Laconia silences Stratford bats in WIAA Division 3 softball sectional final
By Paul Lecker
PLOVER – The Stratford softball team knew it would have its hands full against Laconia pitcher Kayla Schwebke, and the Spartans’ right-hander was up to the task.
Schwebke no-hit the Tigers, striking out 13, as Laconia topped Stratford 2-0 in a WIAA Division 3 softball sectional final Thursday at Spud Field at Woyak Park.
Despite not getting a hit, Stratford took the outcome of the game to the bitter end. Macey Kilty walked and Lorrie Luepke reached on an error to start the top of the seventh against Schwebke.
After getting two out, Schwebke walked Val Licciardi to load the bases. However, Sammy Kaiser struck out looking to end the game.
Laconia (27-0), the defending Division 3 state champion, returns to the WIAA State Softball Tournament in Madison next weekend. The Spartans will take on Mishicot in the second of two D-3 semifinals on Friday, June 10, at approximately 3:30 p.m. Grantsburg and Poynette will play in the first semifinal.
“We talked about how you have two options (against Schwebke),” Stratford coach Mandy Pankratz said. “You can put yourself in the front of the box and try to catch up with it, but we thought we’d be better off back in the box, try to crowd the plate a little bit and lay off the rise ball.”
Laconia scored once in the first and again in the fourth against Stratford pitcher Kiana Weiler. The Tigers’ sophomore was strong on the mound as well, giving up six hits – three in the first inning – and finished with four strikeouts and two walks.
Anna Wagner had an RBI single in the first. She led off the fourth with another single and scored on a two-out double by Melanie Hopp to provide the game’s only runs.
Kilty walked in the first inning, and no Tiger reached base again until the seventh as Schwebke retired 17 straight batters, 11 by strikeout.
Despite the offensive struggles, Pankratz said she had faith.
“We fouled a lot of pitches off in there, and I was just kind of waiting for that one to go through,” Pankratz said. “I thought we were aggressive and still attacked good pitches. I wasn’t doubting there, I was like, ‘Here we go.’ But credit to them, they’re a great ball team. It’s not an easy situation for our girls to be in, but they put the ball in play. It just didn’t go our way today.”
Stratford’s season ends with a 19-7 record after it reached its first sectional final since 2007 with an impressive nine-inning win over Marawood South-rival Marathon on Wednesday. Marathon had knocked the Tigers out of the playoffs in each of the past five seasons.
“This is an incredible group of kids,” Pankratz said. “We talk about how we create memories every day. This isn’t your fondest memory losing here, but they made it here and that’s something a lot of the teams in the state can’t say they did.
“It was big (beating Marathon). It’s kind of a little bit of a mental situation for us the last couple of years.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)
Spartans 2, Tigers 0
Stratford 000 000 0 – 0 0 1
Laconia 100 100 x – 2 6 1
WP: Kayla Schwebke. LP: Kiana Weiler.
SO: Weiler 4; Schwebke 13. BB: Weiler 2; Schwebke 3.
Top hitters: L, Payton Kastenschmidt 2×3, 2 2Bs; Anna Wegner 2×3, run, RBI; Melanie Hopp 2B, RBI. S, Macey Kilty 2 BBs.
Records: Stratford 19-7; Laconia 27-0.