Central softball wins D-SC championshipThe Dunn-St. Croix Conference softball championship has long been a battle between Pepin, Elmwood and Spring Valley, with few interlopers able to break through that triumvirate at the top of the conference.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
The Dunn-St. Croix Conference softball championship has long been a battle between Pepin, Elmwood and Spring Valley, with few interlopers able to break through that triumvirate at the top of the conference.
That has all changed this year. The St. Croix Central softball team has climbed to the top of the D-SC in 2009.
The Panthers finished off their D-SC championship with an 11-0 win at Boyceville on Monday. The Panthers needed the win, because Glenwood City and Elmwood also won their games on Monday.
The last conference championship won by the Panthers came in 2005, when the conference was divided into large and small school divisions.
That was the Panthers’ first season under coach Jim Anderson. Now in his fifth season, they’ve won the title again.
The Panthers are one of the younger teams in the conference, with one senior who plays regularly. Most of these girls played last season when they showed strong potential.
“That was the goal from day one,” Anderson said about winning the conference title this season. “They work hard and they like to play. They come to get the job done in practice. That’s when you win a lot of games.”
The Panthers started slowly but were able to overcome Boyceville on Monday. The first run was the product of four walks in the third inning. Kelsey Criego singled and scored on a passed ball in the fourth inning.
The game was broken open when the Panthers scored six times in the fifth inning. A two-run triple by Nikki Brooks was the key hit of that rally.
Leadoff hitter Ashley Adkins was on base three times and scored two runs on Monday. She was held without a hit, something that hasn’t happened before during the conference season.
Boyceville’s hitters were no match for Brooks’ pitching. She threw a three-hitter, walking three and striking out seven.
Central and Glenwood City played in front of one of the largest crowds ever for a Panther softball game in Hammond last Friday. The crowd saw a game that was worthy of a championship battle.
Central pecked away, getting single runs in the second and fifth innings. The drama was amped up further when Glenwood City came back to tie the score with two runs in the top of the seventh inning.
The Panthers were able to win the game in the eighth inning, locking up a share of the conference championship. The 3-2 win will go down as one of the most important in Panther history.
Ashley Adkins scored the winning run. With one out in the eighth, she reached second base on a throwing error by the Hilltopper shortstop. Anderson considered having Lindsay Chinander bunt, because she handles the bat as well as any Panther. Anderson suspected that Glenwood City would give Chinander good pitches to hit, knowing Brooks and Sarah Hawkins were immediately behind her in the batting order.
So Anderson elected to have Chinander swing away. Chinander connected solidly with the ball, driving a shot to the left field alley that gave Adkins plenty of time to score from second base.
Brooks pitched the eight innings for the Panthers. She threw a seven-hitter, walking one and striking out six.
Central’s first run came in the second inning. Megan Revoir tripled to the fence in right field. She scored on Hayley Hawkins’ single.
The second Panther run was all Adkins. With two outs in the fifth she singled. She stole second base and moved to third base when the catcher’s throw was off line. She then scored when a pitch scooted past the catcher.
The way the Panthers played against Glenwood City was a welcome sight after the team’s one-inning that led to a loss to Pepin last Tuesday.
The Panthers had only given up five runs in a game once this season. So the eight runs they gave up in one inning was a shock as the Panthers lost 8-4. This was just their third loss of the season.
Pepin’s eight-run sixth inning came out of the blue. Pepin used five hits, three walk and a Panther error to amass the big inning.
Give the Panthers credit for trying to come back. Revoir delivered a two-run double in the seventh inning to cut Pepin’s lead to 8-4, but that’s as far as the rally could carry the Panthers.
Revoir finished the game with three RBI. Brooks led the team with three hits.
The Panthers received the third seed in the WIAA Division 3 regional bracket. Undefeated Grantsburg drew the first seed. Central was hoping to get the second seed ahead of Glenwood City. The Hilltoppers had won the only head-to-head meeting at the time of the seeding and that win swayed the coaches to give Glenwood City the second seed.
By drawing the third seed, the Panthers play at home at 5 p.m. next Thursday against Unity, the sixth seed. The winner of that game will play the following Tuesday, against the winner between Glenwood City and Turtle Lake-Clayton.