Sometimes a coach has a hunch about a player in a key game or key play. Poynette softball coach Bob Tomlinson had one of those hunches heading into last Friday’s WIAA Division 3 state semifinal with Prescott.
Tomlinson had one of those hunches with junior Mara Millard and it paid off. Millard had three hits to help lead the defending champion Pumas to a 7-0 victory.
“What can you say about Mara Millard,” Tomlinson said. “She is a team player. She has only about two-thirds of the at-bats that others do, but I just thought she would be the difference in this game. I always play hunches. She is a heck of a hitter and I thought she could be a catalyst for us.”
Millard was 3-for-3 at the plate with a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs.
“I was hoping I could come through,” Millard said. “It is a crazy experience here and it can bring out the best or worst in players. For me, it was a really good day. It means a lot. Coming from somebody who doesn’t play all the time, it is great to be a part of this. You always have to be ready to play.”
Brianna Kowald also had three hits for the Lady Pumas, who had only had seven hits as a team. Pinch-hitter Brianna Schulz had the only other hit.
Pitcher Casey Fountain did the rest of the work for Poynette. On her way to a two-hit shutout, she struck out 14 and walked just one.
“I always know my team is behind me,” Fountain said. “Even if I miss a pitch, I know my teammates will back me up. It helps take the pressure off.”
The semifinal game was scoreless until the Pumas broke through with four runs in the top of the fourth inning.
“I had a pretty good scouting report and I thought we needed to make their pitcher throw a lot of pitches, and we did that,” Tomlinson said. “It just took us some time.”
Millard got things going in the fourth with a one-out single. Then Zoie Ramburg reached on an error. Millard came around to score on a passed ball, while Ramburg was thrown out after getting caught in a run-down between third base and home plate.
With two outs, Kowald singled up the middle to score Lizzy Schwenn with the second run.
Later in the fourth, Morgan Jones and Kowald scored on wild pitches.
“Our recent work on base running from third paid off,” Tomlinson said. “Instead of busting off the bag like you normally do, we were taking secondary leads like they do in baseball so that we had a head of steam going.”
The Pumas went up 5-0 on a run-scoring single by Millard in the top of the fifth frame.
Poynette tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning.
“The key is to never let up, because the other team can always come back,” Fountain said. “They had runners on base several times, so we knew we had to work hard to the end.”
Millard singled to score Molly Anderson with the first run in the seventh. Millard later scored on a bases-loaded walk by Kowald.
“We still have some stuff to work on, because we made some mistakes out there,” Tomlinson said. “This was not a perfect game by us. We made some uncharacteristic errors on pop-ups. But, it is just good to be back in the championship game.”
Prescott’s only hits were a first-inning single by Ariana Temmers and infield single by Faith Stiles in the fifth inning.
Cardinal pitcher Sydney Matzek had four strikeouts and 11 walks.