BOURBON — Freshmen excelled in the Wawasee softball team’s final tuneup before Northern Lakes Conference action begins this week.
Handing the Triton Lady Trojans (4-1) their first loss of the season Saturday afternoon in Bourbon with an 8-2 win, the Wawasee Lady Warriors (5-1) were led by freshman Amber Lemberg in the circle and freshman Meghan Fretz at the plate.
Pitching all seven innings, Lemberg gave up just five hits and struck out six.
“She’s just been consistently getting better,” first-year Wawasee coach Jared Knipper said. “The more she throws, the more confident she gets. Her off-speed pitches are looking a little better. She’s a young kid on the mound doing a lot of work for us.”
Classmate Fretz was 3 for 3 in the game, tallying two RBIs, two runs and two doubles.
“She’s been a nice surprise,” Knipper said. “She’s one of those kids that’s young and you try to give a shot as a freshman. You hope she produces what you think she can, and right now, she's doing exactly what we thought she could do for us.”
Fretz wasn’t alone in having success at the plate, as the team had 12 total knocks, with junior Alli Ousley going 3 for 4, including a two-run homer in the seventh inning.
“We‘ve been hitting the ball really well and have seen some good pitching this week,” Knipper said. “They’ve responded really, really well. Hitting the ball really well, finding the gaps. We’ve been playing small ball with a little bit of power game. It’s been a nice balance for us.”
Making the offensive production a little surprising was the fact it was against Triton ace Mallorie Jennings, who already holds the school’s all-time strikeout record.
Going five innings, the senior gave up seven hits and five runs, although just one of those runs was earned.
“I thought she pitched her guts out,” Triton coach Steve McBride said of Jennings. “She doesn’t have the speed that (Lemberg) has, but her whole thing is spin, and I thought her spin was pretty good. I thought she got out of some tough situations.”
A tough break for Jennings came in the second inning, as Wawasee loaded the bases with nobody out.
In a bad spot, Jennings induced a shallow fly out, then got a strike out.
Almost out of the inning, a ground ball got through the legs of an infielder, allowing two runs to score before Jennings struck out the next batter.
Another run scored on an error with two outs in the third inning, putting the Lady Trojans in a 3-0 hole, all of which were unearned.
“Our pitching’s fine, our hitting’s fine,” McBride said. “We need to clean up our defense. If we do that, we’re going to be a good team.”
Triton stayed within striking distance until the visitors opened the seventh inning with a double by sophomore Kylee Rostochak and an RBI-single by Fretz.
Following a flyout, Ousley then ripped a ball over the right-field fence, putting Wawasee up 8-2.
Despite the loss, McBride feels it’s the kind of competition his team needs as it begins its Northern State Conference campaign Monday at Knox.
“They’re a good team, and we needed to face a good team," he said. “We needed this. Anybody can play defense when you’re 5-0 after the first inning. We needed to be in a little bit of a pressure cooker.
“I thought they competed across the board,” he added. “We just got beat by a quality team. I think our kids know that, which is important. We didn’t drop an egg against somebody that wasn’t any good. Although you’re never happy with a loss, sometimes you can learn a lot from a loss.”
Like Triton, Wawasee opens its conference season tonight at Warsaw, and right now, they’re feeling pretty good.
“I think they have a lot of confidence going in at 5-1,” Knipper said. “They’re having a lot of fun. They’re playing great softball right now. Let’s just hope it keeps rolling into (this) week.”

WAWASEE 8, TRITON 2
W    020    120    3    –    8    12    1
T    000    110    0    –    2    5    5
Wawasee – Amber Lemberg (W, 7IP, 2R, 2ER, 5H, 6K, 4BB) and Paige Hlutke.
Triton – Mallorie Jennings (L, 5IP, 5R, 1ER, 7H, 5K, 2BB), Brycelyn Garbison (6, 2IP, 3R, 3ER, 5H, 1K, 1HR) and Allyson Brown.
2B – Meghan Fretz (W) 2, Danielle Gunkel (W), Kylee Rostochak (W), Alli Ousley (W).
HR – Ousley (W).
Records: Wawasee 5-1, Triton 4-1.