Monroe spoils Milton's title hopes
Two lightning delays didn't slow down Monroe sophomore pitcher Natalie Dillon Monday at Twining Park.
Dillon carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and tossed a three-hit shutout to edge Milton 2-0 in the first game of a Badger South Conference doubleheader showdown. With the win, Monroe (22-3, 10-1 Badger South) clinched an outright conference championship for the second straight year.
“It (throwing a no-hitter) didn't even cross my mind,” Dillon said who struck out 10. “I just had to concentrate. It's relieving.”
The Red Hawks (13-4, 7-4) entered the doubleheader two games behind the Cheesemakers, who are ranked fourth in the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association Division 2 poll. The Red Hawks needed a sweep to earn a share of the conference title.
“I told the girls we are just as good of a team as Monroe,” Milton coach Mindy Bilhorn said. “Talent-wise we are good enough to win conference. It just comes down to timely hits. They just got a couple more timely hits to score runs and we left too many runners on base.”
The Red Hawks were 1-for-3 hitting with runners in scoring position and left six stranded. The Red Hawks left the bases loaded in the third and sixth.
Dillon and Milton pitcher Courtney Terrill were locked in a pitcher's duel.
After a second lightning delay that lasted 40 minutes in the top of the fourth inning, the sun came out. The Cheesemakers did all of their damage in a two-run bottom of the fourth with two outs. Dillon, who went 2-for-3, lined a single to center. Monroe senior Samantha Hose then hit a towering RBI double to center to give the Cheesemakers a 1-0 lead. Senior Katie Holmes followed lining an RBI single to right to extend the Cheesemakers' lead to 2-0. That would be all Monroe would get in the first game.
“Good pitching keeps good hitting down,” Monroe coach Dale Buvid said. “Terrill did a nice job of keeping the ball on the edges. She kept hitters off-balance. Our good hitters had a tough time dealing with her.”
“It feels amazing,” Hose said of repeating as conference champions. “I just knew we had to win one. It definitely took a lot of pressure off winning that first game. I'm just glad I can contribute and help out the team.”
The best scoring opportunities for the Red Hawks came in the third and sixth. In the third, Milton's Alex Urban reached on a two-out error by Holmes at third. Dillon then walked Maddie McCue and Courtney Terrill. Dillon got out of the bases-loaded jam by getting Kayla Negus to pop out to Monroe shortstop Ellie Grossen.
Negus broke Dillon's no-hit bid with a two-out single to left in the sixth.
Milton's Jordan Ball-Davis lined a single to center and Kylynn Wolfe singled to left to load the bases. Dillon wiggled out of the bases-loaded jam for the second time by striking out Abby Simes to end the threat.
“It comes down to timely hits,” Bilhorn said. “If we get a hit there we probably score two runs.”
Monroe completed the sweep by knocking off Milton 8-4 in the nightcap of the twin bill.
The Cheesemakers took the lead with a four-run third. Holmes walked and Grossen bunted for a single. Updike then came through with an RBI single and senior Taylor O'Leksy lined an RBI single to center to give the Cheesemakers a 2-1 lead. The Cheesemakers tacked on two more runs on a pair of errors by the Red Hawks.
The Cheesemakers broke the game open with a four-run fifth. Monroe senior Chandra McGuire led off with a single and then stole second. She scored on an error and O'Leksy, who went 2-for-3 in Game 2, beat out an infield single. Monroe junior Jordan laid down a sacrifice bunt and senior Kirsten Vetterli delivered a two-run single to left to give the Cheesemakers an 8-1 lead.
The Red Hawks loaded the bases in the sixth against Hose. The big blow of a three-run inning came on Kayla Negus' two-run single.
Dillon pitched five innings to get the win. She gave up one run on four hits, struck out seven and walked three.
Terrill kept the Cheesemakers at bay for most of the doubleheader. In the second game, Terrill pitched four innings and gave up two runs. She struck out four and walked two.
Milton will await its WIAA Division 1 regional matchup, which is expected to be announced Wednesday.