Demons bang 15 hits in another offensive onslaught

Burlington players erupt after Friday night’s victory. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

MADISON – It was going to take more than a change of venue, delayed start and the latest game of the season to stop this offensive juggernaut.

On Friday night and into the early moments of Saturday morning, the Burlington softball team needed only 10 batters to send the Slinger starting pitcher to the bench, and four consecutive multiple-run innings overwhelmed the Slinger Owls as the Demons mostly cruised to a 12-7 victory in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal.

Due to rain and weather concerns, the game was moved from Goodman Diamond at UW-Madison, the site of Burlington’s 9-1 win Thursday, to Madison Area Technical College, roughly 15 minutes away.

As head coach Gary Caliva articulated after the game, which started after 10 p.m. due to the previous game, nothing rattles his team, which improved to 22-5 and will attempt the seemingly insurmountable task of beating an undefeated Sun Prairie (28-0) squad in tonight’s state final at 6:30 p.m.

“It’s amazing the amount of energy these kids have at 10 o’clock at night. I know I don’t have any,” joked Caliva after the game. “We got here about 7:30 expecting to go right away, but it was awhile before we got on the field. They were loose, and relaxed, and ready to play.”

“They were dancing out here.”

They were literally dancing, as Bridi Allen once reached third base, and during a stop in action, asked Caliva, the third-base coach, to dance with her.

The two proceeded to shimmy and shake to the song blaring over the loud speakers, and it was all you really need to know about the Demons’ mood.

Jaina Westphal, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and played stellar defense at second base, led off the game with a walk and came home on a Josie Klein groundout.

Junior Maddie Berezowitz, whose momentum-killing snowcone catch while back-peddling near the fence late in the game thwarted all Owl comeback hopes, singled and scored on Allen’s rocket up the middle, and suddenly Burlington led, 2-0.

The onslaught continued in the second, when Westphal roped a line drive to the gap in right-center, scoring senior Jenna Schmalfeldt, who went 4-for-4 for the game.

That meant an exit for Slinger’s starter, and Klein recorded her second RBI in as many innings to push the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, on the mound, Klein hit her spots and played to her strengths of pitching to contact, and the Demons made plays behind her.

“It feels really great, I didn’t really know it was going to happen until we got here today and it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Jenna Schmalfeldt said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a great day.”

“I really can’t put it into words,” said sophomore shortstop Gracie Peterson. “It’s the best team I’ve ever played. We gel together so well, everyone gets along and everyone’s there for each other.”

Aside from her talent, perhaps Klein’s best attribute is her resiliency, which was on display in the third.

Slinger’s Katie Kirsch elevated a high pitch into the jet stream in right, and a steady wind blowing out to right carried a no-doubt home run over the fence to put the Owls on the board, and another run cut it to 4-2.

But the Demons kept their foot on the gas pedal in the third, adding another three runs to buoy the lead to 7-2.

With two outs, sophomore Maya Morris almost kept Burlington at bay, but she was called for an illegal pitch, as her lead foot landed outside of the striped box.

 

This moved Ashley Schmalfeldt to third base and what essentially acts like a balk in baseball.

Instead of getting out of the inning with a 4-2 deficit, Jenna Schmalfeldt made Morris pay with a tapper that scooted past the pitcher just far enough for the speedster to reach first base in a close play.

That scored Ashley to make it 5-2, then Peterson slammed a double over the center fielder’s head for an RBI, and Westphal banged an RBI single to left to make it 7-2.

Burlington put the game away in the four-run fourth, highlighted by a key Slinger error threw the ball past the catcher to score a run and a Westphal infield single with two outs to make it 10-3.

The Owls continued to implode, as a passed ball scored Jenna Schmalfeldt.

But Slinger wasn’t done.

The Owls finally got something going in the fifth, with four hits and three runs with the help of a Demon error.

Morris shut the Demons down in the sixth before Slinger continued to come back.

The Owls cut it to 11-7 and had a runner on third with two outs.

Pitcher Sylvia Flairty, the Owls’ third of the game, drove the ball to deep right field.

Berezowitz stumbled momentarily before recovering and sprinting backward.

She reached up and caught the ball over her head in snowcone style, with the ball threatening to trickle out of the webbing but staying put.

The difficult snag evoked a deafening roard from the packed crowd and changed the game.

“Ball off the bat, I was like, ‘Alright, it’s coming to me,” Berezowitz said. “I realized it was way behind me, so I kind of threw my glove out there and looked in my glove, and it was there. I threw it up, and made sure the ump saw. That was a big momentum changer.”

“She came in and said, “I had it, Gare (Gary), no problem,” Caliva added about Berezowitz.

The defensive gem revived the offense, as Burlington immediately loaded the bases with Berezowitz and Klein singles in the seventh before adding the final run on a third Slinger error.

Klein waited until it counted most to fire her first strikeout, as Keana Retzlaff swung and missed to end the game.

“They just keep going after you the whole game,” Caliva said about his players. “I’m in awe of them.”

Burlington smashed 15 hits as a team.

 

“We hit through the whole lineup tonight,” Caliva said. “To score that many runs, the bottom of the lineup really has to contribute. They couldn’t get Jenna out. It takes a total team effort, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Klein scattered seven hits, walked two and struck out one.

Caliva said it was a tight strike zone. He said Westphal and others often help Klein down.

When Klein seemed a bit rattled during the Owls’ late surge, Westphal walked over, hugged her teammate and calmed her down.

“It really works with Josie,” Caliva said. “I put Jaina in center field one game, and they both came up to me and said that’s it, we can’t have Jaina in center.”

Caliva said today’s state championship game is the same approach.

The girls are just enjoying this moment and focused on victory.

Not even the state’s top-ranked team, the Sun Prairie Cardinals, will intimidate this squad.

“They don’t care who we play or where we play,” Caliva said.

“It’s all about the journey, and they know that. Whatever happens tomorrow, happens.”

For Peterson, Jenna Schmalfeldt and Berezowitz, it’s on to the next one.

“We hope to kick some butt,” Peterson said.

“Stay positive, be confident and let’s get the ‘W,’ added Jenna.

The confident, senior-led Demons will take five losses into tonight’s state title game against the Cardinals, who needed nine innings to knock off Menomonee Falls Friday night, 9-5.

One day after five Demon seniors graduated in a special ceremony at the State Capitol, Westphal, the Schmalfeldts, Klein, Kya Kafar and the rest of the Burlington Demons will play in the school’s first state title game since 1985.

In 1984, the Demons won it all.

It will be Klein and offensive firepower of Burlington against the Cardinals, who feature pitcher Maddie Gardner, a sophomore already committed to the Wisconsin Badgers.

Despite a roller-coaster ride of a win Friday night, Sun Prairie committed three errors and was 10-for-37 at the plate.

Gardner struck out eight, and the Cardinals showed mental toughness by going up in the eighth only to have Falls tie it before reaching deep and plating four in the ninth.

 

 

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