By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
“We did it the hard way, but we’ll take it…”
That’s what Graffiti’s manager Cheyenne Hahn had to say as her team won the championship of the Portage County Women’s Softball League Tuesday night at Iverson Park.
The team defeated Rookies Royals, 8-7.
Graffiti’s came from behind to win the most exciting game of the season as Liz Morrison drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. The champions had to play three games on the chilly night to capture the crown in the league’s inaugural season.
In the first game of the night, Rookie’s Royals got into the title game by beating Graffiti’s, 11-6. That gave the Royals a 7-1 record. The loss dropped Graffiti’s to 6-1. Graffiti’s then had to play the Rough Rookies in the final regular season game and they won, 9-3, to punch their ticket to the championship game. Then the two 7-1 teams squared off at 9:30 to once and for all decide the league winner.
“This final night was amazing,” said league founder and commissioner Erin Laffe. “I’m so proud of everything that happened tonight. These gals all played their hearts out. And the entire season came down to a two-run inning in the bottom of the seventh — it was a perfect ending.”
Following a 6:30 scrimmage by Post Road Pub and other league players, coaches, and fans, Rookies Royals pounded out 20 hits to drop Graffiti’s from the ranks of the unbeaten. The losers had 16 hits.
The Royals put two runs on the board in the first inning on singles by Katie Steinbach, Samantha Zommers, and Brittany Pepowski. Then they scored five more runs in the bottom of the second to take a commanding 7-0 lead. Key hits were singles by winning pitcher Beke Blue, Amy Kurszewski, Korryn Dean, Katie Steinbach, Brittany Pepowski, Becky Kurszewski, and Jacci Seefeldt’s long triple to left.
The third inning was also kind to the Royals as they pushed across four more to go ahead, 11-0. The rally included singles by Amy Kurszewski, Korryn Dean, Katie Steinbach, Samantha Zommers, Becky Kurszewski, and Jacci Seefeldt’s double. The Royals were shut down the rest of the way. Graffiti’s finally put some runs up with three in the top of the fourth on singles by Hailee Fuller, Kayla Keepers, Chelsey Vidal, and Nicole Ihrcke. They got one more in the sixth when Liz Morrison doubled and came home on Kayla Keepers’ single up the middle.
Graffiti’s ended its scoring with two runs in the seventh as Cheyenne Hahn and Mak Lee singled and Kristen Felts and Hailee Fuller doubled. Kristen Felts had six hits for the evening, all to right field. Your final score was Rookies Royals 11 and Graffiti’s 6. The Royals would be the champions if Rough Rookies could knock off Graffiti’s in the 8:30 game.
But it wasn’t meant to be as Graffiti’s defense shut down the Rough Rookies en route to a 9-3 victory. Graffiti’s led off the first with four runs thanks to singles by Kristen Felts, Mak Lee, Hailee Fuller, and Kayla Keepers and walks to Nicole Ihrcke, Cheyenne Hahn, and Kara Sleeter. Kara had three walks during the tilt.
The Rough Rookies picked up two runs in the bottom of the first on singles by Taylor Biermeier, birthday girl Andrea Stroik, Stacey Zarecki, and Alishea Johnson. Graffiti’s 4-2 after one. Then both teams really showed some fancy glovework over the next three innings.
Outfielders Cheyenne Hahn and Hailee Fuller made a few sparkling plays for Graffiti’s and shortstop Mak Lee made a great play behind second base. The Rough Rookies’ infielders Andrea Stroik, Katie Platta, and Kaitlyn Knutson turned double plays in the third and fourth innings.
Graffiti’s came up with two more runs in the fifth as Kristen Felts and Hailee Fuller singled and Mak Lee tripled to center. The Rough Rookies only managed one more run in the game.
It came in the fifth when Andrea Stroik tripled and came home on Alishea Johnson’s single. Kaitlyn Knutson and Courtney Erdman also singled but the rally fizzled. Graffiti’s ended the scoring with three runs in the sixth due to walks by Liz Morrison and Kara Sleeter and doubles by Kristen Felts and Hailee Fuller. 9-3 was the final score and Graffiti’s advanced to their 9:30 showdown with Rookies Royals.
The Rough Rookies finished in 3rd Place.
The championship game got underway as the temps dropped into the high thirties. Graffiti’s lost star infielder Mak Lee but picked up Andrea Stroik.
Graffiti’s came on strong in the first two innings and the Royals went nuts starting in the fourth. Walks to Liz Morrison and Kara Sleeter and singles by Nicole Ihrcke, Cheyenne Hahn, Andrea Stroik, and Kayla Keepers staked Graffiti’s to a 4-0 lead after one.
Singles by Chelsey Vidal and Cheyenne Hahn and a double by Courtney Erdman accounted for two additional runs for Graffiti’s in the second. 6-0 Graffiti’s, and the score remained that way after three innings. Graffiti’s was shut out in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings as Royal outfielders Katie Steinbach and Becky Kurszewski and pitcher Beke Blue all made dazzling plays.
The Royals finally dented the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the fourth. The key hits were singles by Valerie Folan, Amy Kurszewski, and Korryn Dean and Jacci Seefeldt’s sacrifice fly. 6-2 Graffiti’s after four. Then it really got wild — scoreboard operator Lawrence Caldwell was put to work in the top of the sixth as Rookies Royals scored four runs to tie the game at 6-6.
The big hits were singles by Nicole Kirsch, Beke Blue, and Samantha Zommers and and RBI doubles by Korryn Dean and Jacci Seefeldt. Graffiti’s failed to score in their half of the sixth so the inning ended 6-6 after 6. And then the Royals took their first lead of the game by scoring one run in the top of the seventh. Becky Kurszewski singled and came home following base hits by Valerie Folan and Amy Kurszewski.
Graffiti’s came to bat in the bottom of the seventh needing one run to tie and two to win. With one out, Cheyenne Hahn singled to left for her fourth hit of the game. Then Kristen Felts singled to right. That was followed by Andrea Stroik’s single which drove in Cheyenne Hahn with the tying run. Next up was Hailee Fuller who was safe on an error. And Liz Morrison ended the season and the game with a solid single which drove in Kristen Felts with the winning run! Both teams had 15 hits during the title game.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think the entire season would come down to one team playing three games and then winning it when they just as easily could’ve lost it,” Laffe said. “I’d like to commend all 78 ladies who played in our new league and a lot of friendships developed.”
Laffe also handed out league awards to the teams and tokens of appreciation to the players. And chapter one of the new Portage County Womens Softball League, the first of its kind, was officially in the books.
ROOKIES ROYALS BATTING STATS FOR GAME ONE: Katie Steinbach: three singles; Samantha Zommers: three singles; Brittany Pepowski: two singles; Becky Kurszewski: two singles; Nicole Kirsch: single; Beke Blue: two singles, had a difference of opinion with umpire Higgins; Amy Kurszewski: two singles; Korryn Dean: three singles; Jacci Seefeldt: triple, double.
GRAFFITI’S BATTING STATS FOR GAME ONE: Krystin Eckes: single; Cheyenne Hahn: two singles, double; Kristen Felts: double; Mak Lee: three singles; Hailee Fuller: single, double; Liz Morrison: walk, double; Kayla Keepers: two singles; Chelsey Vidal: single; Nicole Ihrcke: two singles.
ROUGH ROOKIES BATTING STATS FOR GAME TWO: Taylor Biermeier: two singles; Katie Platta: single; Andrea Stroik: single, triple; Stacey Zarecki: single; Alishea Johnson: three singles; Kaitlyn Knutson: two singles; Courtney Erdman: single; Christine Lutzke: single; Ashley Caldwell: walk. GRAFFITI’S BATTING STATS FOR GAME TWO: Nicole Ihrcke: walk, single; Cheyenne Hahn: walk, single; Kristen Felts: two singles, double; Mak Lee: single, triple; Hailee Fuller: two singles, double; Liz Morrison: two walks; Kara Sleeter: three walks; Kayla Keepers: single; Chelsey Vidal: three singles; Kenzie Dorsett: double.
ROOKIES ROYALS BATTING STATS FOR CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Katie Steinbach: two singles; Samantha Zommers: walk, two singles; Brittany Pepowski: single; Becky Kurszewski: single; Valerie Folan: two singles; Nicole Kirsch: single; Beke Blue: single; Amy Kurszewski: two singles; Korryn Dean: two doubles, single; Jacci Seefeldt: double, sac fly.
GRAFFITI’S BATTING STATS FOR CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Nicole Ihrcke: single; Cheyenne Hahn: four singles; Kristen Felts: single; Andrea Stroik: two singles; Hailee Fuller: single; Liz Morrison: walk, game winning single; Kara Sleeter: walk; Kayla Keepers: two singles; Chelsey Vidal: two singles; Courtney Erdman: double.
NOTE: Cheyenne Hahn of Graffiti’s had eight hits for the triple-header. Jesse Higgins and Cory Blake were the umpires for all three games. Rookies Royals turned four double plays. Graffiti’s Liz Morrison had a double, four walks, and the game-winning hit. Amy Kurszewski, Korryn Dean, and Jacci Seefeldt had a bunch of RBIs for the Royals.
The league also had a cookout and costume night. The title game ended at 11 PM. The season had it all: hits galore, fantastic fielding gems, one-foot singles, home runs, double plays, infield flies, “Honor the Vets Night”, clutch pitching, pickles, walks, 60’s music, pinch runners, crazy outfits, and you name it. And the PCWSL would like to thank Stevens Point City Times for providing coverage of the league from the first pitch to the last.