So far so good for Augusta, FC softball teams
Both the Augusta and Fall Creek prep softball teams have perfect records to start the 2023 season.
The Beavers are 3-0 and the Crickets have played perhaps as many games as any team in the state in a spring filled with cancellations due to the weather at nine and also have a perfect record.
This record stayed in-tact with an 9-8 win at defending WCC champ Bloomer on Tuesday, April 19. Jenna Fitch was the winning pitcher and Grace Herrem held on for the win in relief despite a three-run rally by the Blackhawks in the bottom of the seventh. Key plays for the Crickets came from RBIs from Kennedy Gruhlke on a single, Sophie Johnson and Lexi Gustafson with a sacrifice bunts which both scored runs and an RBI-double by Averie Barka. Fall Creek also scored runs off several Bloomer errors.
These plays were made by a team that's still largely dominated by underclassmen with just three letterwinners graduating in all-Western Cloverbelt players Catrina Cline, Hannah Herrem & Samantha Olson. Returning letterwinners include: Jenna Fitch, Kennedy Gruhlke, Lexi Gustafson, Karley Harriman, Beki Hutchison, Riley Nicks, Averie Barka, Sophie Johnson, Elena Raffesberger, Grace Herrem, Larissa Johnson, Kennedy Tumm and Emma Westrate. They return from a team which made it all the way to the sectional finals for the second season in a row at 23-7 overall. Johnson was all-conference last season while Tumm received honorable mention.
"We are pretty solid in most facets of the game," FC head coach Brad Ceranski said. "We have a very deep team and will look to improve in all areas and hope to play our best softball at the end of the season.
The win over the Blackhawks improved their Western Cloverbelt record to 3-0 with games looming (weather permitting) against other WCC contenders in Chippewa Falls McDonell and Osseo-Fairchild. Fall Creek has also has wins over Belmont, Pecatonica, Arcadia, Blair-Taylor, Loyal/Greenwood and Neillsville in non-conference action. The win over B-T, one of the top teams in the region last week Saturday, April 15, was due an amazing five-run rally in the bottom of the seventh capped by Johnson's winning run off a wild pitch. FC also won over Neillsville 7-4 and blanked Thorp 7-0 and Stanley-Boyd last week Tuesday and Thursday and Friday.
"We need to enjoy the journey together as a team," Ceranskli said "We have excellent senior leadership and look to improve each day and enjoy every part of the experience."
It's so far so good for Augusta as well. The Beavers are 3-0 overall and in league play by All-Dairyland pitcher and one of the region's top players in senior Sam Winsce. The Beavers finished 10-11 overall last season and lost in the regionals to Brookwood. AHS pretty much returns its entire roster from last season including Winsce all-league player senior Kennedy Korger. Augusta won last week Tuesday over Lincoln 10-0 in their home opener. Korger, Winsce and teammate Emma Lee all had three hits and drove in a combined seven runs. Korger hit two doubles with Lee, Winsce and M. Wolfe also hitting doubles. Augusta has some tough match-ups upcoming that will set the tone for the Dairyland Conference season as they take on defending DC champ Blair-Taylor on Friday, April 21 and current league-leader Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran on Monday, April 24.
One of the teams hoping to compete for the WCC title is Osseo-Fairchild given the amount of returning letter-winners from a club which finished. 8-10 overall and 6-8 in the league. Seniors Madisyn Loonstra and Trinity Knudtson, both all-conference, are some of those senior letter-winners along with Katie Skoug, who received honorable mention All-WCC, Taylor Gunderson, Eleice Dahl, Rhi Prudlick, Brooke McCune and Lacy Frase graduated from last season's team. The Thunder so far are 2-2, but lost twice last week, Tuesday, April 11 at Marshfield Columbus 5-1 and 4-2 in their home and WCC opener to Chippewa Falls McDonell on Thursday, April 13. Gunderson hit an RBI for one of O-F's four hits. The Macks had 10 hits and benefitted from three O-F errors.
Eleva-Strum has started the 2023 season 0-5. The Cardinals were 2-18 last season with their only wins coming against Whitehall. That same Norse squad handed a tough loss to E-S last week Friday, April 14 at home 9-4, this despite freshman pitcher Ruby Bartholomew's 17 strikeouts and five scattered hits. She also hit an RBI-double. One of Central's top returning players is senior Maddie Bertrang. She hit an RBI in the ballgame vs. Whitehall along with sophomore Lizzie Nordstrom. The Cardinals have a very young squad with just Bertrang and Cora Gehrke senior letter-winners on the same team with 12 sophomores and three freshmen and just one junior in lette-rwinner Rachel Pronschinke. E-S also lost to first place Eau Claire Immanuel Lutheran 10-0 last week Thursday, April 13 and Cochrane-Fountain City 10-2 on Tuesday, April 11 but at least went the distance with both the Lancers and C-FC. Indeed only once this season so far has E-S not been 10 or 15-runned. But the Cards will need to cut down on the fielding errors to become more competitive as they had eight against the Norse and seven against Cochrane-FC. They also need more hits as they had just three vs. the Pirates as Gehrke had two of them. Bartholomew struck out nine C-FC batters in a six-hit effort.