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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wilton-Lyndeborough tops Sunapee in softball semifinals

PLYMOUTH – Sara Holka was nervous.

A sophomore in her first full season as a starting pitcher, Holka knew the pressure was on her to bring the Wilton-Lyndeborough High School softball team back to the Division IV final for the second straight year. ...

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PLYMOUTH – Sara Holka was nervous.

A sophomore in her first full season as a starting pitcher, Holka knew the pressure was on her to bring the Wilton-Lyndeborough High School softball team back to the Division IV final for the second straight year.

A leadoff home run, two walks and a hit batter later, it appeared the situation was too much for Holka to handle as the Warriors trailed 2-0 midway through the first inning of Wednesday’s semifinal against Sunapee.

But Holka took the game right back, both at the plate and in the circle. The right-hander went 2 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, and dominated the Laker hitters the rest of the way to send Wilton back to the championship game.

Holka gave up two runs (one earned), five hits and four walks to go with nine strikeouts to lead the Warriors to a 6-2 victory at Plymouth State University. She allowed just five Sunapee hitters to reach base and six scoreless innings after her shaky first inning.

“I think the nerves got the best of me in the beginning, definitely,” Holka said, “and then (catcher) Ally (Schwab) came out and talked to me to settle me and calm my nerves a little bit and that helped a lot.”

The Warriors will play the winner of Wednesday night’s Woodsville-Portsmouth Christian game at Plymouth State at 2 p.m. Saturday. Wilton lost to Woodsville 19-10 in last year’s D-IV final.

“This is insane,” Holka said. “It’s almost surreal because last year our pitching wasn’t as good and I worked so hard for this. To actually get here and to win our first game, it’s insane.”

Things weren’t looking so good for Holka and the Warriors early, as Sunapee’s Rachel Malanga hit a leadoff home run to give the Lakers the quick 1-0 lead. Katey Fowler reached first two batters later when second baseman Lorrie Blais misread a high pop up. Holka walked the next two batters and plunked Kylie Hershey with the bases loaded to extend the Sunapee advantage to 2-0.

“The first home run I was like, ‘Alright, this is going to be tough. It’s over,’” Holka said. “But you gotta stay positive. You gotta knock everything, all your mistakes out and just look at the next play because look what can happen.”

That would be the last of Holka’s troubles as she held the Lakers scoreless the rest of the way. Her only other challenge came in the sixth inning. With her team leading 6-2, Holka allowed three singles to load the bases with two outs, but caught Shantel Camber looking for an inning-ending strikeout.

“(Holka) hung in there,” Wilton coach Dennis Claire said. “We were a little worried about her control for a while there, but she battled back.”

Before Holka could settle in the circle, she had to bring the Warriors back at the plate. Holka drove in Tesa Simpson from second with an RBI single to cut the deficit in half, and moved to third on a misplay in right field.

Holka scored one batter latter to tie the game at 2-2 when Lakers pitcher Katie Frederick made a poor throw to first on a grounder back to the mound by Ally Schwab. Schwab reached first on the error.

“That was it right there,” Claire said of his team’s response in the bottom of the first. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t have come back, but it was good to get it right away. If you’re down 2-0 in the third inning you’ve gotta start thinking a little different. Once we got the lead and they didn’t get back, the kids felt pretty good.”

The Warriors scored twice more in the third to take a 4-2 lead, and Holka was once again in the middle of the offense. After Kim Edmunds doubled down the left field line to lead off the inning, Holka plated the left fielder with a triple to the fence in right-center. Schwab scored Holka with a single to right.

Edmunds ripped a two-run single with the bases loaded and no outs to extend the Wilton lead to 6-2.

“We hit the ball pretty good today,” Claire said, “and I think after we got the two runs back, I think that was big that we got those two runs back in the first inning, because they had the momentum.”