Sussex - 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 on June 14.
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 Stevens Point, started executing their own game plan.
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 game plan 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 made their fourth trip to state in a row and their sixth in the last seven years, moved onto a Friday Division 1 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 leadoff 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 designated 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 fly out 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-center field 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 designated 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 the fourth, the Cardinals coasted into the finish line.
Hamilton had only two hits off winning pitcher Amanda Jaquish (two strikeouts and six walks) while Chippewa 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 right field gate (exiting the stadium), but once they get out there, they had to remind themselves that they were still winners."
Two named All Conference
Sussex Hamilton's crazy dash to the state tournament capped a season that also featured a pair of first-team All Conference selections in the Greater Metro.
Junior infielder Jenny Shernell and junior outfielder Sami Williams were named first team.
Pitcher Sydney Sprinkel and infielder Emily Jansen were named to the second team. Bailee Bobert was named honorable mention at catcher, and Katie Weber netted honorable mention at infield.
West Allis Hale slugger Rachel Seefeldt was named the league's Player of the Year. Menomonee Falls won the league with a 12-2 record, one game ahead of Hale. The Chargers finished 7-7 in league play but defeated both Falls and Hale en route to a berth in the state tourney.
Baseball team now 10-6
On June 16, Hamilton's baseball team lost at Waukesha West, 11-2, after blanking West Allis Central on June 15, 10-0, in six innings.
Hamilton (10-6) clobbered Brookfield Central on June 14, 16-2.
Brodie Engel and Aaron Mushall shared pitching duties against Waukesha West, co-leaders in the Classic 8 Conference with Kettle Moraine. Marc Lunowa went 3 for 4 for Hamilton.
Zack Hastings and Brandon Kranz each had three hits for the Wolverines.
Sam Leinon was the winning pitcher for the Chargers against West Allis Central, allowing only one hit.
"Sam threw his off-speed pitches and fastball for strikes all day long," Chargers head baseball coach Mike Schramek said. "He kept West Allis Central off balance."
Lunowa went 2 for 3 with three RBIs against the Bulldogs.
Line drives were the storyline for Hamilton against Brookfield Central. Mitch Mason led the 18-hit performance, going 4 for 5. Taylor Paepke, Tim Biron, Nick Patterson and Kyle Schiedemeyer each had three hits. Mike Barnes went 2 for 2 with two RBIs.
Tyler Kozlowski worked six innings, striking out five while allowing three free passes.
"Ty really pitched well against Brookfield Central," Schramek said. "He was able to throw three pitches for strikes. Anytime he can do that, he's difficult to deal with."
Hamilton, 8-5 in the Greater Metro Conference, hosts Wauwatosa East on June 22.
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