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Softball: Prescott follows through with state tournament goal

The Prescott Cardinals softball team has won the rights to celebrate after earning a state tournament bid on Friday, June 1. The Cardinals defeated the Amery Warriors 4-1 in the WIAA Division 3 Sectional 1 finals and will now take on Tomahawk on Friday, June 8 in the state semifinals. (File photo)

All high school teams walk into their seasons with one ultimate goal: competing in the state tournament.

For some teams, playing on the biggest stage is outlandish. For others, the state tournament is attainable, but lack of work ethic and commitment holds them back from reaching it.

Neither of these scenarios were true for the Prescott Cardinals softball team (22-3).

The Cardinals set their sights on playing at Madison on Day 1 of the 2018 season and never looked back, but made sure they took care of business in their two-month long process of earning a trip to Goodman Diamond.

No. 1-seeded Prescott’s final test came on Friday, June 1, when they faced the No. 4 Amery Warriors in the WIAA Division 3 Sectional 1 finals where they claimed a 4-1 victory and the right to celebrate their achieved goal of playing in the 2018 state tournament.

The Cardinals put up two runs in the first inning with a two-run double from Haley Miner that allowed Katelyn Miller and Megan Severson to touch home.

“We knew a fast start would be vital in a sectional finals game.” Prescott’s head coach Matt Smith said. “We know with our defense and with Kaili (Wescott) on the mound, if we can score early, we’ll be looking good toward the end of the game. A team like Amery has a formidable line-up, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”

Smith said that although his team had already beaten Amery twice in the 2018 regular season, his team still walked into the sectional game with complete respect for their Middle Border Conference opponents who had out-hit them in their two prior meetings.

“It was just a matter of us executing,” Smith said. “We just took advantage of big opportunities throughout the game.”

Prescott refused to let up in the following inning by extending its lead to 3-0 when Kaelyn Lewis scored the Cardinals’ third run thanks to a Mackenzie Carey RBI sacrifice.

Miller struck again in the fourth with a leadoff triple and scored her second run of the day by taking advantage of an overthrown toss to third. The senior shortstop was Prescott’s top hitter of the day with her 3-for-4 performance that included two runs scored, a triple and a double.

The Warriors responded by scoring their only run of the game on a double from Julia Ingebretson, but were unable to withstand Prescott’s strong defense for the remainder of the game.

Wescott earned her 18th win of the season by limiting the Warriors to one earned run on seven hits during her seven innings in the circle.

Prescott will now face Tomahawk (15-7), the Sectional 2 champions, on Friday, June 8, at 10 a.m. at Goodman Diamond in Madison. Tomahawk defeated Brillion to join the Cardinals in the state semifinals and comes out of the Great Northern Conference where they finished with a 9-3 conference record.

“(Tomahawk) is going to be ready to go, they’re going to throw strikes, they’re going to put the ball in play,” Smith said. “Everyone left here is a good team. It’s going to be fast and fierce.”

Friday will mark Prescott’s fourth appearance at the WIAA state tournament in program history and first since 2002, and Smith’s team is “pumped” to be the Cardinals team that will end Prescott’s 16-year state tournament drought.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” Smith said. “For a team to come together and accomplish what they’ve accomplished … they’ve come together from top to bottom.

“It comes down to the girls, but there are a lot of moving parts here. The whole community has come together and there are a lot of passionate individuals who’ve shown their support for our team.”

Prescott has already been represented at four WIAA state tournaments during the 2017-18 school year, a year that will be forever remembered by Cardinal fans.

“Prescott as a whole is just great as a community and school district,” Smith said, “and there are just a lot of positive things going on on the athletic side of things this year, too. They’re creating a lot of memories that people will be able to cherish for a long time.”

Cardinal fans will have a chance to send off their favorite high school softball team to the state tournament at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 6, in the high school’s gymnasium.