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WIAA D3 softball: Prescott advances past Stratford

Bekah Miller and Haley Miner greet teammates with high fives after defeating Stratford in Prescott's first game of the WIAA D3 regionals on Wednesday, May 24. Jalen Knuteson / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Prescott junior Katie Miller settles under a pop up against Stratford on Wednesday, May 24. Jalen Knuteson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Prescott junior Hope Miner was 2-for-3 against Stratford on Wednesday, May 24. Jalen Knuteson / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

PRESCOTT -- Everytime Stratford threatened, Prescott had an answer.

The Cardinals allowed a runner to third base in the first inning before Kaili Wescott struck out the Stratford cleanup batter.

The Tigers had a leadoff single in the fourth inning when Wescott stabbed a line drive hit right back at her and doubled off the runner on first base.

Aided by the defense behind her, Wescott worked a complete game shutout to earn a 4-0 victory over Stratford in the WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal Wednesday, May 24 at Prescott Intermediate School.

“Kaili threw strikes all night, pitching to contact, and making them earn everything,” Prescott head coach Matt Smith said. “They came in hitting over .400 as a team, so we knew they were gonna put the ball in play.”

The Cardinals (14-8) had one error, a throwing error in the first inning, but otherwise Smith kept coming back to the word “solid” to describe the defensive effort against the Tigers (17-7).

After stranding the initial Stratford threat 60 feet from home, Prescott got on the board in the bottom of the inning.

“That’s really important because it creates a really positive mindset for the team,” senior Bekah Miller said. “From there we just kept the momentum going and got some big insurance runs.”

“To score in the first inning is big for us,” Smith said. “To get that first run it helps ease that pressure a little bit.”

It wasn’t an easy first-round game for the Cardinals. They were playing against a Stratford team that returned a handful of starters from a team that lost in the WIAA D3 sectional final to Laconia, the eventual state champion.

“They’re a good team,” Smith said. “You have to tip your cap to them. Their pitcher was good. She threw a lot of strikes and made us hit the ball. We did that.”

Wescott had three singles, Hope Miner and Miller were each 2-for-3.

The offense is something that the Cardinals will need as they advance to play Bloomer again, a team they suffered a 3-1 loss to on April 6. Prescott will play Bloomer, the No. 1 seed in the regional, on Friday, May 26 at Bloomer High School.

The Blackhawks are the No. 3 ranked team in Division 3 according to the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association rankings behind No. 2 Poynette (25-1) and No. 1 Laconia (18-0).

“The girls just need to stay confident,” Smith said when asked about carrying the success at the plate into the game against Bloomer. “They’ve seen Bloomer, so they know that they have to go up there with a plan. They know they need to go to the plate, put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense.”

Almost two months after the two teams played, the Cardinals feel like they’re a much improved team.

“The whole team aspect is different for us now,” Miller said. “Right now, we’re all focused on the same goal right now, more so than we were then. Early in the season, playing them was a chance for us to see where we were at.

“We played right with them, but we weren’t quite there yet. I think, the second time around will be a lot different.”

That was on display against Stratford when the Tigers attempted score in the sixth inning. A Stratford runner tried to advance to second base on a single, as she attempted to retreat to first base, shortstop Katie Miller threw behind her. Meanwhile, the Stratford runner who began the play at second base, attempted to score.

Bekah Miller fired a strike to the plate and Miner tagged her out.

“We had great communication all day today,” Miner said. “In the beginning of the season I think we struggled a little bit with that. Making plays like the play at home, that takes a lot of teamwork.”