Over the past 20 seasons, the Poynette softball team has achieved a lot of success. The Pumas have advanced to the state tournament 10 times, won four titles and finished as the runner-up four times.
The Lady Pumas hit another milestone this past Saturday, as they won back-to-back state titles for the first time.
“We have tried three other times to go back-to-back and have come up short,” long-time Poynette coach Bob Tomlinson said. “For this particular group, it is pretty special in a different kind of way, because this team has players on it who were in the dugout when the game started who are as good as the people on the field. Just the pressure to get kids playing time and let the moms and dads see their kids play is a monumental task. I’m really satisfied with what the assistant coaches did to help me out, because it wasn’t easy.”
Poynette earned its fifth state crown after blanking Campbellsport 4-0 in the championship game at Goodman Diamond in Madison.
“It is really exciting,” Poynette catcher Zoie Ramberg said. “Everybody did a great job.”
The Pumas had previously won state titles in 1998, 2005, 2011 and 2018.
“It means so much to all of us because it has been our goal all year to make Poynette history with back-to-back titles,” Poynette pitcher Casey Fountain said. “It is really exciting.”
The Lady Pumas finished with their best season record ever after going 30-0. They have won 54 straight games.
Tomlinson points to the start of a summer softball organization after the 2011 season, when he was talked back into coaching after deciding to retire. It’s the reason the program is in the shape it is in today.
“These girls started out when they were eight and nine-years old, so those coaches deserve a heck of a lot of credit for what we have done here,” Tomlinson said. “It is not just the high school coaching staff. We get them and they are really good and then we teach them to keep seeking better. That is what is really satisfying.”
The story of the championship game was Fountain. She was a force in the pitcher’s circle and in the batter’s box.
Fountain was again nearly unhittable. She held the Cougars to one hit, a bunt single in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“The no-hitter was on my mind, but that is not what it was all about,” Fountain said. “I just really wanted to win. I hoped I could play like this. I know I have good players behind me and that gives me confidence.”
Fountain, who was called for an illegal pitch in the first inning, finished the game with 13 strikeouts and a walk.
“She had an illegal pitch called on her right away and for a lot of kids that could have been bad,” Tomlinson said. “I’ve seen a lot of adult men pitch world class fastpitch who get screwed up when an umpire calls an illegal pitch. That kid just sucked it up and fixed what she did wrong and pitched her heart out.”
At the plate, Fountain was 4-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
“She is a great kid and I’ve known her since she was in kindergarten,” Tomlinson said. “I knew she would be super some day because she has always worked hard.”
Fountain helped her own cause with an RBI double in the top of the third inning to open the scoring in the game.
Poynette scored its other three runs in the top of fifth.
With two outs in the fifth, the Pumas got a single from Brianna Kowald and double by Fountain to set up the scoring opportunity for Lucy Cuff.
Before stepping into the batter’s box, Cuff had a quick talk with Tomlinson.
“He just told me to settle in and that I got this,” Cuff said.
The talk worked as Cuff delivered a single to center field to score Kowald and Fountain.
“It felt good, but it wouldn’t have meant anything if my teammates weren’t on base,” Cuff said.
Cuff came around to score on a Campbellsport error for the final run.
After the fourth-inning bunt single, the Cougars did not have a batter reach base in the final three frames.
Besides Fountain, Kowald, Cuff and Lizzy Schwenn had the only other hits for Poynette.
Campbellsport pitcher Alyssa Muench finished with 15 strikeouts and a walk.
With only one senior, Ashley Hellenbrand, on this year’s roster, the Lady Pumas will enter next season as the favorite to win their third straight title.
“Hopefully we can go back next year, but for now we are just going to celebrate this,” Ramberg said.