Prep Softball Round-up - FC takes another tough sectional finals loss

Fall Creek softball will have to keep on trying.

The No. 9 ranked Crickets (23-7 overall) suffered another gut-wrenching WIAA sectional tournament championship loss on Thursday, June 1 in the finals of the Division 4 Shell Lake Sectional. No. 5 ranked Grantsburg plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on a bases-loaded single with two outs and won 7-6.

Unlike the sectional final loss a year ago to Phillips, FC didn't wilt in the face of a hitting onslaught. The Crickets were ahead 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth with two outs but the Pirates (23-2) scored three unanswered runs on four hits plus some errors to tie the ballgame. Only some great defensive plays by the Crickets kept the game tied, such put-out at the plate by catcher Kennedy Gruhlke after right fielder Elena Raffensberger's throw and a put out at third base by the Crickets' Kennedy Tumm.

"Our defense kept us in the ballgame and really boosted our confidence with the plays we made," FC head coach Brad Ceranski said.

FC then took the lead again in the ninth when Catrina Cline scored all the way from second base on a hit and run play set-up on the RBI-sacrifice by Hannah Herrum.

But in the bottom half of the inning the Pirates were load the bases again and with two outs got a single that scored both the game-tying and winning runs and qualify for the state tournament for the ninth time and first time since 2016.

Despite the loss, the Crickets were playing their best ball at the right time going 20-3 after a 3-4 start to the season. And we many young players seeing playing time throughout the season, FC is confident a breakthrough to the state tournament in the future will take place.

"We knew that our team's depth would be a big factor in our success this season," Ceranski said. "We wanted to give as many players varsity playing time as possible which is why we played more games than ever before. We believe it's going to pay-off eventually. "

Both teams had home runs in the game with Sam Olson's two-run blast putting the team ahead after Grantsburg went ahead early on with its homer on a windy day in Shell Lake.

Fall Creek had no problem winning its sectional semifinal match-up with West Cloverbelt rival Cadott back on May 31 at home 11-1 in five innings. After a slow start the Crickets poured on the runs led by Sophie Johnson's two hits including a double and three RBIs. Gruhlke drove in two runs with a single. Olson was the winning pitcher striking out seven, walking zero and allowing just two hits.

Also on that same day Osseo-Fairchild's playoff run came to an end in Onalaska as Onalaska Luther defeated them in a Division 4 sectional semifinal ballgame 11-1 in five innings. The Knights scored nine runs to take a 9-0 lead as they had 13 hits to the Thunder's four. Hannah Matzke led Luther with two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored. Eleice Dahl had two hits to lead O-F (8-10 overall). Luther (16-11) advanced to the state tournament by beating Westfield 9-2 in the finals.

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