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Summer Softball: Reasons for Optimism
Times photo: Christopher Heimerman Senior Coree Lee smashes an RBI-single to center and stakes her squad to a 4-0 lead in the semifinals against Lena-Winslow.
MONROE - Rally caps and canopies were all the rage at Sunday's Monroe Area Fastpitch Softball Tournament.

And even long after the sweltering sun set, Dale Buvid was seeing double.

The Monroe High School ball coach's malady wasn't because of nine hours of fevered competition on Twining Park's twin diamonds. It was because the Monroe Optimist's No. 2 squad had rallied to challenge the No. 1 squad in the championship game.

The No. 2 team fell, 7-3, to the No. 1 squad comprised of several members of the Division 2 state runner-up squad. But, with a little help from that same team's ace, Renee Schuttler, the No. 2 team rallied past a Division 4 powerhouse in Belmont, 7-6, in the semifinals.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore Paige Calow bashed a walkoff single back where it came from, plating Carlie Latimer as the winning run.

"It was like the perfect pitch for me to hit," Calow said.

Everything went so perfectly that, perhaps for a moment, she couldn't believe it as she stood at first no realizing the game was over. When it registered, so did the chills.

"That was amazing; it was the best feeling ever," Calow said.

Buvid said that "not even in his dreams" could he have predicted a Monroe collision in the finals and had to ship off Calow, along with several others, for a White League game at Recreation Park.

"I really wanted to play them, really bad," Calow admitted before catching a lift to Rec Park.

Schuttler worked the last three innings and got the victory.

"We were awfully thin on pitching, and we had that White League game at Rec Park, so she was allowed to pitch half of that game," Buvid said.

While the No. 1 squad thumped Lena-Winslow, 7-1, behind a four-run fourth inning, they had to battle tooth and nail to avoid the loser's bracket in a thrilling 5-4 victory over Dodgeville in the first round.

After rallying from a 4-2 deficit, the No. 1 squad won in bone-rattling walkoff fashion as Kelsey Erickson got her spikes to the plate that was well-blocked by both the catcher and the discarded bat. Mandi Wilde chopped the fielder's choice to third and Erickson dashed madly before tucking the left foot in and sliding under the catcher, producing a celebratory cloud of dust.

Neither Erickson nor Wilde were members of the 2008 Cheesemakers. Two girls who were on the team but weren't in the regular rotation were Dana Gempeler and Paisley Bennett. Sunday, they keyed the game-tying rally in the bottom of the sixth inning.

"That's why we do this during the summer, we're looking to get kids who haven't been in those situations some at bats under pressure," Buvid said. "Our key kids got things done and all the newcomers pitched in, too."

Gempeler first stroked a single over shortstop before Bennett inside-outed a base knock between the first and second basemen. After Maggie Schuttler topped the ball to the pitcher, moving both runners up a station, Emily Rufenacht came through.

While her heroics come as little surprise as she pounded out the game-winning double in the Division 2 sectional semifinals, she didn't get credit for any RBIs Sunday. Even though she crushed a pitch to short, it was right at the fielder, who didn't get her glove low enough, allowing both runners to scamper home.

"You gotta catch a break sometimes and just keep hitting the ball hard," Buvid said. "The whole day could have been very different."

The big shoes left by recent graduates were filled quite well on Sunday. Brandi Trewartha played a slick second base, the station leadoff batter Kayla Rackow anchored for two years. Bennett had three hits in the win over Dodgeville in the leadoff spot.

Meghan Roberts got all three wins as she worked all 21 innings on the pitching plate, showing Schuttler-like grit.

Buvid played down the muggy heat after the last two editions of the tourney were nearly 86'ed due to temperatures approaching 100 degrees.

"This year was a blessing, the last two years we almost cancelled because of the heat," Buvid said with a laugh.