WIAA Division 1 Sectional Semifinal: (2) Burlington 7, (6) Elkhorn 6 (8 innings)

Demons advance to sectional final after improbable five-run seventh

Burlington softball players mob each other moments after the Demons won Tuesday night in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal. (Jake Hill/SLN)

 

By Andrew Horschak

Sports Correspondent

Trailing by five runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning, there were no sad faces or hanging heads in the home dugout Tuesday afternoon.

The Burlington softball team was just as enthusiastic as ever.

That positive attitude paid off as the enthusiasm soon turned into delirium.

In a season already filled with plenty of memorable moments, the never-say-die Demons put together a hard-to-top highlight as they plated five runs to tie it up and then scored the game winner in the eighth en route to a rousing 7-6 victory over visiting Elkhorn in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal.

“We don’t quit,” Burlington senior pitcher Josie Klein said. “Our team … we mesh so well together. We have great coaches. Our fans are always there supporting us. It just keeps us going.”

Second-seeded Burlington (19-5) will take a 10-game winning streak into the sectional final against Westosha Central (20-8) 5 p.m. Thursday at Wilmot. The fourth-seeded Falcons upset top-seeded Wilmot 3-0 in 10 innings in their sectional semifinal.

Eyeing their first WIAA State Tournament berth since 1988, the Southern Lakes Conference champion Demons will attempt to beat Westosha for the third time this season.

 

Lady Elks upset-minded early

After sixth-seeded Elkhorn (16-10) took advantage of three errors to increase its one-run lead to 6-1 in the top of the seventh, things looked bleak for Burlington.

Elkhorn pitcher Izzy Regner, who allowed only two hits in the first six innings, had a shaky start to the seventh when Klein led off with a sharp single to center and Bridi Allen was hit by a pitch.

That brought Elkhorn coach Steve Remington out for a visit in hopes of settling down his sophomore.

The move backfired as Burlington senior third baseman Ashley Schmalfeldt jumped on the next pitch and launched a no-doubter over the fence in left for a three-run home run, cutting the deficit to 6-4.

“Our seven seniors didn’t want it to be over yet,” Schmalfeldt said. “I knew that could’ve been my last at-bat ever. I just wanted to make the most of it.”

“We needed that. That got our energy going,” Klein added.

Kya Kafar followed with a single to left, and Jenna Schmalfeldt and Gracie Peterson both beat out well-placed bunts with one out to load the bases for leadoff hitter Jaina Westphal. The senior second baseman delivered with a game-tying, two-run single, but the Demons made their second out on the bases on the play.

Burlington had a chance to win in regulation, but Allen flied out to left with the bases loaded.

 

It’s pandemonium Tuesday as the Demons celebrate their victory, while an Elkhorn player walks off the field in heartbreak. (Jake Hill/SLN)

Burlington momentum carries into extras

Klein, who tossed a five-hit complete game, retired the Elks in order in the top of the eighth.

In the bottom half of the inning, Kafar was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to second on a single to left by Alexandria Naber. Jenna Schmalfeldt then reached on her second bunt single in as many innings to load the bases.

That set the stage for Gracie Peterson, who hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Yazzy Mora. Trying to get the force at the plate, her throw was off the mark as the winning run scored.

“They’ve played like that all year,” Burlington coach Gary Caliva said about his team. “They’ve never given in and they’ve never given up. We’ve come back in three or four ball games, but that was the biggest deficit. We got to use our speed a little bit at the end there, which was real nice.

“They just played a whale of a game and so did Elkhorn. We were a little impatient to start. We made a couple of mistakes and gave them a couple runs, but these guys never give up.”

 

Regner enjoys solid outing, future bright for Elkhorn

Blanked twice by Burlington during the regular season, Elkhorn jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Haley Remington doubled and Rachel Gosh singled, and both runners ended up scoring on Ryley Rand’s tapper back to Klein, whose throw to the plate went over the head of catcher Emily Zuleger.

Regner retired the first nine Burlington batters before Westphal reached on an infield single to lead off the fourth. After stealing second, she scored on an RBI single by Klein.

Elkhorn made it 6-1 in an error-filled seventh as Gosh had an RBI single and Laine Rudolf added an RBI double.

“We had them on the ropes,” Elkhorn coach Steve Remington said. “They’re just resilient. They found a way to win. They just made plays. They’re fast and put pressure on us. They got the better of us.”

Despite the deflating defeat, the Elkhorn coach, noting his roster of underclassmen, said the future is bright for the Elks.

“We’re here for the long haul,” he said. “That’s what I’m excited about. I’m a big believer that you have to take your lumps to go forward. We have a few years of excitement coming.”

 

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