Prep softball: 'Surprising' WB-ND sails past Columbus in four innings

M Levins - The Hawk Eye

After losing five-time all-state pitcher Lauren Summers to graduation, not many people expected much out of the West Burlington-Notre Dame high school softball team this year.

Even long-time Falcons coach David Oleson was cautiously optimistic heading into the first season without Summers in the circle since 2018.

The Falcons have exceeded everyone's expectations, including their own. Class 3A's 15th-ranked West Burlington-Notre Dame ran its winning streak to eight with a 13-1, four-inning win over Columbus in an SEI Super Conference crossover game Monday at Barb Carter Field. Believe it or not, the Falcons are 8-0, and loaded with talent.

"I felt like we had a really good night. We've just been pulling together really well, hitting off the pitchers," said freshman right fielder Paige Kramer, who went 3-for-3, scored two runs and drove in another. "I think the coaching is great. We've just been enjoying it. We're having fun at practices. Everything is going well."

Oleson and assistant coach Alexis Davis have tried to put the fun back in the game for the Falcons. There's nothing more fun than winning and succeeding as a team.

"I'm a little surprised myself. I'll take surprises like this. We've played some really good ball. We've got some really good defensive stuff going on. We've hit the ball well, too," Oleson said. "That's been our forte so far. We've done a lot of work in the offseason and a lot of the girls have played some travel ball. We've just really come together as a group here and it's a lot of fun."

WB-ND escaped a jam in the top of the first inning.

Columbus (2-7) got hits from Ellie Sanders and Daniela Diaz to open the game against sophomore pitcher Madelyn Thomas. Thomas got Kennedy Woepking on a pop up to shortstop Logan Kelley. Catcher Lyndsey Kelley then picked Sanders off second, getting her in a rundown for the second out before Lily Coil struck out to end the threat.

"I feel like we're doing really good. Everyone is pulling together," Kramer said. "We came out here thinking this was going to be a really tough game. We pulled together and pulled through."

WB-ND's bats went to work in the bottom of the inning. Singles by Lauren Krieger and Lyndsey Kelley and a walk to Logan Kelley loaded the bases for Kramer, who slapped a single to right-center field to give the Falcons a quick 2-0 lead.

"I feel like I'm doing a little bit better," said Kramer, who is hitting .421 for the season. "I started the season off a little bit rocky, but I've been pulling together and coming through."

Sophomore Lacie Felkins has been another pleasant surprise for WB-ND. Oleson inserted her at first base and in the No. 9 spot in the order. Her sacrifice bunt in the second inning moved Madalynn Knapp to third base. She scored moments later on a Wildcat error.

"Lacie has been my biggest surprise batting wise," Oleson said. "She's up there with confidence, putting the ball in play. Any time I ask her to sacrifice the runner, she's doing it."

The Falcons put the game out of reach in the third inning, sending 10 batters to the plate, scoring six runs on six hits. Krieger had a two-run single, Logan Kelley and Kramer each drove in runs and Shona Anderson plated a run with a sacrifice fly. WB-ND took advantage of an error, two wild pitches and a pinch-hit, run-scoring single by sophomore Chloee Anderson to end the game in the fourth.

"We try to take advantage of everything that's given us and we're 8-0," Oleson said. "We're playing like a team. I'm really proud of the girls."