Prep softball: Spartans fall short in semifinal matchup with Kaukauna
The top-seeded Galloping Ghosts notched their 50th straight win to advance to the state championship game against Sun Prairie.
MADISON — A postseason run nearly three decades in the making was cut short for the Superior Spartans in the WIAA Division 1 semifinals by powerhouse Kaukauna Friday, June 11, under the lights of the Goodman Softball Diamond on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.
The 10-0 five-inning defeat to the defending state champion Galloping Ghosts, now winners of 50 consecutive games, brings the Spartans’ final record to 19-3 overall for the season.
Though the ending was not what they had hoped for, coach Mike Sather said the 2022 season is one they’ll never forget.
“It’s something that everyone involved is going to remember for the rest of their lives,” Sather said. “It was just an awesome thing and it was exciting. Of course it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but (we’re) just happy to be here.”
Junior catcher Emma Raye, a future Badgers softball player, echoed her coach's sentiments.
“It’s just been a great experience,” Raye said. “I had a phenomenal group of girls to be playing with and being able to play on my future field, I mean that's just exciting. Overall, it’s just been an exciting season.”
Friday’s contest marked the second time the two teams have squared off this season, with their previous meeting taking place on May 14 during a tournament in Chippewa Falls. After falling 3-0 in their meeting in May, the Spartans had yet to trail in any of their next seven games until the rematch, which saw the Galloping Ghosts take a quick 2-0 lead in the second inning.
The two runs came after a walk and a single brought two aboard for Lilly Roehrig, who smashed a double to deep left-center field to send both home. Kaukauna followed up the second inning rally with another two-run frame its next time up, which was aided by uncharacteristic errors by the typically sharp-fielding Spartans.
“They’re a really fast team and they’re obviously well-coached. We have a lot of young players and I think they were a little over-excited,” Sather said. “A lot of our throws were just because of the excitement and stuff, we were a little bit off today. I mean if we made good throws we would have got some of their players out.”
The senior-laden Galloping Ghosts ended the game in the fifth inning by scoring six additional runs with errors and walks looming large in the rally. Starting pitcher Haley Zembo was pulled with two outs and the bases loaded for Ari Robillard, who secured the final out.
Kaukana starting pitcher Karly Meredith, who entered the contest with an unblemished record and an ERA of 0.12, kept the Superior bats in check with only two hits surrendered in the winning effort, to Melania Luostari and Indigo Fish.
While the loss was a source of disappointment for members of the Spartans team, excitement remains for next season with the team set to return nearly its entire roster with the exception of graduated seniors Natalee Sigfrids, Kaylee Baker and Brooke Hendry.
Raye said the team is already eager to get started putting in the work for another run next season.
“We did not want to lose this game. We had intentions to come in and win and beat the No. 1 team,” Raye said. “We already have girls who are like ‘Let’s take BP tomorrow. Let’s get back out there. Let’s be better next year.’ Because we want to make it back here, and we want a state championship.”