Pfeifer’s triple dooms Janesville Craig
FORT ATKINSON Fort Atkinson High School softball coach Jeff Agnew said Lauren Pfeifer is sometimes the forgotten one in the Blackhawks’ potent lineup despite being among the team leaders in hits this season.
On Thursday, the sophomore center fielder delivered a three-run, bases-loaded triple in the sixth inning that was impossible to catch—or to overlook.
Pfeifer’s towering blast to the right-field fence gave Fort a 6-3 lead, and the third-seeded Blackhawks held on for a 7-6 victory over No. 6 seed Janesville Craig in a WIAA Division 1 regional final.
“I was just thinking get a hit, and let’s get on base and keep this inning going,” Pfeifer said. “I wasn’t really thinking I needed to hit it far. I just needed to get it in play.”
With two outs, pinch-hitter Cori Bleecker then delivered a solid single to left for Fort’s seventh run, which proved to be the winner.
Fort Atkinson (19-6) advances to play at No. 2 seed Westosha Central (18-3) on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Craig Sectional. Westosha defeated Mukwonago, 12-0, in five innings on Thursday.
Things looked bleak early for Fort, which gave up three first-inning runs and failed to generate any offense until striking for three runs in the fourth.
Marta Kotz led off with a walk after fouling off several pitches. Maddy Podmolik followed with a double, and Lexie Weigand hit a two-run triple. Maddie Bare then connected for an RBI single as the Blackhawks tied the game at 3-3.
“It started with Marta Kotz coaxing a walk,” said Agnew. “You know when we get into the middle of our lineup—Maddy Podmolik and Lexie Weigand and Maddie Bare—that’s the time to produce because they’re hitters.”
In the sixth, those same three—Podmolik, Weigand and Bare—opened with consecutive singles before Pfeifer’s heroics.
Fort, and standout sophomore pitcher Kaitlyn Hollman, appeared in control with a 7-3 lead. Hollman was coming off her second no-hitter of the season in a 10-0, five-inning regional semifinal victory over Elkhorn on Tuesday.
Craig, however, refused to go away quietly and rallied for three runs in the seventh.
With one out, Haley Bayreuther reached on a bunt single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Stephanie Perleberg followed with her third walk of the game, and Leigh Grall singled to load the bases.
A groundout by Nicole Kelly drove in Bayreuther. Stephanie Kalish then laced a hard grounder up the middle to drive in two runs.
Craig catcher Autumn Sullivan worked the count to 3-2 before grounding out to Weigand at short to end the game.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” said Craig coach Dan Bayreuther, whose team finished 15-9. “They battled. I just told them we played a great game, just not a perfect game.
“I don’t think we had an error in the field. Give credit where it’s due. Fort in those two innings, they hit the ball,” he added. “I had them down for nine hits, and they got eight of them in the fourth and the sixth. That’s what good teams do.”
What appeared to be a potential pitchers’ dual between Hollman and Craig junior Paige Weber never materialized. Neither was overpowering, but both exhibited good control.
“Kaitlyn didn’t have her best game today, but it was good enough because the team played behind her,” Agnew said of Hollman. “It’s a team sport, and she’s carried us a lot. Today, the bats and the defense got an opportunity to carry the team.”
FORT ATKINSON 7, CRAIG 6
Janesville Craig 300 000 3—6 8 0
Fort Atkinson 000 304 x—7 9 1
Weber and Sullivan; Hollman and Gartland.
Leading hitters—Grall (JC) 3x4, Podmolik (FA) 3x3, Weigand (FA) 2x3, Bare (FA) 2x3. 2B—Grall, Podmolik. 3B—Weigand, Pfeifer (FA).
SO—Weber (JC) 4, Hollman (FA) 1. BB—Weber 2, Hollman 3.