The Verona softball team committed uncharacteristic mental and physical errors throughout its Thursday, May 30, WIAA Division 1 sectional final game at Country View Elementary School and lost 10-3 to Sun Prairie.
The Wildcats had beaten the Cardinals twice during the regular season as they ran the table during the Big Eight Conference season.
Verona committed nine errors in Thursday’s loss and Sun Prairie didn’t have any.
“The wheel starts to wobble and sometimes it falls off the cart,” coach Todd Anderson said. “Sometimes you’re able to get the wheel back on and get things rolling again, and other times the axle digs in, the cart flips over and everything goes up in flames. That’s kind of what happened to us today.”
Verona lead 3-0 through three innings before Sun Prairie took control with four runs in the top of the fourth inning.
The Cardinals rally started innocently enough when Leah Hamilton hit a ground ball to Meghan Anderson, who was unable to get the out at first base. The next hitter grounded out for the second out of the inning before Sierra Ek singled to left field to cut Verona’s lead to 3-1 and after that things only got worse for the Wildcats.
Chloe Knoernschild reached base on an error by third baseman Sydney Toman, which allowed Ek to score. Knoernschild later scored on a ground ball to short by Grace Radlund to tie the game 3-3. The Cardinals took their first lead of the game 4-3 on a third Verona error in the inning as Grace Hilber hit a ground ball to Anderson, who overthrew first baseman Alyssa Bostley, allowing Sabrina Reuter who had walked, to score.
Sun Prairie tacked on three more runs in the top of the sixth inning. Knoerschild walked and scored on a Radlund infield single. Radlund advanced to second on an error by catcher Katie Pederson and scored on a Reuter ground out. The Cardinals pushed the lead to 7-3 on a solo home run by Gardner to center field.
Three runs in the top of the seventh only added salt to the wound. Kianna Patterson reached on a dropped third strike. Ek singled past shortstop and Knoerschild reached base on an error to score Patterson.
Radlund singled home a run and Knoerschild scored on an error.
“Todd is an amazing coach and I respect him so much in regards to his program and what he does with those girls,” Sun Prairie coach Jamie Olson said. “You learn from your mentors and he was definitely one of my mentors when I first came into this program. Sun Prairie and Verona have always had that rivalry.
“The best thing when you play against each other is, you learn from one other. Their wheels fell off today and we took advantage of it. They did that to us in the other two games during the regular season.”
With the win ,Sun Prairie received the No. 2 seed at state and will play No. 7 Waukesha North in the quarterfinals on Thursday. The Cardinals went 29-0 to win the D1 state title last year, the Cardinals are making their third straight state appearance and sixth overall.
One of just two starters from last year’s state champion team, senior pitcher Maddie Gardner went all seven innings to earn the win. She allowed three earned runs on eight hits and struck out nine.
“The biggest thing we preached to the girls all season was make this your team,” Olson said. “You can’t live in the past. They have to make their own legacy.”
Meghan Anderson took the loss for Verona, allowing 10 runs (five earned) on 11 hits and two walks over seven innings. She struck out 11.
Toman went 3-for-3 at the plate to lead Verona, while Radlund went 4-for-5 at the plate to pace Sun Prairie.
Verona opened the scoring behind the speed of lead-off hitter Molly McChesney who reached base on a bunt toward pitcher Maddie Gardner in the bottom of the first inning. McChensey advanced to up third on a pair of wild pitches and then stole home for a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 3-0 in the second inning as McChesney again reached on a bunt single and came home on a Kasie Keyes ground out. Keyes scored on a two out double to center by Sydney Toman but was thrown out by Reuter trying to turn a double into a triple.
Those were the last runs Verona would score off Gardner, a UW-Madison recruit, and one of the top pitchers in the state.
“Maybe we got a little overconfident, it’s hard to score three runs against that team,” coach Anderson said. “But what I know for sure is that we didn’t make enough plays and we gave them too many runs.”
Thursday’s WIAA Division 1 sectional final loss was the final prep game for Anderson and McChesney.
“They came up to varsity as freshmen and they’ve been here ever since,” coach Todd Anderson said. “What they brought to the program was more than anything you could measure statistically. They brought heart, hard work and they worked hard in the offseason – all the things that are trademarks of great players.”
As senior co-captains, coach Anderson said the girls helped the team develop a culture of playing for and caring about each other.