BRODHEAD — Lots of softball has been contested since the Eagles knocked off the Cardinals 6-0 in a season-opening game at home on April 27.
Through this busy six-week stretch, Jefferson hasn’t been beaten and Brodhead has won 15 straight.
The second meeting between the only teams with a chance at winning the conference title outright was a dandy.
Senior Eden Dempsey hit a one-out, two-run home run in the eighth inning as the Jefferson softball team clinched a share of its second consecutive Rock Valley Conference title with a 4-2 win over host Brodhead on Tuesday.
The Eagles also won the league in 2019, which was the program’s first conference crown since 1993.
“We surprised people two years ago when we won the conference for the first time in 26 years,” Jefferson head coach Mark Peterson said. “This year we had a target on our back. It was special to get that win. Just very happy for the kids. Proud to be their coach.”
Junior Aidyn Messmann had a run-scoring single with no out in the seventh to give the Eagles (20-0, 16-0 RVC) a 2-0 advantage. Sophomore Shelby Kaus, who was running for senior pitcher Claire Beck, stole second base earlier in the inning and scored from there on Messmann’s hit into right field on a full count.
The Cardinals (15-2 overall and RVC) did some two-out damage in their half of the seventh. Taetum Hoesly had the last of her three singles to lead off the inning before Beck struck Cora Hafen out on four pitches and got Bailey Matthys to pop out to senior Brittney Mengel at second base on the first pitch she faced. Alexis Kammerer and Nataley Bump had consecutive singles to load the bases. Keira Malott and Sophia Leitzen then drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks to make it 2-2. Beck got the 10th or her 11 strikeouts to get out of the inning, punching out Madisyn Kail on a foul tip.
Junior Savannah Serdynski, who was 2-for-3, singled to open the eighth. After a strikeout resulted in the inning’s first out, Dempsey dug in, sending a 3-2 delivery from McKenna Young over the center field fence.
“We knew we had to get some runs,” Peterson said. “Savannah got on with a single and then Eden hit a two-run bomb. Kids stepped up and didn’t panic under pressure.”
Beck threw 11 pitches in a 1-2-3 eighth to earn the decision, tossing a five-hitter while allowing two earned with 11 strikeouts and three walks. Beck threw 135 pitches and didn’t give up an extra-base knock.
After stranding a pair of runners in the first two innings, Jefferson pushed a run across in the third. Mengel walked to lead off the frame, advanced to second on a Dempsey sacrifice bunt and scored on an error by the center fielder a Messmann single.
Young took the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) on eights hits over eight frames, striking out 15 and walking five.
Beck struck out the side in the first and second innings. Brodhead, which committed six errors, didn’t have a runner in scoring position until the seventh, in part because Messmann threw out a pair of runners trying to steal second in the early innings.
Dempsey was 2-for-4 and Messmann was 2-for-5.
Jefferson can clinch the league outright with one win in its doubleheader versus third-place Beloit Turner on Thursday. The first game starts at 2 p.m. at Riverfront Park.
JEFFERSON 4, BRODHEAD 2 (8)
Jefferson 001 000 12 — 4 8 1
Brodhead 000 000 20 — 2 5 6
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — J: Beck (W; 8-5-2-2-11-3); B: Young (L; 8-8-4-2-15-5).
Leading hitters — J: Dempsey 2x4 (HR), Serdynski 2x3, Messmann 2x5; B: Hoesly 3x4.