athletes to fill these spots. I think we’re going to have a positive attitude going into next year.

“Look, the memories we made will last a lifetime,” Wall said of the team. “And, the relationships built this season will always be cherished.”

It was tough way to end a fine season for the Seneca softball team, but there were plenty of accomplishments along the way. Seneca was a Co-Champion of the Ridge and Valley Conference with DeSoto. They were also a regional champion and the sectional champion, defeating DeSoto on the road in the sectional semifinal and  Independence Gilmanton in the sectional championship.

It's like an old Iowa basketball coach told this reporter a while back.

“Every team loses the last game of the season…except the state champions,” the coach said with a smile.

As for the state champion, that was Oakfield, who defeated Hurley 8-4 for the Divison 5 State Championship.

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