WIAA SOFTBALL D4 SECTIONAL SEMIFINAL: Iowa–Grant 2, Boscobel 0
By Jason Nihles
BOSCOBEL — Two runs turned out to be more than enough for Iowa–Grant to upset SWAL co-champion Boscobel and one of the best young pitchers in the state.
Coach Deanna Fulton’s Panthers scored a pair of unearned runs in the late innings and senior WFSCA All-Star Mya McCarthy and IG’s own freshman pitcher Bentley Cutts combined on a four-hit shutout to lift the IG to a 2–0 victory over the host and #6-ranked Bulldogs in a WIAA Division 4 Sectional Semifinal Monday afternoon at Kronshage Park.
Iowa–Grant (16–8) advances to today’s sectional final at Boscobel to take on Juda/Albany (17–6), which defeated Johnson Creek 6–5 with a berth in next week’s WIAA State Tournament on the line. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.
Eventual state champion Juda/Albany defeated IG in the 2017 D4 sectional finals, 6–1, the last time Fulton’s Panthers advanced this far in the WIAA tournament. Iowa–Grant has never qualified for the WIAA softball state tournament.
“We need to continue to play our game,” said Fulton. “We need to push runs across early and out pressure on them. We need to continue to keep batters off balance and make defense plays. We focus on three aspects of the game- offense, defense, and pitching. If we continue to execute these three aspects and play Panther softball, good things will happen.”
The Panthers made good things happen Monday against one of the stingiest pitchers in all of Wisconsin, Boscobel freshman Gretta Grassel, who entered the game with a sparkling 0.45 ERA, having allowed just six runs in 93 innings all season while striking out 221 batters. She had allowed only 20 hits in her first 14 starts, four of which were no-hitters (and one a perfect game).
Grassel and the #6-ranked Bulldogs (16–4) beat the Panthers 4–1 on May 17 and 1–0 on June 7.
“We knew we needed to be aggressive on the bases and work hard to put the ball in play,” said Fulton. “We had runners in five of the seven innings and put just enough pressure on their defense to scratch out two runs.”
Senior Grace Kite reached on an error in the first and walked in the fourth, Cutts single up the middle in the second, and senior Taylor Runde singled in the fifth, but Iowa–Grant didn’t break the scoreless deadlock until the top of the sixth inning.
IG leadoff hitter sophomore outfielder Alexis Vavricka lead off with a single to centerfield and advanced to second on an error on the play. McCarthy followed with an infield single to shortstop, but Vavricka was forced to hold at second base. Grassel struck out the next two batters and looked like she might get out of her first real jam of the game, but a pair of passed balls during Cameron Shore at-bat allowed Vavricka to score.
The inning ended when McCarthy was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second base on the same play as Vavricka, after the ball temporarily got away from Grassel who was covering home when Vavricka scored.
Sophomore shortstop Cameron Shores reached on an error to lead off the top of the seventh, then pinch runner Indy Kemnitzer advanced to second on a passed ball and third on Cutts’ fly ball to center. Two pitches later Kemnitzer scored on a perfect squeeze bunt by Runde.
The Bulldogs made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh, getting a one-out double from Emma Creasey, and Fulton opted to bring in Cutts to relieve McCarthy (8–6), who had struck out five and allowed just four hits up to that point.
After an error on a hard ground ball to third base, Cutts and the Panthers ended the inning with back-to-back infield pop up.
“Mya threw a great game,”said Fulton. “She got ahead in the count often and worked her pitches. We made key plays on defense when needed.
“It was our game plan to get ahead and go with Mya until late in game. Mya was facing batters for the third time and we wanted batters to be uncomfortable and see someone knew. Bentley threw strikes, got ahead of batters and did a nice job finishing the game.
“Our past three playoff wins have been 100 percent team wins as different batters have made big hits and we have used all three pitchers in crucial situations.”
WIAA Division 4 Sectional Semifinal
#3 Iowa–Grant 2, #1 Boscobel 0
(from Monday, June 21 @ Boscobel)
Iowa–Grant..000 001 1 — 2 4 3
Boscobel.......000 000 0 — 0 4 3
Leading hitters — IG: Alexis Vavricka 1x3, Mya McCarthy 1x3. Bentley Cutts 1x3, Taylor Runde 1x3 (RBI); B: Gretta Grassel 2x3. 2B — B: Emma Creasy.
W — Mya McCarthy (8–6, 6.1IP, 5H, 0R, 5K, 1BB). L — Gretta Grassel (12–3, 7IP, 4H, 2R, 0ER, 12K, 1BB). SV — Bentley Cutts (1, 0.2IP, 0H, 0R, 0K, 0BB).