Defensive lapses cost Greenfield in WIAA sectional softball defeat
Hawks lose lead, game to Racine Case
Defense was the Achilles heel of the Greenfield softball team all season, and that flaw struck the Hustlin' Hawks again at the worst possible time.
Greenfield held a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning over top seed Racine Case in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal contest on June 3.
A key error set up a two-run inning for the Eagles which tied the game, and Case then went on to win 4-3 in nine frames to advance in the tournament.
Drop proves costly
In the pivotal eighth inning, the leadoff Case batter reached on a dropped popup in the infield, and the Eagles immediately took advantage of the miscue.
Kaitlyn Karls doubled to the base of the centerfield wall to score a run and trim the deficit to 3-2. After a flyout, Lauren Heffel doubled to left-centerfield to plate Karls and tie the game at 3-3.
Greenfield ace Bella Matthias walked the next batter but escaped more trouble by getting a forceout at third and a fly ball.
The damage had been done, though.
In the top of the ninth, the Hawks used an error and an infield single by Nicollette Curtis to put runners at first and third with two outs. That threat ended on a groundout.
Matthias got the first two outs in the bottom of the ninth but Kalli Milestone reached on an infield single and Karls doubled to leftfield.
Milestone was initially held up but came in to score when the ball got away on the infield, the Hawks' fifth error of the game.
"That's probably about the fourth game where we have had the lead late in the game or in extra innings and unfortunately, our weak defensive play cost us," head coach Jack Miller said. "It's been a reoccuring theme."
Bunts lead to runs
The extra-inning miscues were especially frustrating because the Hawks put on a bunting clinic in the top of the eighth to take their two-run lead.
Curtis opened the frame with a bunt single that fell right in front of the plate. Matthias then dropped another bunt that spun for a while by the plate, forcing the Case catcher to hurriedly pick it up and make an off-balance throw to first, which Matthias beat.
Lexi Vilkoski bunted the two runners over, bringing up Sara Kassel.
She squared and bunted the ball to the right of the mound between first and second, and no Case fielder was in the area, so the Hawks were able to score two runs on the play.
"They executed well," Miller said. "It's too bad we couldn't hold on."
Curtis paced Greenfield (20-9) with three hits, while Matthias allowed five hits. She struck out 13 but walked eight and gave up some well-hit balls late in the contest.
"Bella's pitched just about every inning of every game this year," Miller said. "You can't expect her to strike out everybody."
The deciding factor, though, was the defense.
"We all know that we should have been going home, beating the number-one seed and being happy," Miller said. "I don't think what happened to us was a fluke, because it's happened to us so many times this year."
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