Experienced bunch ready to contend for SLC title, build off strong finish in ‘17

Burlington sophomore shortstop Gracie Peterson attempts to tag a Catholic Central base-runner in a scrimmage two weeks ago. (Dwight Beuthling/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

While Wilmot, Westosha Central and Union Grove have dominated the decade in area high school softball, a new team is on the rise.

Enter the 2018 Burlington Demons, ripe with eight seniors and experienced underclassmen.

You would have to go all the way back to 1984 to find the last dominant Demon squad, one that brought home a state championship.

While longtime head coach Gary Caliva isn’t ready to put the pressure on his girls to go all the way just yet, he acknowledges it could be a special year.

What started with a strong postseason run to finish last season has become a bona fide expectation this spring – win the SLC.

“This is the most seniors we have ever had so we have a lot of experience and a lot of talent, and I think we can contend for the conference title,” said Caliva, who enters his seventh season. “However, we need to prove that we can hit in crucial situations and our pitching needs to hold up to the rigors of conference play. We have the makings of a good team, and I can’t wait to watch them compete.”

After a 13-14 season and a 6-8 Southern Lakes Conference performance, the Lady Demons boast a bevy of talent, including senior second baseman Jaina Westphal, senior pitcher Josie Klein, senior Ashley Schmalfeldt at third and sophomore Gracie Peterson at shortstop.

Other key seniors include Kay Kafar (first base, pitcher), Halie Behnke (catcher), Jenna Schmalfeldt (outfield), Hannah Ketterhagen (OF/INF) and outfielder Leah Zinnen.

Jenna Schmalfeldt captured the anticipation of a potentially big season.

“I am very excited for this season. There are so many talented players on this team, and I have high expectations for us,” Jenna Schmalfeldt said Tuesday. “Both offensively and defensively we are a strong team, so I can’t wait to see what our season holds.”

Utility player Maddie Berezowitz heads a strong junior contingent that features outfielders Rachel Sanchez and Emily Zuleger and Alex Naber (OF/C).

Throw in newcomer Bridi Allen, a sophomore who took the loss in Tuesday’s season-opening 6-2 defeat at Kenosha Indian Trail, and the Demons are deep.

Indian Trail built a 4-1 lead through two innings, as the Demons were held to only three hits.

Sanchez and Behnke each collected a base hit.

Juniors Caitlyn Matson (IF/OF), Ariana Carney (IF/OF) and Sophia Gonzalez (IF/OF) are new to varsity.

Caliva said pitching and defense will be solid, but clutch hitting must be improved.

“Our goal is always to compete for first place in conference,” Caliva added.

While Lake Geneva Badger features a strong pitcher, Wilmot and Westosha Central will most likely be in the conversation.

Elkhorn comes off a strong 2017, and Delavan-Darien will also compete for the top half of the conference standings.

With only two seniors lost from last year, this could be the best Burlington squad since 2016, when Tay Lewis and Dani Koenen helped the Demons reach sectionals.

Caliva welcomes back assistant coaches Tim Burd, Jim Vos and Korrine Peterson.

 

Schedule

(HOME GAMES CAPS)

March – 29: at Kenosha Tremper. April – 3: at Elkhorn. 4: at Kenosha Bradford. 5: DELAVAN-DARIEN. 6: BELOIT TURNER. 10: at Union Grove. 12: WESTOSHA CENTRAL. 17: at Lake Geneva Badger. 19: WILMOT. 23: RACINE ST. CAT’S. 24: at Waterford. 26: ELKHORN. May – 1: at Delavan-Darien. 3: UNION GROVE. 5: at Poynett Invite. 8: at Westosha Central. 10: LAKE GENEVA BADGER. 15: at Wilmot. 17: WATERFORD. 19: DOUBLEHEADER at Fort Atkinson vs Fort, River Valley.

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