GLENWOOD CITY — To say that Glenwood City was enthusiastic moments after it handed Elmwood a crushing 16-1 defeat here last Friday evening, May 29 to claim the school’s first regional softball championship in nearly a quarter of a century would be an understatement.
Senior Megan Samens’ two-run homer sealed the Hilltoppers’ championship victory as well as the Raiders’ fate and capped an amazing display of offensive firepower that saw Glenwood City plate ten, third-inning runs much to the delight of the home crowd.
As Samens rounded third and headed for home with the game ending run, her teammates were in full throat, jumping and celebrating around home plate.
Even head coach Pete Gaustad could not contain his excitement, as he launched a few Jordan-esque jumps much to the amazement of spectators and players alike.
Even the constant rain that fell throughout the contest could not halt this Toppers’ juggernaut or dampen its celebration that was 24 years in the making.
“It has been 24 years since the (Glenwood City’s) last regional championship,” said Coach Gaustad.
“When Megan hit that homer to win the game in three innings it was a feeling that most of us on that field have never experienced. Those girls earned that championship plaque and the right to play in the sectionals,” added Gaustad.
“They helped create a memory that will last forever for them and us coaches,” added the coach.
The regional title, Glenwood City’s first since 1991 and fourth overall, earned the Hilltoppers a berth in the WIAA Division 4 Gilman Sectional. Glenwood City played Cochrane-Fountain City yesterday (June 2) in one of the sectional semifinal games.
The winner will advance to Thursday’s (June 4) sectional championship game in Gilman against either sixth-ranked Chippewa Falls McDonell or Shell Lake.
The Cochrane-Fountain City Pirates, champions of the Dairyland Conference and currently 20-4, received honorable mention in the latest Division 4 state softball poll.
Glenwood City, who improved to 15-10-1, reached the regional final with a 13-4 opening round home win over Clear Lake Wednesday, May 27 and followed it up the next day with a 4-1 road win in Pepin that avenged a pair of regular season losses to the Pepin/Alma Eagles including a 9-2 setback the previous week.
The Hilltoppers, who have never won a conference title in softball, won their previous regional crowns in 1986, 1990 and 1991.
Throttle the Raiders in Three
An opportunity to play in a regional championship and win the program’s first title in 24 years had the Glenwood City girls pumped and a bit on edge.
“They were really excited and nervous (prior to the start of the game),” admitted coach Pete Gaustad.
“Just trying to calm them down was a daunting task,” added Gaustad.
But when the umpire said ‘Play Ball’, the Toppers responded immediately.
Glenwood City collected 15 hits, seven of which went for extra bases and included a home run and six doubles, and 16 runs to polish off Elmwood in three innings and 44 minutes.
“This game was simply us having our bats ready,” said Gaustad. “I have never seen our team hit like that all year.”
Gaustad said that Elmwood hurler Shelby Hall pitched a nice game but that his players simply hit just about everything she threw at them.
Meanwhile Toppers’ pitching counterpart Leslie Ludtke kept the Raiders’ hitters off balance throughout the contest. The senior allowed just two hits and a run in her three innings of work. She finished with a strike out and a walk to get the win.
After holding Elmwood scoreless in the top of the first, Glenwood City scored six times in the bottom half of the frame.
In an omen of good fortune, Carlee Strong banged a single to left and stole a base to get the Toppers’ offense rolling.
Mikaela Voeltz walked before Natalie Gabbert flew out to left.
But with one out and two on, Glenwood City’s bats came alive.
Leslie Ludtke doubled to drive home a pair; Nikki Gabbert walked; Hannah Ludtke and Jenesa Klinger had back-to-back-singles to plate a few more runs. Then Taylor Brittain walked and Megan Samens followed with a single to bring home both Gabbert and Klinger.
Neither team scored in the second inning.
The Raiders finally broke through for a run in the third inning. A lead off walk and a stolen base helped Elm-
wood score without getting a hit.
But in the bottom half of the third the flood gates opened and the Toppers scored ten times on ten runs to bring an end to the contest. A WIAA rule states that if a team leads by 15 runs or more after three innings, the game is called.
Natalie and Nikki Gabbert and Leslie Ludtke each had doubles while Jenesa Klinger, Taylor Brittian and Megan Samens each tallied a pair of hits in the inning.
Samens had a double followed by the game winning home run in the third inning alone.
Samens finished a perfect three-for three at the plate with a single, double, and a home run as well as six RBIs.
Jenesa Klinger also had three hits, all singles, in three plate appearances. Taylor Brittain and Leslie Ludtke both had a pair of hits while five Hilltoppers – Strong, Voeltz, both Gabbert sisters, and Hannah Ludtke – collected singles.
“In the bottom of the third I knew we needed to get some runs,” Gaustad said. “Elmwood is a dangerous team and they can score pretty easily. They are well coached and know what to do. But when Jenesa got on and Taylor Brittain laid down the successful bunt I knew it was a start of something good that inning.”
Clip Eagles wings
Just beating Pepin and now Pepin/Alma has proved a daunting task for Glenwood City over the years especially on its home field.
After dropping a 4-2 decision at home to the Eagles earlier this year, Glenwood City wrapped up the regular season just the previous week with a 9-2 loss in Alma.
Still Glenwood City was confident it could not only stay with the Eagles but beat them.
“Heading into this game we as coaches knew we could beat them,” Gaustad said. “Even though we lost 9-2 down there last week, we still felt we could get them.”
“As the bus pulled into the Pepin I told the ladies that the pressure was on them and not us to win this game. We just need to have some fun!”
And that is just what they did behind a strong pitching performance from senior Leslie Ludtke.
She allowed the Eagles just two hits and a run in the seven inning contest. Leslie Ludtke struck out three and gave up but a single walk to lead Glenwood City to a 4-1 win Thursday, May 28 in Pepin.
“Leslie was on fire that night,” stated Gaustad. “She was hitting her spots, throwing a good change-up, and when she needed to blow it past them she did that.”
Glenwood City finished with just six hits off of Eagles’ pitcher Emily Kitcher but they led to four runs.
The Hilltoppers got all the runs it would need in the first inning as they scored twice. Carlee Strong worked a lead off walk and Mikaela Voeltz followed with a single. Both scored without any further hits.
The Eagles only run came in the bottom half of the first.
Leslie Ludtke singled and scored in the fifth to give the Toppers a 3-1 advantage.
Glenwood then added an insurance run in the top of the seventh as Nikki Gabbert, Hannah Ludtke and Jenesa Klinger had consecutive base hits. Klinger’s single scored Gabbert to put the Toppers ahead 4 to 1.
That is how it ended, as Leslie Ludtke retired the Eagles in order in the seventh.
“Jenesa Klinger had a big hit in the seventh to score Nikki. Jenesa has played extremely well for us being only a freshman,” said Gaustad. “Throughout the game our defense was stellar. Every single player did a nice job at their position. When we made that final out, I think we were in shock a bit.”
Megan Samens and Leslie Ludtke each had a pair of hits to lead the GC offense.
Although sixth-seeded Clear Lake played one of its best games of the year and Glenwood City, seeded third, did not, the Hilltoppers easily defeated the Warriors 13-4 in a regional quarterfinal game played Wednesday, May 27 in Glenwood City.
“We did not play as sound as we have during the year,” noted Gaustad. “A few times we threw the ball around and allowed them to get some runs in.”
“Luckily for us, we were hitting it hard and were able to score some runs.”
Nikki Gabbert and Megan Samens came up big with homers for the Toppers. And according to the coach, this was Nikki’s first career home run.
Mikaela Voeltz and Natalie Gabbert singled to set the stage for Nikki, who slapped the three-run shot to give the Toppers a 3-0 advantage in the first.
Samens then belted a solo shot in the Toppers’ two-run second inning.
Clear Lake scored twice in the third to make it 5-2 but Glenwood City added runs in the final four innings as it scored once in the third, three times in the fourth and twice in the fifth and sixth innings.
Clear Lake added single runs in the fourth and fifth for the 13-4 final.
Leslie Ludtke was the winning pitcher, giving up five hits while also striking out five.
Four Hilltoppers – Natalie Gabbert, Hannah Ludtke, Jenesa Klinger, and Megan Samens – had a pair of hits.