MADISON — The Sun Prairie softball team defended its WIAA Division 1 state title to the end. Unfortuntately to the bitter end.
Oshkosh North scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning, earning a heart-pounding 4-2 win in Saturday’s championship game at Goodman Diamond. It capped off a perfect 31-0 season for the Spartans who earned their first-ever state title in softball.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the state and they deserve that victory,” said Sun Prairie head coach Jamie Olson. “We came in with a target on our back, we’ve been battling (that) all season. They didn’t give up and fought to the end.”
Sun Prairie finished 27-4.
The two D1 powerhouses were all tied at 2-2 through eight innings when a pair of Cardinal errors occurred. The second error, a ball that went off the glove of center fielder Sabrina Reuter after the senior made a long run in an attempt to make the catch, allowed Mathena Higgins to score what would prove to be the game-winning run.
Oshkosh North, the top seed in the Division 1 field, added an insurance run as Sophie Averkamp singled in Brooke Ellestad.
Sun Prairie pitcher and University of Wisconsin recruit Maddie Gardner threw a remarkable 192 pitches in losing for just the fourth time all season.
“It was kind of like the situation we were in last year,” recalled Gardner, who finished 2-1 in the tournament. “We had nothing to lose, we just kept fighting to the end. But you know, being second in the state is pretty good.”
Gardner finished the tournament with 35 strikeouts, and at one point she set a new D1 record by passing Appleton East’s Katie Karbon’s 2000 mark of 34, only to have it surpassed by her counterpart, North’s Sydney Supple who struck out her 36th later in the game.
Gardner finished the season with 340 strikeouts, a new single-season record for the SPHS program.
For the third time in four at bats Higgins reached base to lead off an inning, drawing a walk from Gardner to star the Spartan ninth. Ellestad then reached on the first error of the inning, which was given to SP second baseman Leah Hamilton. Supple’s fly to shallow left-center then went off the glove of Reuter giving North a 3-2 advantage.
Gardner was then able to retire Libby Neveau on a fly to left, but Averkamp’s hard single up the middle plated Ellestad to give Oshkosh North a two-run cushion.
“As a pitcher you know the focus is on you, but you have to keep your head high,” said Gardner.
The Cardinals never threatened in the bottom of the inning, as Supple retired them in order. Supple finished with 11 strikeouts versus just two walks, allowing one earned run on four hits to earn her third win of the tournament. She finished the season 27-0.
Gutsy base running produced the game’s first run. After hitting a one-out single, sophomore Grace Radlund went all the way to third on Sabrina Reuter’s sacrifice bunt. Radlund then saw and opportunity and took it, stealing home when Averkamp lobbed the ball back to pitcher Sydney Supple and Radlund beat Supple’s return throw by diving under Averkamp for a 1-0 Sun Prairie lead.
The Spartans tied the score at 1-1 on a rare two-base wild pitch. With runners on first and second Gardner uncorked a high fastball which ricocheted off the backstop all the way past the Oshkosh North dugout, allowing Supple to score all the way from second.
The inning could have been over, but SP second baseman Leah Hamilton lost Neveau’s pop-up in the sun in foul territory. Neveau reached on an error two pitches later.
The rare moments continued in the Sun Prairie half of the third. After beating out an infield single freshman Chloe Knoernschild stole second, but the throw glanced off Ellestad’s glove at short and into right field where Higgins bobbled it and Knoernschild, who never stopped running, was waved home by Olson for a 2-1 Cardinal lead.
North tied things back up at 2-2 in the fifth. After Gardner walked Higgins, the No. 9 batter, Supple drove her in with a single to center.
“Second place is not bad,” said Olson. “Still being here to the end means we’re one of the top teams in the state of Wisconsin; it’s always wonderful to bring hardware home.”
STATE TOURNAMENT NOTES
In seven career state tournament games Gardner has 61 strikeouts … Sun Prairie’s appearance was the sixth in school history, the Cardinals are now 8-5 all-time in those games … Radlund batted .500 and Reuter .400 during the three state games … This year’s other state champions were Seymour (Div. 2), Poynette (Div. 3), Horicon (Div. 4) and Belmont (Div. 5).
(State Championship Game)
OSHKOSH NORTH 4
SUN PRAIRIE 2 (9 inn.)
North 001 010 002 — 4 8 3
Sun Prairie 101 000 000 — 2 4 4
Oshkosh North (ab-r-h-rbi) — Ellestad 4-1-0-0, Supple 3-1-1-1, Neveau 5-0-1-0, Averkamp 5-0-1-1, Phillips 0-0-0-0, Gauthier 4-0-1-0, Day 4-0-2-0, Leib 5-0-1-0, Frank 3-0-0-0, Lang 1-0-0-0, Higgins 2-2-1-0, Bittner 0-0-0-0. Totals — 36-4-8-2.
Sun Prairie (ab-r-h-rbi) — Knoernschild 3-1-1-0, Radlund 3-1-2-0, Reuter 2-0-0-0, Gardner 4-0-0-0, Hilber 4-0-0-0, Spatola 2-0-0-0, Racemacher 1-0-0-0, Patterson 3-0-0-0, Hamilton 2-0-1-0, Johnson 1-0-0-0, Ek 3-0-0-0. Totals — 28-2-4-0.
2B — Neveau.
Pitching HO — Supple 4 in 9; Gardner 8 in 9. ER — Supple 1; Gardner 1. SO — Supple 11; Gardner 9. BB — Supple 1; Gardner 6.
W — Gardner (26-4). L — Supple (27-0).
SUN PRAIRIE 5
The pitching of Maddie Gardner and a three-run third inning led the Sun Prairie softball team to a 5-2 win over Pulaski in the WIAA Division 1 state semifinal game late Friday night at Goodman Diamond.
The win propelled the Cardinals into the state championship game for a second-straight year. Sun Prairie (27-3) will get the chance to defend its title facing top-ranked Oshkosh North (30-0) in Saturday’s Division 1 title game at 6:30 p.m.
For the second time in as many days Gardner recorded a double-digit strikeout total. After fanning 16 batters in Thursday’s 4-1 10-inning quarterfinal win over Waukesha North, the University of Wisconsin recruit struck out 10 Red Raiders.
Sun Prairie fell behind 1-0 as Brynn Egnarski doubled and scored on Kamryn Brockman’s one-out single in the top of the second.
The Cardinals got that run back and more, scoring three times in their half of the third. RBIs by Sabrina Reuter, Gardner and Grace Hilber gave Sun Prairie a 3-1 advantage, one it would not relinquish.
Gardner retired 10 straight Pulaski (24-6) batters before Lauren Dixon singled to lead off the seventh. The junior right-hander only allowed one earned run and one walk.
(State Semifinal Game)
SUN PRAIRIE 5, PULASKI 2
Pulaski 001 000 1 — 2 6 3
Sun Prairie 003 011 x — 5 7 1
Pulaski (ab-r-h-rbi) — Niespodzany 4-0-0-0, Brockman 3-0-1-1, Wesoloski 2-0-0-0, Agamaite 3-0-1-0, Dixon 3-0-1-0, Maroszek 3-0-0-0, Kreuser 3-1-1-0, Williquette 3-0-1-0, Egnarski 3-1-1-0, Kubiak 0-0-0-0. Totals — 27-2-6-1.
Sun Prairie (ab-r-h-rbi) — Knoernschild 4-1-1-0, Radlund 2-1-1-0, Reuter 3-2-1-1, Gardner 3-0-1-2, Meyers 0-0-0-0, Hilber 3-0-0-1, Spatola 3-0-1-0, Duarte 0-0-0-0, Hamilton 2-0-0-0, Johnson 1-1-1-0, Patterson 3-0-0-0, Ek 3-0-1-0. Totals — 27-5-7-.
2B — Egnarski; Ek
Pitching HO — Dixon 7 in 6; Gardner 6 in 7. ER — Dixon 4; Gardner 1. SO — Dixon 6; Gardner 10. BB — Dixon 1; Gardner 1.
W — Gardner (26-3). L — Dixon (16-4).