DE PERE — The next time West De Pere sees Sammi Sullivan in the circle will be too soon, whenever that is.
That’s because for the second time this season Sullivan was too much for an offense that at times this season has exploded.
Thursday, the sophomore hurler recorded her second shutout against the Phantoms this season, and in the process put the Polar Bears in the driver’s seat in the Bay Conference.
Sullivan allowed three hits and struck out nine as Hortonville moved one game closer to an outright conference title with a 2-0 softball win. With the loss, West De Pere, Hortonville’s closest pursuer, fell two games back in the loss column.
“We really needed this, we’re really excited,” Sullivan said. “We’re hoping to be conference champs.”
Nine times this season West De Pere (13-5, 12-3) had scored at least 10 runs, but Thursday the Phantoms were having problems getting a hit. Sullivan held West De Pere hitless for four innings and allowed one hit through six.
West De Pere threatened in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third and two outs, but Sullivan recorded her ninth strikeout to end the game.
“I was a little nervous; didn’t want those two runs to score,” Sullivan said. “I just took a deep breath, looked at my coaches and need to do this. I just pitched.”
Sullivan wasn’t the only sophomore to stand out for Hortonville (12-3, 11-1) as third baseman Jordyn Brennan had two hits, including a run-scoring single in the fifth, to break a scoreless tie.
“It’s been like that all season, but it’s been somebody different every game,” Polar Bears coach Bob Pethke said when asked about Brennan’s play. “It’s been a team effort for us all season.”
Sullivan breathed a sigh of relief when Brennan plated the run. She said watching her team not score can be tough.
“It’s a little frustrating,” she said. “You learn to feel through it; that’s part of the game and keep going because something good’s going to happen.”
Brennan’s hit turned out to be enough the way Sullivan was pitching, who said despite being scoreless for a while, it was fun.
“I felt really good out there,” she said. “I was really excited and I really wanted to play them and I was having a ball.”
Hortonville can wrap up the conference title Saturday as it plays a doubleheader against Seymour and after a final regular season game Monday, it’s onto the postseason. The Polar Bears, however, know their Division 1 bracket won’t be easy to maneuver with the likes of Appleton East, Appleton North, Ashwaubenon, Bay Port, De Pere and Green Bay Preble involved.
“It’s a rough sectional we’re in,” Pethke said. “If we can play ball like this, we’re going to give it our best shot. The ball can bounce one way for another team and you can take a loss.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay