By SETH WHITEHEAD Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — ODIN — Altamont usually doesn’t need offensive outburts when Deidre Ledbetter is in the pitcher’s circle.
One certainly wasn’t neccesary in the Lady Indians’ season-opener back in March, as Ledbetter tossed a one-hitter in Altamont’s 6-0 win against Edwards County.
But it was a different story against the same team Wednesday in the Class 1A Odin Sectional semifinal, as Ledbetter didn’t have her best stuff and the Lions brought their hitting shoes this time around.
Fortunately for coach John Niebrugge and company, the Lady Indians’ offense was up to the task.
Altamont drilled out 18 hits against Edwards County pitcher Chelsea Dallas — including three inside-the-park homers — and outslugged the Lions 16-9. Altamont (19-3) advances to Saturday’s 11 a.m. title game against the winner of today’s Wayne City/Okawville semifinal.
“We don’t normally expect Deidre to pitch that way,” said Niebrugge of his ace, who gave up nine runs on nine hits, including three inside-the-park homers on Odin’s spacious field. “She had a little stomach ache. But, you know, you know you have a true team when somebody doesn’t have it and we can pick them up.”
Everyone in Altamont’s lineup picked up the slack on Wednesday — quite literally — as all nine of Niebrugge’s starters had at least one hit.
Josie Phillips set the tone for a day dominated by offense with a two-run homer in the first, staking the Lady Indians to a quick 2-0 lead. Ledbetter’s two-run homer in the second highlighted a four-run outburst, as Altamont looked poised to cruise, enjoying a 6-0 cushion. The Lady Indians were firing on all cylinders at that point.
“I think it helped our energy level,” first baseman Lauren Ohnesorge said. “It got us up and going.”
But Edwards County refused to go quietly, countering with three runs in the bottom of the second on four hits. Then, after Altamont got a run back on a Cory Dory RBI single in the top of the third, an long homer by Kaitlin Schmittler off the base of the wall 270 feet away in the bottom of the inning gave further evidence that the Lions were a worth adversary.
“That one she hit off the fence is probably the farthest I’ve seen in girls softball,” Niebrugge said. “They were improved from the last time we saw them.”
The Lady Indians looked to finally take control with a five-run sixth, as 10 Altamont batters came to the plate in a five-run frame. A misplayed fly ball by Edwards County centerfielder Shauna Sexton gave Gabby Alwardt a two-run homer, and Lauren White’s RBI single also highlighted the inning.
But the Lions came right back with four in the bottom of the inning, as Sexton made up for her gaffe with a booming three-run homer and another run came in on a wild pitch.
Altamont’s four-run seventh proved too much for Edwards County to overcome, however, as Ledbetter, Lauren Ohnesorge, White and Alex Teasley brought the Lady Indians’ hit count to 18 with big hits in the frame.
Lauren Ohnesorge went 4-for-5, while Ledbetter helped her own cause by going 3-for-5. White and Teasley added two hits apiece to a balanced attack.
“We can hit this way,” Niebrugge said. “I thought we really hit it well today, but we’re capable of this.
“We’ve got three or four girls over .400. When the bottom of the order gets on, that means the top’s coming up with an opportunity to drive the ball. They did that.”
Ledbetter struck out the side in the first and finished with eight strikeouts, but was roughed up for eight earned runs. She managed to go the distance, however, and should ready to go again Saturday.
“It wasn’t her best day and she didn’t have her best stuff, but she battled,” Niebrugge said. “She and (catcher) Lauren (White) kind of worked through it.”
The Lady Indians’ defense wasn’t at its best either, committing a pair of errors and a couple misplays, but it didn’t end up costing them. Niebrugge would like to see his team come out sharper on Saturday, though.
“It helps us to get out to a big lead,” Niebrugge said. “It helped us relax a little bit. But on Saturday we need to get out to that lead and then have our pitching and defense come back to us.”
Altamont 241 005 4 — 16 18 2
Edwards Co. 031 014 0 — 9 9 5
WP — Ledbetter (7IP, 9H, 9R, 8K, 2BB). LP — Dallas.
Altamont — M.Ohnesorge 1-3 (1R), Phillips 1-5 (HR, 2 RBI, 1R), Ledbetter 3-5 (HR, 2 RBI, 3R), L.Ohnesorge 4-5 (1R, SB), White 2-5 (2R, 2 RBI), Alwardt 1-5 (HR, 3 RBI, 2R), Teasley 2-5 (2R), Dorr 1-3 (RBI), Northrop 1-3 (1R, SB).
Edwards County — St. Ledger (RBI), Sexton 1-4 (HR, 3 RBI), James 2-4 (HR, RBI), Schmittler 2-3 (HR, RBI), McKenzie 1-3, Bailey 2-4 (RBI), Walker 1-2 (RBI).