Lady Bulldogs pull off upset over No. 1 Panama

PANAMA – When the Brocton softball team met with Panama during the regular season, they lost both games by a combined three runs, but history was not to be repeated on Thursday afternoon.

The visiting No. 4 Lady Bulldogs (7-8) broke their streak against the No. 1 Lady Panthers (9-8) in convincing fashion and took home a 10-1 Class D semifinal victory.

Jess Putcher hurled Brocton to the upset win from the circle in tossing a complete game two-hitter with ten strikeouts and two walks. While the Lady Bulldogs have been able to rely on their pitching throughout the season it was their offense that set the tone in Thursday’s rout.

After scoring four runs in each of its first two games against he Lady Panthers, Brocton got the bats fired up with elimination on the line and hammered 16 hits.

“I didn’t (expect that), we haven’t hit the ball like that all year, and everybody hit the ball,” said coach Jeff Franze.

“Even the bunts too, the bunts were down. Base running was very good. They just did the little things right.?And finally, we got some timely hits, and we knew we had to hit the ball because their pitchers don’t walk batters. I think that the kids knew that ahead of time. We seem to be jelling at the right time.”

Junior captain Jess Merle provided the catalyst for Brocton’s offensive push, as she sent home Brooke Kuschel with a deep triple for the first run of the day.

“Merle’s hits today were unbelievable, great hitting,” said Franze.

Sarah Osborne started out her day well on the mound for Panama despite Merle’s hot bat. The junior tossed three of her four total strikeouts in the first two innings and walked just two before being relieved by Carly Abbate.

Unfortunately for the Lady Panthers, three fielding errors proved costly on a day when Brocton was already riding high with confidence.

“We beat them both times (in the regular season) but they were both close games, 5-4 and 6-4. I knew it was going to be a tough game, but I would have hoped it would have been closer,” said Panama coach Tammy Hosier.

After the Lady Bulldogs were able to pick up their early lead in the first, some nice baserunning by Jess Delcamp made it 2-0 after she struck a single, stole second, and then beat a throw to home on Abigail Van Hout’s single.

Then the floodgates opened up in the top of the third as Merle slapped another deep shot for a double and Morgan Bennett went to first on an error. Merle was able to scamper home on a passed ball while Bennett scored on a single by Delcamp.

After giving up four runs in three innings Osborne gave way to Abbate on the mound, but the senior did not see much success. The Lady Bulldogs opened up the fourth with a single by Kuschel and an RBI single from Bennett to make it 5-0.

Brocton then pushed home their final five runs with five hits in the fifth, including an RBI single from Kuschel, RBI single by Merle, two-RBI double from Bennett, and an RBI double by Jenna Jusko.

Through all of the hitting, Putcher continued to stymie Panama hitters with diving offspeed pitches. The Lady Panthers lone run of the day came on a sacrifice fly by Elle Angeletti in the bottom of the fifth.

“She was very solid today, she has the changeup, she needs that changeup, (she was) very solid. I’ve had her for five years now that she’s pitched for me, and she seems to be coming around at the right time. We have another good pitcher, too, and we didn’t have to use her today,” mentioned Franze.

Now the Lady Bulldogs will face one more test before they can call themselves Section 6 Class D champions. They will meet the winner of today’s game between No. 2 Pine Valley and No. 3 Forestville on Tuesday, June 3.

“Pine Valley and Forestville, you know both teams are tough; that league was exceptional this year. So we are expecting a very tough game on Tuesday, we’ll have to play this type of game,” said Franze.