Jenna Brandt settles in to lead Craig over Memorial
JANESVILLE--Jenna Brandt never felt comfortable in the first inning Thursday.
But Janesville Craig’s freshman pitcher never looked more at ease than during the rest of the Cougars’ Big Eight softball game against Madison Memorial.
After allowing three first-inning runs, Brandt retired 18 of the final 21 batters she saw, and Craig won 4-3 at the Janesville Youth Sports Complex. Craig improved to 7-5 overall and 6-4 in conference, sweeping the season series with the Spartans, who fell to 2-7 in league play.
“I just put it behind me and go for the next play,” Brandt said. “We’ve played this team before, so I knew we could hit.”
Three of Memorial’s first four batters reached base, two via hit and one on an error. Mel Stec’s two-out double plated a pair of runs to put the Cougars in a hole before they even had their first at-bat.
But after giving up those three hits, Brandt allowed just two more in the next six innings. She retired the side in order four times and would have had a fifth in the seventh inning if not for a wild pitch on a strikeout. Brandt struck out two and walked none.
“I give her credit,” Craig coach Dan Bayreuther said. “The big thing from her after that first inning was she got ahead of the batters. What a difference that makes.”
The Cougars fought back with a three-run inning of their own in the second.
First baseman Cara Lemirande and catcher Sarah Holford led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Junior Emily Sarow put Craig on the board with a sacrifice fly, and then sophomore second baseman Kayla Kaufman and junior shortstop Al Hughes knocked two straight RBI singles.
“I was concerned after that first inning, but I thought we had some good at-bats and we were swinging well,” Bayreuther said. “Coming up with those three runs was big, and the way we executed in the fifth inning was picture-perfect.”
Knowing they needed a run to take the lead late in a close game, Kaufman led off the bottom of the fifth with a bunt single and moved to second on Hughes’ sacrifice bunt. Kaufman then stole third base with junior third baseman Gabby Loveland faking a bunt at the plate.
Loveland then bunted on a squeeze play to bring Kaufman home.
“That’s executing, and that’s what we’re going to have to do until we get the bats going,” Bayreuther said. “It was just a good high school game. We beat them 3-2 the first time, so those were two good games.”
Craig hosts Sun Prairie today at 4 p.m. at the Sports Complex.