Sun Prairie sophomore shortstop Grace Radlund just needed a moment to regroup.
And when she did, Radlund sparked a 10th-inning rally that lifted the Cardinals past Waukesha North 4-1 in a WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal on Thursday afternoon at Goodman Diamond.
Radlund’s attempt for a one-out, run-scoring bunt single in the top of the 10th hugged the first-base line. It crawled toward the bag as North pitcher Maddy Anderson eyeballed whether the bunt would remain fair or roll foul.
But when the ball veered just foul, Anderson immediately scooped it up. Dead ball. And Radlund had to turn around and face another pressure pitch, now with two strikes.
“I was just trying to not overthink it, and just hit it,” Radlund said.
The 5-foot-8 Radlund drove the next pitch, a hard-hit grounder that went through the legs of Waukesha North freshman shortstop Maddy Dondelinger. The error scored Sun Prairie freshman catcher Chloe Knoernschild, who had tripled against the Northstars’ exaggerated defensive shift, to spark a three-run outburst.
And when Sun Prairie junior pitcher Maddie Gardner made it through the bottom of the 10th unscathed, the defending Division 1 champion Cardinals (26-3) came out of the 2-hour, 34-minute marathon with at least one more game to play.
Second-seeded Sun Prairie will meet third-seeded Pulaski (24-5) in a semifinal at 9 p.m. Friday.
“(Radlund) getting that big hit made the energy go, and changed the game a little bit, I would have to say,” said Gardner, who allowed seven hits and struck out 16 in the victory.
Said Sun Prairie coach Jamie Olson: “We didn’t give up. We fought to the end. We got in a couple binds throughout the game, but we battled back.”
The much-anticipated pitching matchup between right-hander Gardner, who has orally committed to the University of Wisconsin, and Northstars right-hander and Western Illinois commit Anderson, lived up to its billing.
Anderson, who gave up nine hits, established a Division 1 record by striking out 17 for seventh-seeded Waukesha North (15-8). Gardner’s total of 16 equaled the previous mark.
“She did a great job,” Gardner said of Anderson. “I have to give it to her. Her rise (pitch) was working really good. She got me (on strikeouts) a couple times on that. … My hat’s off to her.”
Gardner, who permitted one unearned run, did her part, also.
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“I’m a little tired, I’m not going to lie,” Gardner said. “But I think the adrenaline kept me going — the excitement of the game, and just being at state and at Goodman.”
It was a pitching battle. I knew I had to push through it and do it for my teammates and do it for my coaches and my team.“
The Big Eight Conference runner-up Cardinals struck in the third inning. Radlund singled to left with two outs and then stole second. The left-handed swinging Sabrina Reuter, a senior center fielder and MATC commit, then lined a run-scoring triple through the infield and into left-center against Waukesha North’s shift — which moved the center fielder into the infield against the Cardinals’ left-handed slappers.
It appeared Gardner, who worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third and relied on an effective riseball and curve, would make that 1-0 lead hold up.
But Waukesha North rallied for an unearned run with two out in the bottom of the seventh. Junior second baseman Maddy Krenz, who led off with a single off the tip of Gardner’s glove, eventually scored on a wild pitch by Gardner with the bases loaded and Northstars sophomore third baseman Allison Rataczak facing an 0-2 count.
“I was a little frustrated, but I knew how to remain calm,” Gardner said.
In the 10th, Knoernschild grounded a one-out triple into right and scored on Radlund’s misplayed grounder. Radlund stole third and scored on Reuter’s RBI infield single, increasing Sun Prairie’s lead to 3-1. Gardner’s bunt wasn’t handled cleanly by Rataczak, and Reuter (who had stolen third) scored the Cardinals’ fourth run.
“I thought we got down in the beginning (after Waukesha North tied the game), but I knew as one of the leaders on the team, I had to remain up and remain confident that we could win,” Gardner said. “And I knew that it was going to rub off on them. And we were able to fight back.”
Olson and Waukesha North coach Shawn Grimm expected a tight pitchers’ duel.
“I knew what they had,” Grimm said. “I knew how good their pitcher was. We respected that. We wanted to try to keep it close and try to give ourselves a chance at the end, and we did that. We had our chances. Unfortunately, we just didn’t capitalize.”
Grimm said the Northstars don’t face many teams with slappers and he decided to install the defensive shift over the past several practices leading up to Thursday’s game — particularly after struggling against Menomonee Falls’ slappers in a state quarterfinal loss last year.
“I don’t know if it worked or if it didn’t work (Thursday),” he said. “They got a couple big plays off it. It was something we felt like we had to try.”
Sun Prairie 001 000 000 3 — 4 9 3
Waukesha North 000 100 000 0 — 1 7 4
Pitchers (ip-h-er-bb-so) — SP: Gardner (W; 10-7-0-16-2); WN: Anderson (L; 10-9-2-0-17).
Leading hitters — SP: Reuter 3x5, Radlund 2x5; 2B — Reuter, Hilber; 3B — Reuter, Knoernschild. WN: Gibbs 3x4; 2B — Gibbs.