One single sailed all the way to the center-field fence — and the only reason it didn’t clang off the wall was because the center-field fence was, in fact, a temporary snow fence.
Soon afterward, another single, this one a bunt, took a nap just 4 feet from home plate in the Goodman Diamond infield dirt.
In between, the McFarland softball team produced 13 other base hits during Thursday’s WIAA Division 2 regional final against Madison Edgewood. All those hits — along with a two-hitter by Spartans senior pitcher Megan Jansen — added up to a dominating performance and a 5-0 victory over the host Crusaders (12-10).
Some of the Spartans’ 15 hits were sharp singles up the middle, others were seeing-eye wobblers that somehow found the right place to land. Still, while the hits set the stage and smart baserunning kept rallies going, Jansen’s pitching brought home McFarland’s seventh consecutive regional championship.
“The little things made the difference. That’s been our theme for the whole year. If you take care of every little thing, the big things fall into place,” first-year Spartans coach Lea Lackey said.
“Doing the little things really travels from one person to the next,” said junior catcher Alannah Halsey, who went 3-for-3 with a double and scored two runs.
McFarland will take a 15-11 record into a sectional semifinal against Evansville (10-13) on Tuesday. The Blue Devils, who knocked off top-seeded Portage on Thursday, lost their Rock Valley Conference regular-season meetings with McFarland by scores of 12-6 and 3-2.
Jansen made an early statement by striking out six of the first eight hitters she faced on her way to nine strikeouts.
Her only trouble inning was the fourth, when Edgewood sophomore Olivia Moore and senior Madison Moore laid down consecutive bunt singles with one out and sophomore pitcher Michelle Schmitt drew a two-out walk to load the bases.
But Jansen struck out junior Sarah Meyer to end the threat, and Edgewood’s only other baserunner after that was Olivia Moore, who reached on an error in the sixth inning and was stranded on second base.
“It was just a normal game — at least, that’s what I tried to remind myself,” Jansen said.
Last year, she was McFarland’s No. 2 pitcher and had to miss the postseason after suffering a broken ankle in the next-to-last game of the regular season. She still wears an ankle brace but says the injury no longer affects her.
“I did all my physical therapy and focused on getting healthy again,” she said, adding she was motivated to return because “softball is my favorite sport ever.”
McFarland sophomore first baseman Morgan Butler went 4-for-4 and drove in a run. Juniors Erin Eggers and Lizzy Fortune had two hits each.
“We couldn’t make anything happen because we couldn’t get anybody on to make things happen,” said Edgewood’s 75-year-old coach, Bob Sulser, who wrapped up his 43rd season of coaching — and isn’t finished yet.
“I plan to be back next year,” the coach said. “I retired two times already, and that was no fun.”
McFarland 000 201 2 - 5 15 1
Madison Edgewood 000 000 0 - 0 2 2
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Jansen (W; 7-2-0-1-9); M. Schmitt (L; 7-15-4-0-5).
Leading hitters — McF: Halsey (3x3), Fortune (2x4), Butler (4x4), Eggers (2x4). 2B — Halsey.