“We just have to keep doing what has given us this success,” Abke said. “Practice, working hard, continuing to focus on our small ball and studying what we need to do on the pitching side next round."
Coming into this week, Holly Koopmann wanted to reiterate one thing to her Seven Lakes team. Koopmann and her coaching staff wanted the Spartans to embrace that from here on out, it’s do or die, win or go home with everything on the line in the playoffs.
The Spartans hadn’t fully embraced that going into last weeks bi-district round and it forced them to go to three games against Ridge Point.
But everything changed in that third game against Ridge Point for the Spartans. After two close games, the group embraced the do or die aspect of the playoffs and rolled to a comfortable 6-1 win over the Panthers.
Seven Lakes carried that same attitude into this week and it paid off, as the Spartans swept a district champion Jersey Village team 7-0 and 6-0 in two games to advance to the regional quarterfinals.
“That’s what we focused on all week,” Koopmann said. “I think they finally figured out how much fun it is when you embrace that and you jump ahead and don’t have to fight while things are close last Saturday. They really enjoyed that and I think they just realize now that they are capable of beating anyone. These girls are ready to keep going.”
The Spartans once again were led by their ace Amy Abke, who pitched all 14 innings of the series and did not allow a run on eight hits while striking out 24 over the course of the two games.
Abke has come into her own over the course of her junior season, and having her on the mound just brings more confidence to her teammates.
“She is so stonefaced out there and she handles everything well,” Koopmann said. “That’s what you want in a pitcher, you can never tell anything with her, you could look at her face and not know if we were winning or losing. She is one of the most mentally tough kids I’ve ever coached.”
In the closeout game on Saturday, the Spartans offense made a huge difference as well, as they took an early lead and giving Abke all the cushion she’d need and allowing her to relax on the mound.
It only took until the second inning for Seven Lakes to get on the board, as Kamryn Wallman drove in a run with a single to hand the Spartans the lead. Seven Lakes added on to that in the third, with Emma Wingate doubling to drive in a run and Meghan Kelly following that up with a single to drive in another and make it 3-0.
“It’s such a huge help when we get those early runs,” Abke said. “It allows me to relax on the mound and hit my spots better, stay loose and change speeds whenever I want to.”
The Spartans continued to pile it on in the fifth inning, Wingate got things started with another RBI double before Abke helped her own cause by driving in a run on a single and Emily Johnson capped things off with a with a sacrifice grounder.
“We just went up there and stayed patient at the plate and waited for out pitches,” Wingate said. “Our bats are really heating up at the right time.
With the win, the Spartans move on to the regional quarterfinals, an experience no one on this roster has had before. Seven Lakes moves on to take on George Ranch.
“We just have to keep doing what has given us this success,” Abke said. “Practice, working hard, continuing to focus on our small ball and studying what we need to do on the pitching side next round. Honestly, if we keep working together and want to move on, we can do it.”
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