Austin eighth grader delivers a memorable pitching debut as Packers bounce Bears in opener

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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Austin eighth grader Kaydence Schaefer had never pitched in a varsity softball game before Tuesday, but she showed why she received the call-up as she showed poise under pressure in a 7-6 win over Byron in a season opener in the PackerDome Tuesday.

Schaefer overcame a two-run homer by Byron’s Natalia Behrens that brought the Bears within 5-4 in the fourth inning and she escaped a lead-off double by Byron’s Emma Clark in the top of the seventh to score her first win in the circle for the Packers.

“It’s kind of crazy pitching here as a middle schooler. I can’t believe we just won against Byron,” said Schaefer, who struck out six and allowed four earned runs in seven innings. “It was really nerve racking, but I pitched through it and we did really good as a team.”

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Austin (1-0 overall) trailed 6-5 in the bottom of the sixth inning when Katelynn Klouse bunted for a single and eighth grader Charlie Cunningham produced an infield single that led to a run on error by Byron. Cunningham scored the go-ahead run on an RBI groundout by Avery Wempner.

Austin head coach Lisa Lage credited the entire team for sticking with it.

“It was very exciting and it was an all-around team effort. The older girls have been able to work with the younger girls over the past few weeks to overcome some of our deficits. I think it’s a really great mix and we’ve got a really great chemistry,” Lage said. “Byron played a great game of small ball, but I was happy with the way we played small ball today. We need to add more of that, especially with some of the speed that we have.”

Austin took a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning after Quinn Osgood tripled in a run and she scored on an RBI groundout by Kathryn Crouch. Klouse added an RBI later in the frame.

Austin senior third baseman Peyton Squier helped the infield keep its cool when things were tough and she ended up reaching base in all three of her at bats, while scoring twice.

“We had a positive energy and everybody was up. KJ (Schaefer) had a really good game pitching and our baserunning was really good,” Squier said. “Even when we made mistakes, we didn’t let them bother us. We’ve encouraged our younger players and they’re really good. They’re a great addition to our team.”

Lage was excited with how her team bounced back and stayed up throughout the game. She also liked what her young pitcher gave her in a strong debut.

KJ’s really stoic. She does not let her emotions show on the mound at all,” Lage said. “Sometimes as a coach it’s hard to tell where her head is at, but she’s held herself to a high standard and she wants that spot. She’s always one of the first ones at practice and one of the last ones to leave. She’s only going to get tougher on the mound.”

Byron 100  302  0  –  6  6  2

Austin 023  002  X  –  7  7  3

Austin pitching: Kaydence Shaefer (W) 7 IP, 6 H, 6 BB, 6 R, 4 ER, 6 K

Austin hitting: Lexie Brede, 0-for-3, HBP; Avery Wempner, 0-for-4, RBI; Schaefer, 1-for-2, R, BB; Quinn Osgood, 1-for-3, triple, RBI, R, BB; Kathryn Crouch, 0-for-2, RBI, BB; Peyton Squier, 1-for-1, 2 R, BB, HBP; Jenna Hetzel, 1-for-3; Katelynn Klouse, 2-for-3, RBI, 2 R, SB; Charlie Cunningham, 1-for-2, R, BB