Softball Cards share Big Eight title

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Rachel Everson and Middleton's girls softball team earned a share of the Big Eight Conference title last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Tryouts were over.

The team had been chosen and practice was underway.

That’s when Middleton’s girls softball team began to fully understand the talent that existed up and down its roster. And the Cardinals immediately set the bar sky high.

“All of us players sat down a couple weeks into the season and made it a goal to win a conference championship,” Middleton senior shortstop Katie Fermanich said.

That goal became a reality last week.

Middleton clinched a share of the Big Eight Conference title last Tuesday thanks to a 4-2 win over Madison West. The Cardinals could have clinched the league’s outright title last Thursday, but they suffered a 7-4 loss to Beloit Memorial.

Middleton finished the year 14-4 in the conference and tied for first place with Verona. The Cardinals, who won their first league title since 2009, ended the regular season 17-6 overall.

“As a team we most definitely wanted a solo conference title,” Middleton senior catcher Amber Karn said. “But we are still very proud of ourselves as a team for sharing the conference.”

With good reason.

Cherie Hellenbrand returned to Middleton in 2014 for her second stint as the Cardinals’ manager and inherited a program mired in mediocrity. In two short seasons, though, Hellenbrand’s Cardinals became champions.

Middleton earned a share of the league title with its win over Madison West.

Makenzie Kopp notched the win, allowing two earned runs and six hits in six innings. Lauren Banke then worked a perfect seventh inning and picked up the save.

“Kopp pitched very well,” Hellenbrand said. “She continues to utilize the strike zone and working the count to her advantage.”

Middleton took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Senior second baseman Morgan Schmitt had the key hit, an RBI double that plated Kopp.

The game was tied, 2-2, in the bottom of the sixth when the Cardinals struck for the eventual game-winning runs.

Freshman Jessica Parente had the big blow, a two-run double that gave the Cardinals a 4-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Even though Parente is a freshman she continually performs under pressure,” Hellenbrand said.

Middleton had a chance to capture sole possession of the conference title. But the visiting Cardinals fell at Beloit, marking the second time this season they lost to the Purple Knights.

Middleton fell behind, 4-0, and 7-1 and couldn’t recover.

“Beloit came out strong and we were flat, both hitting and in the field,” Hellenbrand said. “We were a little anxious at the plate. We watched good pitches go by and then we were swinging at bad pitches with two strikes.”

Banke had two hits for the Cardinals and Henke had two RBI.

Middleton tried rallying back with two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh. But it was too little, too late.

“In the sixth inning we finally got serious about playing softball and strung some hits together,” Hellenbrand said. “In the seventh we had another rally going, but it wasn’t enough.”

Still, the Cardinals did enough during an exciting regular season to call themselves conference champions.

“We set a goal at the beginning of the season to become conference champs and I'm proud of this team for what we accomplished,” Karn said. “It hasn’t been since 2009 that Middleton softball has gotten a conference championship, so we should be proud.”

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