LUXEMBURG - The Bay Conference is arguably the best Division 2 softball conference in the state when you consider four teams are ranked in the latest Division 2 state poll and Hortonville is the conference champ and a Division 1 program.
So when the likes of Luxemburg-Casco, Shawano, Oconto Falls and New London reach the postseason, they feel well prepared for whatever is thrown their way.
Tuesday, Luxemburg-Casco started its postseason when it hosted Denmark in a regional semifinal and the Spartans managed to pull through, 5-2, but it wasn't picturesque.
"It was kind of rough but we got it," said senior catcher Dawn Deterville said. "We didn't have a game for a week, so we were rusty."
Based on the regular season, it seemed the Spartans (15-5) were primed to make quick work of the Vikings (3-15) after sweeping Denmark, 12-1 and 9-0, this regular season.
However, the Spartans didn't take advantage of opportunities. Twice they made running errors that led to inning-ending double plays and at times, when the ball was hit hard, Denmark made nice defensive plays.
"We stranded nine (runners)," L-C coach Tom Giachino said. "We had people on base to score more runs. We didn't get the big hit. They made some nice defensive plays.
"They made plays. That certainly kept it close."
The five runs were probably the fewest L-C could score, but it didn't matter because pitcher Sara Simonar was on her game. The sophomore allowed just three hits and the two runs were scored in the first inning with a little help from L-C's defense.
The Spartans, who won the 2009 and 2010 state titles with Danielle Deterville pitching, know pitching is key to a deep postseason run and it appears Simonar has the goods to help the Spartans make another deep run. One thing for sure, she's tested.
"She pitched every inning for us last year and pitched every inning for us this year except maybe four or five," Giachino said. "Coach (Don) Schoen does an amazing job in getting her ready to go."
No. 12-ranked L-C hosts No. 17 Southern Door on Thursday in a regional final and the Spartans know every step they take the opponent gets tougher. That's where the Spartans draw back on their conference season, which they feel toughened them up.
"We have some of the best teams in the state in our conference, so I think it helped us get ready," Deterville said.
L-C may not be done playing conference teams, either. If the Spartans keep winning, they could run into Shawano in a sectional semifinal and New London in a sectional final. L-C split two games with both teams this season.
"I think we've proven throughout the year with the competition we've faced, we're a capable team," Giachino said. "We feel we have a good team. We've shown through the season we're capable of playing with or beating other good teams."
And Southern Door is up next.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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