Everything went according to plan for Sussex Hamilton softball coach Jim Lawinger in the Chargers' first WIAA state tournament game in 21 years against Chippewa Falls Thursday morning.
Momentarily, that is.
They had third baseman Katie Weber blast a leadoff triple and then score on shortstop Jenny Shernell's perfectly executed squeeze bunt for a 1-0 lead.
But then the 26-2 Cardinals, who have counted among their victories this season a win over defending state champion Steven Point, started executing their own gameplan.
They started using Hamilton pitchers Sydney Sprinkel and Emily Jansen for batting practice, as they plated a shocking 10 runs on nine hits in the bottom of the first en route to a stunning 18-2, five-inning, victory in the WIAA state quarterfinal game at Goodman Diamond in Madison.
Lawinger, who has seen many things in his years coaching softball and basketball, could only shake his head and laugh ruefully at the turn of events.
"Oh yeah, the gameplan was to let them score 18 runs and then we score 19 to win," he said. "....but I was true to my word with the kids when I told them that anything can happen if they put their minds to it, but it can also go both ways too.
"I never thought that they'd start like that. To score 18 runs and we didn't commit an error is just pretty impressive. Still, I told the kids to hold their heads high. Chippewa Falls is one of the elite teams out there.
"We were looking to do the same old thing, but when they went up like that, it was pretty hard to play small ball."
With the win, the Cardinals, who are making their fourth trip to state in a row and their sixth in the last seven years, moved onto a Friday division I semifinal against the winner of Westosha Central and Appleton East, while the Chargers finished at 16-10.
Hope still remained high for the Chargers in the bottom of the first after Sprinkel gave up a lead-off single and then struck out the second batter, but a subsequent walk to shortstop Evie Schaller started a run of eight straight Cardinals' batters reaching base.
After a bunt single by the Cardinals' desiginated player Kacie Bertrand loaded the bases, Lawinger decided to go with Jansen. After giving up an infield RBI single, Jansen got a second out on a flyout to right, but on a full-count pitch, Schaller came back up again and launched a laser-beam of a grand slam home run over the left-centerfield fence for a 10-1 advantage.
After Falls made it 14-1 in the second, the Chargers did show some life in the third as desiginated [player Taylor Vigani roped a double to score Weber, who had reached on a walk.
But after Hamilton failed to cash in on three walks in in the fourth, the Cardinals coasted into the finish line.
Hamilton had only two hits off of winning pitcher Amanda Jaquish (two strikeouts and six walks) while Falls smashed 19 total hits. Schaller, who later homered again in the fourth, set a tournament record for RBI in a game with seven.
Lawinger then reminded his team of one important thing.
"There was nothing better than that sectional (final) win last week," he said. "Nothing. That is always an awesome achievement. That made us winners and we're still winners. I told the girls that they could hang their heads until they get through the rightfield gate (exiting the stadium), but once they get out there, they had to remind themselves that they were still winners."
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