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Spartans make quick work of Lumberjacks

Superior High School catcher McKenzie Lehto (7) has the ball knocked out loose as she collides with Wausau East’s Adriana Jasso (16) at home plate in the first inning of the Spartans’ win Wednesday at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)1 / 3
Superior High School third baseman Olivia Hunker (12) fields a ball in the second inning of the Spartans’ 17-2 four-inning win over Wausau East in a WIAA Division 1 playoff game Wednesday evening at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. Superior plays at Hudson at 5 p.m. Friday. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) 2 / 3
Superior High School’s Mady Stariha (37) high fives teammate Niya Wilson (3) after the third inning of the Spartans’ 17-2 win over Wausau East Wednesday evening at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)3 / 3

The Superior High School softball team opened the WIAA Division 1 playoffs with a 17-2 four-inning win over the Wausau East Lumberjacks Wednesday at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.

The Spartans, and starting pitcher Mady Stariha, didn’t get off to the start they wanted as the Lumberjacks took a 2-0 lead when their first two batters were hit by pitches and scored on Gabby Braatz’s single and a double steal.

“I don’t think I was nervous, but when I got out there I felt a bit tight and thought oh no, that’s pretty bad when I hit them,” Stariha said.

The Spartans quickly erased Wausau East’s lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning then blew the game open with 10 runs in the second inning.

Olivia Hunker singled and scored on McKenzie Lehto’s ground out to make the score 14-2 after three innings and the Spartans finished the game because of the 15-run rule with three runs in the bottom of the fourth.

Autumn Siers led off the fourth with a triple and scored on Maddy Graham’s third hit of the game. Hunker’s single off the fence in left scored Graham and the game ended on Alee Milinkovich-Gray’s RBI infield single.

“It feels great to have the team going right away and advance in the playoffs,” said Milinkovich-Gray, who finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs. “I usually share playing time with (Hailee) Melgeorge at second,  so it feels great to help the team win.”

After her shaky start, Stariha struck out five of the next six batters and didn’t allow another hit the rest of the game. She eventually finished her one-hitter with eight strikeouts and one walk.

“I don’t think she hit two batters all year, so that just shows that when you’re in the playoffs there’s a little bit of pressure, if not a lot of pressure,” SHS coach Mike Sather said. “It took an inning to settle in, but she did fine after the first inning.”

Superior’s first inning included an RBI single by Erin Thompson, who then along with Stariha, who singled, scored on Milinkovich-Gray’s hit to left.

The Spartans 10-run second inning included a two-run double by Madison Sislo, an RBI triple by Chesie McLaughlin, and RBI singles by Thompson, Stariha and Milinkovich-Gray. Two runs also came in on an error off the bat of Hunker.

Braatz took the loss for the Lumberjacks, allowing 18 hits with two hit batters and three walks.

Siers and Stariha also finished with three hits apiece; Thompson and Hunker had two hits each; and McLaughlin and Sislo had one hit each.

Lehto was the only Spartan not to get a hit, but she walked twice and had an RBI ground out.

Up next for the Spartans are the Hudson Raiders, who defeated River Falls 10-0 in five innings. Friday’s game begins at 5 p.m. at Grandview Park.

“It’s going to be a different day, so hopefully we’re hitting like we did today,” Sather said. “We’ll have to score runs, that’s the name of the game, but it’s hard to hit like this every game, there’s no doubt about it.”

The Spartans lost to Hudson 6-4 at home on May 4.

Superior led 3-0 after one inning and 4-1 after two, but the Raiders eventually scored the winning win in the top of seventh inning.

Stariha suffered the complete-game loss, allowing 10 hits and seven strikeouts and two walks.

Superior managed 10 hits, led by Thompson’s two-run home run in the first inning and a triple.

“We know it will be a tough game,” Stariha said. “But I trust our defense and our hitting is back on track so I like our chances.”

SPARTAN SPIN: McLaughlin was also hit by a pitch three times. … Graham scored four runs.

Wausau East 200 0 2 1 1

Superior 3(10)1 3 17 18 1

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