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Sun Prairie blanks Chippewa Falls to make third straight WIAA softball final
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WIAA STATE DIVISION 1 SOFTBALL | SUN PRAIRIE 4, CHIPPEWA FALLS 0

Sun Prairie blanks Chippewa Falls to make third straight WIAA softball final

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GREEN BAY — The bases were loaded in the fourth inning of a scoreless game Monday afternoon and Sun Prairie’s Sophia Royle had the bunt sign.

Jim Polzin is announced as the Lee Sports Wisconsin Columnist, where he will write stories covering all levels of sports throughout the state.

But after the Cardinals’ sophomore first baseman fouled off a pitch, her instructions changed. Royle now had the green light to swing away.

The left-handed hitting Royle laced a single to center field, driving in two runs. Another run scored on a throwing error on the play, clearing the bases and paving the way for a four-run inning.

That, plus freshman pitcher Tayler Baker’s second shutout of the day, propelled second-seeded and ninth-ranked Sun Prairie to a 4-0 victory over sixth-seeded Chippewa Falls in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal at UW-Green Bay’s King Park.

“After that (foul ball), I focused in and she threw one a little bit low and I took it up the middle,” Royle said about Chippewa Falls junior pitcher Hannah Aldrich’s offering. “I feel like I’ve been in a lot of situations and this time I was able to show my talents because I knew we needed it. We were in a `struggle bus’ at first hitting their pitcher. Then we ended up timing her up and getting used to it and hitting her.”

Sun Prairie (23-3), making its fourth consecutive state appearance, advanced to Wednesday’s championship game at 3 p.m. at King Park.

Sun Prairie will play the winner of Monday night’s late game between top-seeded Kaukauna and fourth-seeded Burlington.

It will be Sun Prairie’s third consecutive trip to the title game, after winning the championship in 2018 and finishing as runner-up in 2019. The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Junior catcher Chloe Knoernschild singled in Sun Prairie’s fourth run in the fourth. Sun Prairie had five hits in the inning.

“When we face those slower pitchers, we struggle a little bit,” Sun Prairie coach Jamie Olson said. “After a few innings we are able to get the timing down and play a little small ball and get them on.”

Baker, who blanked Beaver Dam 8-0 in a morning quarterfinal, started the fourth-inning rally with a single to right against Chippewa Falls (25-6).

“I just walked up there thinking I wanted to get a hit,” Baker said. “I wanted to get on base and get something going.”

Sophomore center fielder Isabel Royle -- Sophia Royle’s twin (Isabel is 9 minutes older) – reached on a bunt single. So did junior second baseman Kennedy Schaefer, loading the bases with none out and setting the stage for Sophia Royle.

Sun Prairie began the season 4-3 (three victories, two losses to Verona, a victory over Waunakee and a loss to Oak Creek). But Sun Prairie hasn’t lost since – winning 19 in a row.

“At the beginning of the season, we came with those three losses right away,” Sophia Royle said. “It was hard to get our confidence back. But then we had a week of playing some hard games. We came out on top in those games and I think that gave us a lot of confidence. I didn’t have my freshman year due to COVID, so it’s nice coming in and taking it all the way to the championship (game).”

Baker used her changeup more in the second game after relying on her two-seam fastball in the victory over Beaver Dam.

“My two-seam wasn’t moving as much,” Baker said. “I was trying to mix speeds and catch them off-guard a bit.”

Chippewa Falls sophomore first baseman Madyson Baker doubled leading off the top of the fourth inning, but was stranded at third base. Then Sun Prairie scored its runs.

“It’s huge,” Olson said about that turn of events. “It’s like, `We just need somebody to get the rally started.’ And once it starts, they usually produce.”

Kaukauna 11, Burlington 1

After a nail-biter in the quarterfinals earlier Monday, the top-seeded Kaukauna softball team enjoyed an evening cruise in their WIAA Division 1 state semifinal game at UW-Green Bay’s King Park.

Kaukauna rolled to a six-inning, 11-1 victory over Burlington, pounding out 12 base hits and scoring the game-ending run on a bases-loaded walk. The win came after a 3-2 decision against Wilmot earlier Monday.

The victory advanced the Galloping Ghosts (26-2) to the Division 1 state final against Sun Prairie (23-3), set for 3 p.m. Wednesday at King Park.

Kally Meredith went 3-for-4 and Ava. VanAsten, Anna LaCount and Keanna Jansen drove in two runs each for Kaukauna, which scored three runs in both the third and fourth innings and blew the game open with a four-run fifth.

Meanwhile, pitchers Skyler Calmes and Kaitlyn Van De Hey combined to allow four Burlington hits, with three walks and seven strikeouts.

In quarterfinal action, Kaukauna scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and held on for a 3-2 victory over Wilmot. In the fifth, Ava Van Asten hit an RBI triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Khloe Hinkens to give the Galloping Ghosts the lead, and Calmes forced Wilmot to leave runners stranded in the sixth and seventh innings to win. Calmes struck out 11.

An error on a bunt with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning allowed Meagan Baumeister to score the winning run as fourth-seeded Burlington defeated fifth-seeded Cedarburg, 4-3. The Bulldogs (26-4) tied the game in the top of the sixth on a three-run home run by pitcher Paytn Monticelli. Two errors helped Burlington score two runs in the third for a 3-0 lead.

Chippewa Falls took advantage of sloppy Sussex Hamilton defense, as the sixth-seeded Cardinals scored three unearned runs in a 4-2 victory over the second-seeded Chargers (23-4). Camryn Fjelstad went 3-for-4 with a double and drove in a run for Chippewa Falls. Hamilton’s only offense came on a pair of solo home runs by Anna Frafjord.

Division 5

Top-seeded and second-ranked Oakfield (25-2) sent home five runs in the third inning and outlasted ninth-ranked Hurley (23-5) the rest of the way in the championship game, taking an 8-4 victory at King Park in Green Bay. The Oaks claimed their seventh state championship and first since 2018. Taneal Tadman went 3-for-4 to lead Oakfield’s 15-hit attack, and Tadman, Vanessa Flury and Aly Lamonska hit RBI singles in the third-inning flurry. The Northstars finished with 11 hits, including a triple and double by Mackenzie Backman.

In semifinal play, Oakfield ousted Seneca, 10-0 in five innings, behind an eight-run second inning and the one-hit pitching performance of J.J. Gremminger and Adi Moser. Aubrey Wallin got the only base hit for Seneca, which committed six errors.

Also, third-seeded Hurley scored twice in the top of the seventh inning and held on for a 6-5 win over second-seeded Stevens Point Pacelli (21-4). An RBI groundout by Backman and a two-out RBI single by Lili Benedicto sent home Hurley’s runs in the seventh. Benedicto also tripled in a run in the fifth inning, one of three Hurley triples.

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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.

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