Colleen Regan pitched a complete-game shutout, Faith Kujawa delivered at the plate and Glenelg got over its early-round postseason jitters on Monday afternoon.
At home against Atholton in the second round of the 3A East region playoffs, the Gladiators put together one of their better all-around performances of the season en route to a 4-0 victory.
“The biggest thing we talked to the girls about was that last year felt great at 20-0 (in the regular season) and no one can take that undefeated season away from them, but that one loss came at the wrong time,” said Glenelg coach Ray Gerstner, whose top-seeded teams had lost in the second round of the playoffs the last two seasons. “After each loss this season, we felt that we learned from the little mistakes … we were out there in practice working that much harder to correct those errors.
“It’s big leadership from our eight seniors and that’s been the key. The team is gelling at the right time.”
Kujawa, who scored the team’s first run in the second and drove in its final two with an RBI single in the sixth inning, said getting over that playoff hurdle was an amazing feeling.
“I don’t even know what to say, it feels like everything is coming together at the end finally,” she said. “Our chemistry is mixing and we feel like a full team working together. Each player is doing what they need to do so that we can move on to that next level.”
Advancing to that next round, which is a meeting with Reservior on Wednesday, took surviving an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel. And, after Glenelg had won the regular-season match-up, 3-1, Gerstner said he fully expected another low-scoring affair.
That’s what made the Gladiators’ run in the bottom of the second inning so important. Kujawa laced a one-out double and then later came around to score for a quick 1-0 lead.
“I know personally I haven’t been hitting that well this season, but I wanted to be there for my teammates and get us going,” Kujawa said.
Gerstner added, “That first run was the key, because right after that Candace (Gerstner) and I actually looked at each other and said ‘that might be it.’ The way Colleen had them off balance — that was probably one of the best games I’ve seen her and Brooke (Redmond) work together — we weren’t going to need much.”
Regan indeed didn’t require much run support on a day where she allowed just three hits and three walks.
After allowing a first-inning single by Atholton’s Amanda Petersen, Regan didn’t allow a single hit over the next five frames. She said she knew it was going to be a good day prior to ever taking the field.
“My change-up wasn’t really working in warm-ups, although it did work out there sometimes, but my other pitches were all spot on in warm-ups. So I kind of knew then (I had my ‘A’ stuff),” Regan said.
Although the box score didn’t show it, Atholton did hit the ball hard. Almost half the team’s outs came on balls hit into the outfield. The problem for the Raiders was that almost every time there was a Glenelg defender camped out ready to make the catch.
“Colleen is a good pitcher, obviously with good movement and good location, and I was telling the girls to try and hit the ball where it’s pitched,” Baxter said. “We hit the ball good a couple times, just right to them. And the bottom line is that in the game of softball you have to hit to win.
“Credit to their pitcher, she kept us off balance just enough.”
In those middle innings, Regan was coasting. She set the side down in order on three different occasions — second, fourth and sixth innings — and twice did it with less than 10 pitches.
“You reach a point where you kind of just want to get back out there and keep going,” Regan said. “You get out of the innings fast, the offense hits and then you go back out and try to do it all over again. I was hitting my spots, my defense was making plays … it was just one of those days.”
Meanwhile, Glenelg’s offense got some insurance. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Brooke Redmond delivered a solo home run over the fence in center field.
Later, in the bottom of the sixth, Kujawa drilled a 2-RBI single to increase the lead to 4-0.