Defense delivers for Janesville Craig softball
Leah Grall produced a stellar defensive play at first base to give Big Eight co-champion Janesville Craig the spark it needed en route to a six-inning, 10-0 victory over Elkhorn in a WIAA Division 1 regional softball semifinal game Tuesday at Dawson Field.
With two outs and runners on first and third in the second inning, a charging Grall made a diving stab of Tessa Reynolds swinging fake bunt and made the unassisted putout to snuff Elkhorn’s prime scoring opportunity.
Craig coach Dan Bayreuther said big plays are nothing new for the Cougars.
“Leah has been doing that all year,” Bayreuther said. “One of the reasons for our success has been the play and the quickness of our whole infield.”
After its latest success, Craig (19-4) faces Milton (15-9) in a regional final Thursday at Dawson Field. The winner advances to a sectional semifinal game against Wilmot or Beloit Memorial.
The Cougars jumped on the Elks (8-16) for four runs on three hits and two walks and an error in the first inning. Whitney Oliver and Kelly Moench produced run-scoring singles to highlight the inning.
Elkhorn’s second-inning threat included a walk, stolen base and Allie Kolacke’s two-out single before Grall’s heads-up defense halted the Elks.
“Like coach said, ‘Just go hard on every play,’ ” Grall said. “We are very good defensively.”
Paige Weber, Craig’s starting sophomore pitcher, found a groove in the fourth inning, striking out the Elks in order. Weber notched five strikeouts and walked none en route to a three-hit shutout.
“I thought Paige got stronger as the game went on,” Bayreuther said. “I thought Elkhorn swung the bats pretty well in the early going, but we made the routine plays.’’
Weber said she had to work through a little pain before she was comfortable.
“My arm was sore, but I put an ice pack on it, and that got me through it,” Weber said.
The Cougars added two runs in the fourth inning. Erica Mortensen smacked a leadoff triple, and Grall added an RBI sacrifice fly to highlight the inning.
Craig closed out the game with four runs in the sixth. Haley Bayreuther pounded a leadoff ground-rule double, and Gabrielle Cassady ripped a bases-loaded single to key the final rally.
Coach Bayreuther was happy to get the first tournament game out of the way.
“Tournament games are never easy to play,” he said. “It’s always good to get one under our belts.’’
CRAIG 10, ELKHORN 0
Elkhorn 000 000—0 3 1
Janesville Craig 400 204—10 8 0
Kielty, Picknell (4) and Oglesby, Kielty (4); Weber and Cassady.
Leading hitters: 2B—Bayreuther (JC). 3B—Mortensen.
SO—Picknell (E) 2, Weber (JC), 5. BB—Kielty (E) 5, Picknell 5.
-- Milton 3, Badger 1—Niki Metcalf’s two-run single in the bottom of the sixth lifted the Red Hawks to the Division 1 regional semifinal win over visiting Lake Geneva Badger.
Milton (15-9) plays Janesville Craig at 4 p.m. Thursday at Dawson Field.
Jessi Duoss picked up the win for Milton by throwing a complete-game six-hitter, including three strikeouts.
MILTON 3, BADGER 1
Lake Geneva Badger 000 001 0—1 6 1
Milton 010 002 x—3 6 2
Ki. Cooper and Mikrut; Duoss and Richards.
Leading hitters—Ki. Cooper (B) 2x4, Ka. Cooper (B) 2x4, Duoss (M) 2x3, N. Metcalf (M) 2x3.
SO—Ki. Cooper (B) 8, Duoss (M) 3. BB—Duoss 3.