Four in a row for Spartan girls
The Superior High School softball clinched its fourth straight Lake Superior Conference championship with a 5-0 win over Duluth Denfeld Tuesday evening at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.
Junior Mady Stariha did a bit of everything for the Spartans, tossing a one-hit shutout and knocking in a two runs with a pair of triples.
“Winning the title is super exciting,” Stariha said. “That was our No. 1 goal coming into the season. The next goal is doing well in the playoffs.”
The Spartans are the No. 5 seed for the WIAA Division 1 playoffs and will host No. 12 Wausau West at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The winner will play either No. 4 Hudson or No. 13 River Falls on Friday, May 25.
“We’re happy with the five seed,” SHS coach Mike Sather said. “But there are a lot of good teams (in our section) and a lot of balance in the Valley Conference and the Big Rivers has two or three very good teams, including Hudson.”
A possible third-round opponent could be Stevens Point, which has one loss and is ranked No. 1 in the state.
The Spartans started their tune up for the playoffs with a 15-0 three-inning win at Menomonie on Thursday. They will wrap up the regular season by hosting Blaine (Minn.) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Stariha was sharp Tuesday night. Not only did she strike out 10 batters, but she retired the first 12 Denfeld batters and didn’t walk anybody for the third time in four games.
Kayla Nelson broke up Stariha’s perfect game, and no-hitter, when she led off the fifth inning with a double off the fence in left-center.
“It was an inside rise ball that didn’t move like I wanted it to,” Stariha said. “I didn’t know I had a perfect game at the time. I don’t think about things like that too much, but it’s alright. You win some and you lose some.”
Stariha got out of the jam by retiring the next three batters, then finished the game by retiring six of the remaining seven batters. The only blemish was a one-out walk to Emma Schiltz in the sixth inning.
The Spartans finished with six hits. Besides Stariha’s triples, they also got a double from Alee Milinkovich-Gray and singles from Autumn Siers, Erin Thompson and Chesie McLaughlin.
“I’m not usually one to get a triple, ever, usually singles,” Stariha said. “So to get two in one game is nuts.”
Superior scored the only run it needed in the second inning when Stariha led off with a triple and courtesy runner Madison Sislo scored on a wild pitch.
The Spartans made it 2-0 in the fourth inning when McLaughlin singled, moved to third on Milinkovich-Gray’s double and scored on a throwing error.
Superior’s final three runs came in the fifth inning. Siers beat out an infield single, Thompson singled and both scored on Stariha’s triple. Sislo then scored on another wild pitch.
“Mady’s an all-around player,” SHS coach Mike Sather said. “She’s a real pitcher, she doesn’t just go out there and throw the ball -- she moves it around, changes speeds and is in control all the time.
“As for her hitting, she’s always been a great hitter for us.”
SPARTAN SPIN: Blaine will also play Esko following its game with Superior. … After a three-way tie for the LSC title four seasons ago, the Spartans were undefeated in league play the past three years.
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SHS split at ECN
It was a tale of two games for the Spartans against Eau Claire North Monday at Carson Park.
The Spartans, behind the shutout pitching of Stariha, won the opener 6-0. But the Husky bats awoke in a 14-4 win in five innings in game two.
Stariha tossed a three-hitter in her win with nine strikeouts and two walks. She also did her part at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a two RBIs.
Also for Superior, McLaughlin hit a three-run homer; Thompson had a double and RBI single; Siers and Kayleigh Miller both singled twice; and Hailee Melgeorge singled once.
Superior took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Siers singled and scored on a Stariha single.
The remaining Spartan runs came in the fifth when RBI singles by Thompson and Stariha were followed by McLaughlin’s three-run homer.
ECM got off to a fast start in game two with eight runs in the top of the first inning.
Spartan starter McLaughlin took the loss. She struck out the first batter but then allowed eight runs (six earned) on four hits and four walks before giving way to Elise DeGraef, who allowed five unearned runs in 3-plus innings with three strikeouts and four walks.
Stariha allowed a run, struck out two and walked on in the fifth inning.
Mattie Haller was 2-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs for the Huskies, who also got three RBIs from Lily France and two hits and two RBIs from Lexie Review.
Superior had six hits, including a two-run homer and single from Stariha, and RBI groundouts from Maddy Graham and Niya Wilson.
DeGraef also doubled and Siers and Thompson singled.
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