Softball Cards stay in title hunt

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
First-year manager Perry Hibner has Middleton's girls softball team in the hunt for a Big Eight Conference title./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Conference championships can’t be won in the first half of a season.

They can be lost, though, and Middleton’s girls softball team was in danger of experiencing that fate last Saturday.

The Cardinals traveled to Big Eight Conference leading Janesville Craig and dropped the first game of a doubleheader, 7-3. But Middleton responded with an impressive 9-8 win in the nightcap and stayed within striking distance of the conference-leading Cougars.

Craig is 8-1 in the league, while Middleton sits in second place at 7-2. The Cardinals, who are also 7-3 overall, travel to third-place Verona (6-2, 8-2) Thursday at 5 p.m. in a critical conference game.

“We wanted to win both games, but we needed to win at least one,” Middleton coach Perry Hibner said. “We didn't play our best and I'm sure Janesville Craig had something to do with that. But I was happy with how we battled, overcame some adversity and found a way to win the second game.”

Janesville Craig built a 5-1 lead in the second game and appeared on the brink of sweeping the Cardinals. But Middleton erupted for six runs in the bottom of the fifth inning against reliever Kaity Peloquin.

Rachel Everson doubled and with one out, then Shelby Ballweg homered to trim Craig’s lead to 5-3. With two outs and runners on first and third, Makenzie Kopp's grounder was booted by second baseman Maddie Spry, allowing Lauren Banke to score. 
Freshman Ashley Bindl followed with a double to left center to drive in two runs. Bindl advanced to third when the relay throw went to home, and scored when another throw got past the third baseman.

“That was a huge hit by Ashley,” Hibner said. “She sure didn't look or play like a freshman on Saturday.”

Craig scored once in the top of the sixth and pulled within 7-6. But Middleton added two runs in the bottom of the inning on Banke's two-out double to left center that drove in Ballweg and Hanna Fisher.

The insurance runs proved extremely valuable after the Cougars scored two runs in the seventh. But Middleton pitcher Kopp got Julia Humphrey to strike out to end the game.

In the first game, Middleton overcame a 3-0 deficit with a three-run fourth inning. Banke had a two-run, two-out single and Bailey Kalscheur followed with a triple to right to score Banke.

Craig answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth, though. Then the Cougars roughed up Middleton starter and eventual loser Banke for three more runs in the sixth inning.

“We made too many mistakes in the field and you can’t do that against a very good team like Janesville Craig,” Hibner said. “(Craig pitcher Jenna) Brandt also did a great job of keeping us off-balance at the plate. There’s a reason they came into the game undefeated.”

Middleton also rolled past Madison West, 13-0, last Wednesday in a game stopped after five innings due to the 10-run rule. The Cardinals also drilled Beloit Memorial, 15-4, last Thursday.

Middleton’s Banke struck out six and threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout in the Cardinals win over the Regents.

Middleton struck for eight runs in the first inning. Sophomore Jessica Parente had a two-run single to center and junior Katrina Anderson had a two-run double to left center to key the outburst.

Shelby Ballweg then homered to center field to highlight a five-run second. 

“Madison West is a young team and we stressed that it was important to get an early lead,” Hibner said. “I was very happy with how we played.

“We were able to get everyone on the roster at least two innings in the field and a chance to bat. All of our girls work extremely hard every day, so it was rewarding to get them some time.”

Middleton also rolled against Beloit Memorial. The Cardinals trailed, 2-1, in the top of the third inning when they struck for 10 runs.

Shelby Ballweg hit a two-run home run in the third, Katherine Hibner had a two-run single and Jessica Parente singled and doubled and drove in two runs in the frame.

Ballweg’s home run to left field was one of the longer ones the Cardinals have had in quite some time.

“I think we found that ball on the bus ride home,” Hibner joked. “That ball might have been a home run in Miller Park.”

Kopp gave up six hits and two earned runs and didn't walk a batter to earn her fourth win of the season.

“That felt great, because Beloit Memorial beat us twice last year,” Hibner said. “I was happy with how aggressive we were at the plate in the third inning. And other than a couple of miscues in the first inning, we were solid defensively. That was a good win.”

• On deck: In addition to traveling to Verona Thursday, Middleton hosts La Crosse Central in a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. The Cardinals then host Madison East Tuesday at 5 p.m. and host Madison La Follette May 5 at 5 p.m.


Wednesday, April 20

Madison West ......... 000 00 -- 0 2 5

Middleton ............... 850 0x -- 13 9 2

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) -- Varian (L; 4-9-8-5-5); Banke (W; 5-2-0-1-6).

Leading hitters -- Everson (M) 2x2. HR -- Ballweg. 2B -- McCleary (MW), Everson, Kalscheur (M), Banke (M), Anderson (M).


Thursday, April 21

Middleton ............... 10(10) 001 3 -- 15 14 2

Beloit Memorial ....... 200 020 0 -- 4 6 4

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) -- Kopp (W; 7-6-2-0-3); Roman (L; 2-6-6-2-1), Swanson (5-8-6-6-2).

Leading hitters -- Anderson (M) 3x5, Everson (M) 2x4, Parente (M) 2x4, Ballweg (M) 2x3, Brickson (BM) 2x4, Bittner (BM) 2x3. HR -- Ballweg. 2B -- Parente, Anderson, Banke.


Saturday, April 23

Middleton .............. 000 300 0 -- 3 6 5

Janesville Craig .... 003 103 x -- 7 9 1

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) -- Banke (L; 6-9-5-0-3); Brandt (W; 7-6-3-1-6).

Leading hitters -- Kaufman (JC) 2x4, Cox (JC) 2x4. HR -- Kaufman. 3B -- Kalscheur. 2B -- Kaufman, Humphrey (JC). 


Janesville Craig ........ 000 231 2 -- 8 10 5

Middleton ................ 000 162 x -- 9 10 3

Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) -- Humphrey (4-4-1-2-2), K. Peloquin (L; 0.2-3-2-2-0), Brandt (1.1-3-2-0-2); Kopp (W; 7-10-7-0-4).

Leading hitters -- Kaufman (JC) 3x4, Filter (JC) 2x4, K. Peloquin (JC) 2x3, Everson (M) 3x4, Ballweg (M) 2x4, Fisher (M) 2x2, Bindl (M) 2x3. HR -- Fisher, Ballweg. 2B -- Filter, K. Peloquin, Kaufman, Everson 2, Fisher, Bindl, Banke (M).


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