The WIAA softball tournaments begin on Thursday, with Somerset and St. Croix Central both in action.
Somerset will host Sparta at 5 p.m. in the opening round of Division 2 regional action on Thursday. St. Croix Central will play at Fall Creek at 5 p.m. in the opening round of WIAA Division 3 playoff action.
The individual hitting star in Monday's softball games? That would be New Richmond junior catcher Lexy Kupczak. Kupczak hit three homers as the Tigers earned a 13-2 win at St. Croix Central.
Kupczak finished 4-for-4 at the plate, including her three solo homers. Tiger coach Lynzi Pechacek said Kupczak's been in a bit of a slump recently. She said Kupczak suddenly looked more confident Monday and it showed in each of her at-bats.
It wasn't just Kupczak either. The Tigers generated 16 hits in the game. Emma Tappe had three hits and Anna Hams, Bella Cacka, Lanie Veenendall and Erika Emerson each had two hits. Emerson's hits included a triple.
Leah DeYoung threw the complete game for the Tigers, finishing with a four-hitter.
Pechacek was enthused in comparing this game to the 10-8 win the Tigers had over Central the first time they met.
"You could tell how much we've grown," Pechacek said.
The Tigers finish the MBC season with a 5-9 record. Central finishes at 0-14.
For Central, this wasn't the result they were looking for in their final MBC game. The Panthers open Division 3 regional tournament action on Thursday at Fall Creek. They finish the regular season on Tuesday, hosting Elmwood-Plum City.
The lone highlight for Central was a two-run homer hit by Angelica Olson in the fifth inning. Olson had two of the Panther hits with Bailey Davis and Catherine Skoglund each registering one hit. Defense was a downfall for the Panthers, as they committed seven errors.
The bottom of the sixth inning bit the Tigers for the second straight night last Friday. The Tigers trailed 2-1 at Baldwin-Woodville until the bottom of the sixth. That's when B-W scored six times to win 8-1. This came a night after the Tigers gave up eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning in a 9-4 loss at Somerset.
Pechacek said the games from the last two nights showed that the Tigers are capable of playing excellent ball. The Tigers didn't have an error and DeYoung gave another encouraging pitching effort.
By changing their batting approach, the Tigers were able to break a game open in the seventh inning at Osceola last Tuesday.
The game was tied 3-3 heading into the final inning. The Tigers broke through with seven runs in the top of the seventh to defeat the Chieftains, 10-3.
A message about patience was what turned the Tigers around in the seventh inning.
"Their pitcher had been jamming us all night," said Pechacek. "In the last at-bat we told them to lay off the inside pitch and take the outside pitch the opposite way."
The Tigers produced several hits in the seventh and they also drew a number of walks by not swinging at the pitches on the inside corner.
Kupczak continued to lead the Tiger offense with a pair of doubles. DeYoung also supplied two hits and Lanie Veenendall drove home two runs. DeYoung and Veenendall also combined on the pitching. DeYoung worked the first four innings. Veenendall was nearly untouchable in the final three innings, allowing one hit and no runs.
The Tigers end the regular season next Thursday when they host River Falls.
The Spartans earned a major amount of respect around the MBC by defeating Prescott 7-0 on Monday. With the win, the Spartans finish 7-7 in the final conference standings. Over the second half of the season, the Spartans have been one of the MBC's hottest teams. Somerset went 5-2 in the second half of the conference schedule.
"Everything was clicking," said Somerset coach Paige Johnson of Monday's win. "We had girls diving all over for balls."
A strong defensive performance backed up the three-hit pitching from Somerset freshman Roxanne Ring.
The offensive highlight was produced by junior Isabel Garcia. In the fourth inning, Garcia launched the first homer of her career over the centerfield fence. Johnson said it was the first Somerset homer at their home field in at least seven years.
"(Garcia) has so much power, when she gets ahold of a ball, it moves," Johnson said.
Madison Trautmiller, Georgia Hammer and Makenzie Weeks also were key offensive contributors.
The Spartans lost a pair of games in a tournament at Chippewa Falls on Saturday. They fell to Westosha Central, 9-3, and to Kaukauna, 10-3.
A big win for the Spartans came last Friday when they defeated Osceola, 9-6. The Spartans took charge by scoring five runs in the third inning. They added to their lead with two runs in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh.
This ends Somerset's regular season. The Spartans will open the WIAA tournament series on their home field. The Spartans earned the seventh seed in the Division 2 regional bracket. The Spartans will host tenth-seeded Sparta at 5 p.m. this Thursday. The winner of Thursday's game will play at West Salem, the second seed, at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21.
Tigers, Spartans clash
The start put together by the New Richmond softball team was excellent. But it couldn't match the finish put together by the Somerset squad.
New Richmond scored three runs in the first inning and maintained a lead until Somerset came to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Spartans put together their biggest rally of the season, ringing up eight runs, to defeat New Richmond 9-4.
Somerset's rally started with Audrey Leonard drawing a walk and Weeks being hit by a pitch. At that time the New Richmond coaches changed pitchers, bringing in Veenendall to replace DeYoung. Somerset then got a walk to load the bases. Somerset's first run scored on one of several controversial calls on the bases, where it appeared a tag was made on the bases but no call was made. Somerset cut the lead to 4-3 on another fielder's choice grounder.
The deciding hit came from Somerset freshman MyKenzie Leccia, who was celebrating her 15th birthday. Call this a birthday bash, because Leccia launched a double to the leftfield gap that chased home the tying and go-ahead runs.
Leccia was all smiles after the game. She said she thought she might have hit the ball well enough to put it over the fence. Leccia said she and Veenendall were teammates on a team last summer.
While they're young, Leccia said the Spartans are growing together as a team.
"It's not just one person, everyone is contributing," she said. Leccia was going to celebrate her birthday with her teammates at the Somerset Dairy Queen.
Leccia's double ignited the Spartans' hitting. Hammer singled, Ring tripled, and Weeks and Garcia both singled, with all four of those hits driving home runs.
Ring pitched a complete game for the Spartans. After giving up the three runs in the first inning, she was quite solid, with the Tigers rarely able to hit the ball out of the infield. The one exception came in the fourth inning when DeYoung ripped a double to center to score Allina Rewald, who had singled.
The Tigers got their runs in the first inning when Tappe tripled to send home the first two runs. She scored on a single from Veenendall.
The good news for the Tigers is that every player in the lineup had at least one hit, with four of the girls producing two hits.
St. Croix Central
The Panthers produced some of the most encouraging news of the night last Friday. Central led against MBC leader Ellsworth after four innings. Ellsworth was able to make a late charge to maintain its perfect conference record, but Central's girls had something to be encouraged about in the 9-4 loss.
"It's the best we've played in a while and probably the best we played all year," said Nilssen.
Central pitcher Ashley Mann limited Ellsworth to nine hits, but two of them were homers. Central had five hits, produced by Wasley, Parker Chladek, Zoey Page, Emily Gatzke and Mann. Chladek drove home two of the runs.
The Panthers played a double-header against Prescott on Thursday. The Panthers put up an admirable fight in the first game, losing 4-0. One bad defensive inning caused the second game to get away from the Panthers in a 14-1 loss.
Mann allowed five hits in the opening game. Unfortunately, the Panthers were limited to two hits, from Wasley and Angelica Olson.
"We played very well in that game," said Nilssen.
The Panthers were bitten by the error bug in the second inning of the second game. Catherine Skoglund entered the game in the third inning and pitched shutout ball over the final three innings.
Central was limited to four hits in the second game. Wasley had two of the hits, with Myah Olson and Zoey Page getting the other hits.
Also in softball seeding, the St. Croix Central team is the 10th seed in its Division 3 regional bracket. The Panthers open tournament play on Thursday by playing at the seventh seed, Fall Creek. The winner will play at Prescott, the second seed, on Tuesday, May 21.