Another regional title for Tiger softball
The seniors on the New Richmond softball team have one more chance to reach the WIAA Division 2 state championships.
And they have a chance to deliver some payback along the way.
The 2008 Tigers won a WIAA regional championship last Thursday, with a 13-0 bashing of Amery. This is the third regional championship for the Tigers in the past four seasons.
Two teams have blocked the Tigers' path to the state tournament during the past three years: Rice Lake and Altoona.
When the Tigers play in the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament this Thursday, they could have the final say against both of those teams.
This year's sectional tournament will be played in Rice Lake. The Tigers will face Rice Lake in the opening round of the tournament at 1 p.m. Altoona and Mosinee will play in the other sectional semifinal game. The sectional championship game will then be played at Rice Lake at 3:30 p.m.
Last year the Tigers were beaten in the regional final game by Altoona. In 2005 and 2006, the Tigers reached the sectionals, only to be defeated by Rice Lake both times.
About the only thing this year's Tigers haven't accomplished is getting to the state tournament. Coach Jim McCullum said beating the teams that have knocked the Tigers out of the tournaments the past few years is an added incentive for the team.
The Tigers played both of their regional tournament games last week like a team on a mission. In the regional final, they delivered a crushing 13-0 defeat to Amery. A week earlier, Amery had given the Tigers their best challenge of the Middle Border Conference season, with the Tigers having to battle for a 3-2 win.
This time, the Tigers beat Amery into submission in every way, shape and form. The Tigers scored once in the second inning, then broke the game open with five runs in the third inning. The Tigers then won the game on the 10-run rule in the fifth inning and they did it in dramatic fashion. Shortstop Dani Lagerstrom crushed a grand slam homer to bring home the final runs of the game.
That was the Tigers' second homer of the game. Senior Libby Jensen, on the hottest hitting stretch of her career, delivered a solo homer for the Tigers' run in the second inning. And that might not have been the hardest ball hit by Jensen in the regional final.
In the fifth inning Jensen smoked a line drive up the middle that struck Amery pitcher Rachel Mullendore in the forehead. The ball glanced off Mullendore's face and careened all the way to the Amery dugout.
Mullendore was taken to the Amery hospital as a precautionary measure and released. McCullum checked on Mullendore's status on Friday. She was able to attend school, still feeling the effects of a headache and sore neck.
As has been the case all year, the Tigers had excellent offensive balance. Jensen, Paige Spaulding and Hannah Bygd each had two hits in the game.
Pitching and defense were equally important in the win. The Tiger defense did not commit an error. Pitcher Nikki Singerhouse purely overpowered Amery's hitters. She struck out eight of the 17 batters she faced in the game. Singerhouse threw a two-hitter and did not walk a batter.
The Tigers carry an 18-2 record into this year's sectional tournament.
Last Tuesday the Tigers opened WIAA tournament play with a 10-0 win over Cumberland. Cumberland's pitcher threw well, and the game remained scoreless until the fourth inning. With a strong wind blowing toward home plate at Hatfield Park, Cumberland was playing its outfielders just beyond the infield dirt. It was just a matter of time before the Tigers burned those outfielders.
That happened in the fourth inning. Alyssa Martinson singled to start the threat. Ashley Stoffel then hit a hard liner to rightfield. This usually would have been a single, but the Cumberland outfielder was so shallow that she couldn't cut off the ball. The ball rolled to the outfield fence and Stoffel circled the bases for her first home of the season.
Stoffel's blast unnerved the Cumberland pitcher and the Tigers ended the game with an eight-run merry-go-round in the fifth inning.
Kristy Martinson and Billie Jo Germain each drove home two runs in the fifth inning. Martinson scorched the ball in this game, delivering a double and a triple.
Singerhouse and Alyssa Martinson also had two hits in the game.
Singerhouse threw a two-hitter, striking out nine Cumberland batters. The Tigers played errorless defense.