BLUFFTON – The time has come to give Bluffton softball its own spot on the gym wall.
Bluffton softball carved out its place in school history with its first Northwest Conference softball championship with a 14-5 victory over Allen East Wednesday at Bluffton.
Bluffton stands 19-1 and finished its NWC season 8-0. The Pirates entered Wednesday with at least a share of the title, but came away with the outright crown.
“It’s pretty crazy. It feels pretty good,” Bluffton catcher Katie Prater said. “I guess we’re going to have to order a banner (for the gym). We don’t have one yet. We’ll have to make room for it.’’
Bluffton pitcher Libby Schaadt said, “It’s pretty nice. It’s surprising that we’ve never done it before, but it’s exciting that we get to be the first ones to do it. I’m happy to do it with the girls who are on my team.’’
Added Bluffton coach Tony Rumer, “It was one of our goals, but the NWC is always a challenge. We knew it would be tough, so we’re thrilled right now.’’
Allen East is 16-6, 5-3 in the NWC.
Bluffton took a 3-0 lead in the first, then built its lead to 11-1 after three.
The Mustangs rallied back to get as close as 11-5 in the sixth.
“We have battled back and fought every game,” Allen East coach Paul Patton said. “We know we can hit, but sometimes we get a late start and that hurts us.’’
Bluffton three-year starting pitcher Schaadt went all seven innings and gave up five runs, all unearned, on eight hits. She struck out eight and walked none.
Schaadt continually pounded the strike zone with her fastball. She threw 100 pitches, 74 for strikes.
Bluffton knocked out 13 hits on the day.
Schaadt also led the Pirates at the plate.
Her three-run home run over the right-center field fence gave Bluffton a quick 3-0 lead in the first.
“That was a nice thing because we didn’t play the cleanest game,” coach Rumer said. “
Schaadt ended up 2 for 4 with a home run and four RBI.
Bluffton senior shortstop Avery Rumer went 3 for 5 with an RBI.
Prater went 3 for 5 with a double and two RBI.
The game got under way just minutes after an emotional senior night festivity.
“There was a lot of emotion today,” the senior Prater said. “There was excitement and a little sadness.’’
The Pirates rolled with the bats, but had a rare off night in the field with six errors.
Allen East got within 3-1 in the second on an RBI groundout to second by Summer McCluskey.
The Pirates then went to the small-ball game in the second with three straight bunts after back-to-back walks to Alivia Koenig and Mara Minnig.
Madison Fleece reached on an infield bunt single to load the bases.
Koenig scored from third on a wild pitch and it was 4-1.
Rumer bunted in front of the plate, the play came home, but Minnig was safe at home to make it 5-1.
Brinkley Garmatter then bunted to the pitcher, the play again came home, but this time Fleece was safe and it was 6-1.
Rumer scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-1.
“That’s how we’ve played all year long,” coach Rumer said of his bunting game. “We want to put pressure on the defense.’’
Riley Busch hit a ball to center that the center fielder couldn’t handle, which allowed two runs to score and it was 9-1.
Bluffton pushed its lead to 11-1 in the third.
Garmatter was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded to make it 10-1. Schaadt’s RBI single to center made it 11-1.
For Allen East, Kristin Whitley went 2 for 3 with two RBI.
Olivia Lawrence started for Allen East and gave up 14 runs, 12 earned, on 13 hits.
At the plate, Lawrence went 1 for 4 with a double, which set the Mustangs’ single-season record for hits.
Bluffton kicks off its tournament play at 5 p.m. tonight against Leipsic at Bluffton.
Coach Rumer knows his team needs to improve its defense from Wednesday.
“We’ll get back out on the diamond and try to clean that up,” Rumer said.