As several of her teammates danced nearby around a portable boombox, Seneca Peterson scanned a plastic tray of white and pink frosted cupcakes.
The postgame treat was the icing on top of her masterful pitching performance.
The Lake Geneva Badger senior allowed one hit over seven shutout innings Tuesday as the Badgers defeated visiting Janesville Craig 4-0 in a WIAA Division 1 softball regional semifinal, earning their first playoff win since 2009.
The only thing separating Peterson from a no-hitter was a bloop single by Craig’s Katie Kealy that landed behind first base in the fourth inning.
“It was focusing on my spots and having the confidence that I could overcome anything thrown at me,” Peterson said.
“When you’re a pitcher, you’re going to face adversity, it’s part of the position. You have to think, ‘I can and I will be able to execute this pitch. I will be able to strike this girl out or at least make her pop up to an infielder.’”
Eighth-seeded Badger (12-10) will face top-seeded Elkhorn on Thursday in a regional final. The Elks beat the Badgers twice during the regular season.
Peterson finished with nine strikeouts and two walks, stymieing a Craig team that had been on a roll going into the postseason. The Cougars (11-13) had won their last three games, outscoring opponents 40-12 in that span.
“You’ve got to score runs,” Craig coach Kristen Worm said. “We just didn’t get our offense going.”
When the Cougars did get on base, Peterson or Badger’s defense found a way to neutralize the threat. A popped-up bunt resulted in an inning-ending double play in the second after Hannah Palmer had drawn a one-out walk.
In the sixth, Natasha Dopkins walked and stole second, but she was left stranded when Badger shortstop Leah Sanders gloved Samantha Flint’s hard liner and catcher Lace Atkinson caught a pop up behind the plate.
Peterson has a 1.76 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings across nine May appearances.
“She’s always had really good stuff, but now she’s more of a pitcher,” Badger coach Glen York said. “She understands it.”
During their third trip through the batting order, the Badgers finally seemed to figure out Craig starter Kealy. Atkinson dropped a single into right field to score Megan Potter in the bottom of the fourth.
An inning later, Natalie Ransom led off with a double and scored on Peterson’s single back up the middle. Madison Hunt drilled a double to the wall in center to score two more runs.
Kealy struck out eight and walked two. She retired 10 straight hitters after giving up a one-out single to Peterson in the bottom of the first.
“We were sharp in the field and Katie pitched a phenomenal game, but without any offense (it’s hard to win),” Worm said.
BADGER 4, JANESVILLE CRAIG 0
Craig 000 000 0—0 1 0
Badger 000 130 x—4 6 0
Leading hitters—Peterson (B) 2x3. 2B—Hunt (B), Ransom (B).
SO—Kealy 8, Peterson 9. BB—Kealy 2, Peterson 2.