Bulldogs' extra effort pays off
MAHOMET — Alyssa Spoerer literally had a ball Wednesday.
When the Mahomet-Seymour softball senior left her home field, she was carrying more than when she arrived.
Spoerer had a softball, one used in M-S’ 12-2 Class 3A regional triumph against Champaign Central, an autographed one by teammates and the one she sent over the right-center field fence for her school-record seventh home run of the season.
“Now I can relax,” said Spoerer, who tied the single-season mark 19 days earlier with a homer against Eureka. Wednesday’s two-run blast in the fourth inning hit the top of the fence and kept going.
“I didn’t think it was out at first,” Spoerer said. “Pretty exciting.”
The previous record stood for a year. Allie Tarrant hit six home runs last spring.
Spoerer’s shot supplied the final two runs and enabled the Bulldogs (13-22) to end the game by the 10-run rule after 41/2 innings.
Half of the M-S hits landed for extra bases, including a two-run homer by Lucy Stahl during a nine-run opening inning. Stahl’s first over-the-fence homer of the spring was the game’s first extra-base hit. Before the first inning ended, three teammates hit doubles.
“We got on a hitting streak,” Stahl said.
M-S coach Mark Jones has seen it before.
“Hitting is contagious,” Jones said. “The girls see one person get a solid hit, and it goes from there.”
The beneficiary of the offensive firepower was right-handed pitcher Madison O’Donnell. She fashioned a three-hitter while striking out five and walking two. She ended each of the first three innings with a strikeout, including the third when Central left the bases loaded.
Jones made a trip to the pitching circle after the first Maroon, Jenni Sola, singled, stole second and scored on a throwing error.
“We seemed a little flat,” Jones said. “I told them to get back to playing ball.”
For M-S senior starters such as Spoerer, outfielder Jessica Hammack and infielder Hannah Fortune, their typical game-day routine was disrupted. Playing three days after their graduation, the seniors no longer fill their daytime by attending school.
“You have to get in game mode before you get here,” Hammack said.
She had a perfect plan for that.
“My dad (Chris) and I have been watching the softball tournament on TV,” she said. “Watching the college girls gets me in the mood to play.”
Next school year, Hammack will be one of those college girls. She accepted a scholarship offer from Parkland, a college that she planned to attend whether softball was a part of the deal or not.
“It’s close to home,” Hammack said. “I wasn’t expecting a scholarship.”
The elementary education major has her future planned beyond the next two years with the Cobras.
“Transfer to Illinois State,” the future teacher said.
She can’t wait to embark on the professional part of her life.
“I love little kids,” she said. “They make me so happy. They make me smile.”
First, there is one more game on her home field. M-S will play the winner of Thursday’s Charleston/Centennial game in Saturday’s 11 a.m. regional championship contest.
Jones feel fortunate to get past Central.
“They have improved,” he said. “They are totally different from what they were early in the season.”
Sola had two of Central’s three hits, scored both of the team’s runs and had both of the team’s stolen bases.
After missing most of her junior year with a back injury, Hammack is pleased with any chance she gets to play.
“I kept the scorebook last year,” she said. “I was back at the end of the season, but I wasn’t much help.”
The Bulldogs had plenty of helpers to reach the regional finals. Emma Vallee was 3 for 3, and Ashley Anglin was 3 for 4. Teammates Spoerer, Stahl and London Acree all had two hits.