SUN PRAIRIE — Inclement weather early this spring compressed the schedule, leading to games almost every day for the undefeated Sun Prairie softball team.
Cardinals sophomore pitcher Maddie Gardner doesn’t mind one bit.
“The weather has been really weird, but playing all these games keeps the energy going up,” Gardner said. “I love softball. I can’t get enough of it.”
Gardner and Sun Prairie’s heavy-hitting lineup are working hand in hand, making life easy for the other as the first-place Cardinals run away in the Big Eight Conference race.
Gardner, who has orally committed to the University of Wisconsin, allowed only one hit and struck out 11 in Sun Prairie’s 10-0 victory over Beloit Memorial in 80-degree weather Tuesday evening. Gardner didn’t permit a hit for the first 4º innings of the game, which ended after the top of the fifth inning due to the run rule.
“She has improved tremendously in regards to speed, control, her composure on the mound and her leadership as a sophomore,” Sun Prairie coach Jamie Olson said about Gardner. “In all aspects of being a player, she has stepped up and taken control on the field. That is a lot of weight on a little sophomore who just turned 16. She has taken a lot of control with it and we are going to roll with it right now.”
Senior left fielder Skylar Muller knocked in four runs and was 3-for-3 — including a two-run triple and a two-run homer — for the Cardinals (17-0 overall, 12-0 Big Eight), ranked third in Division 1 in the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association poll.
“I have been feeling very confident,” Muller said. “I think this is the most confident I have felt in my whole career. It helps that I know my teammates have my back, no matter what I do, no matter what happens.”
First baseman Kellyn Herwig also delivered a two-run homer, center fielder Sabrina Reuter had three hits, shortstop Katie Tews had two hits and drove in two runs and second baseman Gabi Westphal had two of Sun Prairie’s 12 hits.
“What excites me most is that we have a pitcher that dominates on the mound, but we also have an offense that can hit the ball, and, obviously, it showed tonight,” Olson said.
Beloit Memorial first-year coach Jennifer Pozzani, who said she’s pleasantly surprised by the play of the young Purple Knights (10-4, 10-4), talked to her team afterward about striving to reach Sun Prairie’s level.
“They are a great team,” Pozzani said. “That is kind of what we talked about. They have a great pitcher. They have great hitters. That is inevitably where we want to be. They do things the right way — pitching, fielding, hitting.”
The top five hitters in Sun Prairie’s lineup — third baseman Schyler Ek, Reuter, Tews, Muller and Herwig — scored nine runs, drove in eight runs and had 10 hits. Yale University commit Tews doubled in the game’s first run and Muller tripled in two more runs as Sun Prairie jumped to a 5-0 lead.“I try not to get too worried when I’m up with this kind of lead or also when I walk a girl, because I see it as they don’t count until they touch home,” said Gardner, who walked three. “If I let one girl on with a walk, I know I either will get the next girl or my teammates will help me out. That (big lead) makes it a lot easier. Sometimes we have those off-innings, every team does. But I know my team will jump back out and score three or four.”
Beloit Memorial 000 00 — 0 1 1
Sun Prairie 530 2x — 10 12 1
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Swanson (L, 3.1-12-10-2-3), Walker (0.2-0-0-0-0); Gardner (W, 5-1-0-3-11).
Leading hitters — SP: Reuter 3x3, Tews 2x3, Muller 3x3, Westphal 2x3. HR: Muller, Herwig. 3B: Muller. 2B: Reuter, Tews.