Janesville Craig defense delivers
JANESVILLE Pitching is supposed to be everything in fastpitch softball, but it doesn’t mean a thing if a weak defense backs the strong arm.
Craig High made a bundle of defensive plays, including a play at the plate and two double plays—one that included a play at home—to upend Madison La Follette and sophomore pitcher Nicole Newman, 2-1, in a Big Eight Conference 12-inning thriller Thursday at the Youth Sports Complex.
“There are a lot of stories to this game, but when we got out of a mess on two occasions and that was big,” said Craig coach Dan Bayreuther. “Our defense kept us in this game.’’
La Follette coach Heather Fish agreed.
“They made good plays,” she said. “Janesville Craig is a solid team defensively, and we didn’t do the right things on the base paths and they capitalized on that.’’
Craig improved to 7-2 in the Big Eight and 10-2 overall.
The Cougars scored the winning run with two outs. Leigh Grall stroked a two-strike liner to left to score Stephanie Perleberg, who singled through the infield, to decide the 2-hour and 40-minute marathon.
“I was just looking for the right pitch, and with two strikes, I do what coach always says and I battled up there,” said Grall. “Newman has a good change-up and a riser, and she threw me a couple of fastballs and a rise.’’
Grall also saved a possible run in the top of the 12th with a diving stab of a ground ball from her first-base position with a Lancer runner at second.
Craig teetered on the ledge of a 1-0 defeat in the seventh, but Newman allowed a pair of two-out walks and lost the victory when Craig pinch-runner Molly Osiecki scored on a
La Follette error.
Bayreuther was counting on the Cougars to hang in there until something good happened, and they did.
“Leigh took a good high fastball and got it over the third baseman’s head, thank God,” Bayreuther said. “I kept saying in the ninth or the 10th, ‘we need two hits in a row, we need to hits in a row,’ and we finally got it in the 12th.’’
La Follette took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a double, single and RBI grounder. The Lancers could have done more damage, but were called out on a play at the plate that thwarted a second run from scoring.
Newman held Craig hitless for 3 2/3 innings, piling up 15 strikeouts—12 in regulation—and allowing six hits. Craig pitcher Paige Weber kept the Lancers under her thumb, too.
Weber allowed seven hits, recorded seven strikeouts, walked one and scattered seven hits. She put La Follette down in order twice after the seventh inning.
“I thought Paige got stronger as the game went on, and good for her,” Bayreuther said.
Bayreuther said it was a big victory for the Cougars as they head into three conference games next week trailing Sun Prairie for the league lead.
“This would have been a tough one to lose,” he said. “I like the way we battled and hung in there against a very good team.’’
CRAIG 2, LA FOLLETTE 1
Madison La Follette 001 000 000 000—1 7 1
Janesville Craig 000 000 100 001—2 6 1
Newman and Lazendorf; Weber and Sullivan
Leading hitters—Farino (ML), 2x4. 2B—Farino.
SO—Newman 15, Weber 7. BB—Newman 3, Weber 1.