Softball Cardinals hit rough patch

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Jenna Redders and Middleton’s girls softball team begin the postseason next week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

It was a rough week for the Middleton Cardinals softball team that still has aspirations of winning at least a share of their first Big Eight Conference title since 2015.

But the task became much tougher after Middleton lost two of three games last week.

Freshman pitcher Tayler Baker scattered seven hits and struck out seven and also had three hits, including a double, to power visiting Sun Prairie to an 11-3 victory over Middleton in a Big Eight Conference game last Friday at Firefighters’ Park.

“We made her look pretty good,” Middleton manager Brittany Karl said of Baker. “I think it was on us for not making adjustments. We knew what she was throwing right out of the gate, and we just didn’t adjust to it. We made some adjustments in the fifth inning, but you can’t wait so long.”

Earlier in the week, Middleton defeated Janesville Parker 7-3 on June 1 and suffered a heart-breaking 7-6 loss at home to Parker on June 3.

Middleton (17-4, 11-3 Big Eight) then suffered its third loss in its last five games when it allowed five unearned runs against Sun Prairie (15-3, 13-2), which moved into a share of the league lead with Verona (17-3, 13-2).

Sun Prairie took advantage of two Middleton errors to score three unearned runs in the top of the second inning and grab a 3-0 lead it never relinquished.

Baker drew a lead-off walk, and scored on a throwing error on Kiana Patterson’s ground ball to third base. Sophia Royle followed with a sacrifice fly, and Sun Prairie tacked on the final run on the inning on another infield error.

“Defense didn’t come to support Ellie today,” Karl said of Middleton senior right-hander Ellie Buza. “Ellie threw a heck of a game on the mound, that’s why she’s our ace.

“But the defense didn’t show up. That’s not Middleton softball. We’re much more fundamental than that in the infield. But we were tight. I’m not sure why.”

The visiting Cardinals added two runs in the third inning, three in the fourth and two in the fifth to cruise out to a 10-0 lead.

“They were hitting the ball and finding the gaps,” Buza said of Sun Prairie, which finished with 13 hits. “It’s always a battle. We just have to regroup and bounce back and be ready to play.”

Middleton senior catcher Olivia Hebert said Buza was making all the right moves, but Sun Prairie’s offense wasn’t going to be denied.

 “She was throwing well, hitting her spots and getting pitches off the plate when they needed to be,” Hebert said of Buza. “They were just getting on her, and our defense just couldn’t back her up today. They came out ready to play, and I don’t think we were right there.”

Meanwhile, Baker retired nine batters in a row, and 11 of 12 spanning the first four innings while she was recording six of her seven strikeouts.

“This is our next great pitcher,” Sun Prairie coach Jamie Olson said of Baker. “Our backup pitcher (Isabel Royle), a sophomore, is just as good. We’ve been switching games with both pitchers on and off all year. They’ve been dominating.”

Middleton battled back to keep Sun Prairie from ending the game on the 10-run mercy rule.

The home Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to extend the game into the seventh where they added a final tally.

“It was nice to finally see some urgency,” Karl said of the late rally. “I’d prefer to see it earlier in the game and not when our backs were against the wall.

“But that’s when they do respond. This team always responds when they are cornered. They punched, and we punched back. But again, we can’t wait so long to put runs on the board.”

Trailing 10-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Middleton was just three outs away from having the game called by the 10-run mercy rule.

But sophomore designated player Giovanna Iosso singled to center field, stole second and moved to third base on a throwing error before she scored when junior left fielder Erin Schleusner reached base on an infield error.

After senior right fielder Bailey Flock beat out a perfect bunt in front of home plate, Schleusner scampered home on a throwing error to pull Middleton within 10-2.

Sun Prairie pushed the lead back to 11-2 in the top of the seventh inning, but Middleton didn’t go down meekly.

Flock again bunted successfully for a base hit with one out. After Herbst reached base on an infield error, senior center fielder CC Hiorns bunted down the third base line and was thrown out at first base.

But Flock scored from second base on the play to cap the scoring.

“Baserunning was excellent today. Our bunting was very good,” Karl said. “CC (Hiorns) and Bailey Flock, they do a good job of controlling just where they can put it. They can put it on a dime. That really made a difference getting it done.”

In an attempt to jump-start the offense, Karl made a few lineup changes, the primary one moving Hebert, the team’s cleanup hitter, into the lead-off spot in the lineup.

Coach said since some teams are walking me to hopefully get something started right off the bat,” said Hebert, who drew five walks, including four intentional, in six at bats in a doubleheader against Verona on May 29.

“I haven’t batted leadoff since probably Little League. It’s definitely a bit of an adjustment I have to work on.”

Hebert, who is among the state’s leaders with 12 home runs, went 1-for-4, including a first-inning single.

Karl said she made the move to hopefully get Hebert an additional at bat each game and would consider sticking with the experiment.

A good hitter like Olivia, she’s trying to shoulder the burden all herself,” Karl said. “In that lead-off spot, there’s a little different mentality, you’re just trying to get on base. You’re not swinging for the fences, you’re trying to put it in play, a little poke.

“I think she was trying to tie it with one swing. But it wasn’t going to happen when we’re down 10. It’s a game of adjustments. She had a couple of at bats to adjust and to pop out to the same place three times, obviously there’s something you need to change in your approach.”

Sun Prairie, which holds a 20-8 lead in the series dating back to the 2008 season, will take a six-game winning streak in the series into a rematch that was set for Tuesday at Sun Prairie.

“We can compete with them,” Buza said of Sun Prairie. “I don’t know if it was something in our heads. But the next time, we will have a different mindset.”

 • Middleton 7, Janesville Parker 3 — The visiting Cardinals scored seven runs in the fifth inning to rally past the Vikings on June 1. Ellie Buza scattered nine hits over seven innings to earn the complete game victory for Middleton.

“Ellie pitched a solid game,” Middleton manager Brittany Karl said of Buza, who finished with two walks and two strikeouts.

Parker held a 2-0 lead before the Cardinals pulled ahead behind two-run singles from Erin Schleusner and Bailey Flock in the fifth inning.

Senior Abby Zumbrunnen had two hits, including a triple, while freshman Mackenzie Zimmerman had two hits, including a double for the Cardinals.

Alli Rosga had three hits for Parker (7-8, 4-8).

Janesville Parker 7, Middleton 6 — Olivia Herbert hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, but the host Cardinals fell short against the Vikings on June 3.

“It put us in contention there, brought it within one run,” manager Brittany Karl said of the Cardinals’ comeback. “You know, never say die. That’s when our bats come alive, when our backs are against the wall.”

Janesville Parker grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Middleton (17-3, 11-2 Big Eight) countered with three runs in the bottom of the third inning. Senior Jenna Redders delivered a run-scoring single, and Mackenzie Zimmerman followed with a two-run single to stake Middleton to a 3-2 lead.

Parker (8-8, 5-8) scored four runs in the sixth inning, though, to take a 6-4 lead and added the eventual winning run in the top of the seventh inning.

“The story was our defense,” Karl said. “We made too many errors. It’s been a rough week for the defense.”

On deck: After playing at Sun Prairie on Tuesday, Middleton was scheduled to host Madison La Follette on Wednesday. The Cardinals close out the regular season at La Follette on Thursday at 5 p.m. and at home against Beloit Memorial on Friday at 5 p.m.

 

June 1

Middleton 7, Janesville Parker 3

Middleton …………. 000 070 0 — 7 12 2

Janesville Parker …. 011 000 1 — 3   9 0

Pitchers (ip-h-r-er-so-bb) — M: Ellie Buza (W: 7-9-3-0-2-2); JP: Hannah Bolly (L: 5-11-7-7-6-2), Neriyah Lot (2-1-0-0-1-0).

Leading hitters — M: Abby Zumbrunnen 2x4 (3B), Mackenzie Zimmerman 2x4 (2B), Erin Schleusner 3x4, Bailey Flock 2x4; JP: Alli Rosga 3x4 (2B), Alexys Luek 2x4, Alyssa Ayers 2x3.

 

June 3

Janesville Parker 7, Middleton 6

Janesville Parker ….. 200 004 1 — 7   8 2

Middleton ………….. 003 100 2 — 6 10 2

Pitchers (ip-h-r-er-so-bb) — JP: Neriyah Lot (3.0-6-4-4-1-1), Hannah Bolly (W: 4.0-4-2-0-1-1); M: Bailey Flock (4.0-3-2-2-3-3), Ellie Buza (L: 3.0-5-5-1-5-2).

Leading hitters — JP: Gentry Reed (3B), Hannah Bolly 2x4, Jasmyn Demrow-Kalvin 2x4; M: Olivia Herbert 2x3 (HR) (2B), Mackenzie Zimmerman 2x4 (2B), CC Hiorns 2x4.

 

June 5

Sun Prairie 11, Middleton 3

Sun Prairie ….. 032 320 1 — 11 13 3

Middleton …… 000 020 1 —  3    7 4

Pitchers (ip-h-r-er-so-bb) — SP: Tayler Baker (W: 7.0-7-3-1-7-3); M: Ellie Buza (L: 7.0-13-11-6-4-4).

Leading hitters — SP: Chloe Knoernschild 3x3, Sydney McLean 3x4, Isabel Royle 2x3, Ellie Rademacher 2x4, Tayler Baker 3x4 (2B); M: Giovanna Iosso 2x3, Bailey Flock 2x3, Jenna Redders (3B).

 

 

 

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