MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (May 23–30)
TRACK & FIELD: SWC Conference Meet
By Jason Nihles, The Platteville Journal / Fennimore Times / Boscobel Dial
Belmont wins program’s 19th regional title since 1999
BELMONT — The Belmont softball team will have a score to settle this week at sectionals.
The second-seeded Braves dominated third-seeded Juda/Albany 9–3 Thursday at Bond Park in a WIAA Division 5 regional final to earn a rematch with the Six Rivers West champion Cardinals (23–2, 12–1 SRC) Tuesday.
Belmont (20–5) blanked the #3-ranked Cardinals 8–0 most recently at HHS on May 8, but finished a game behind Highland in the SRW standings thanks to a 2–1 home loss to the Cards back on April 18, as well as a 9–6 SRC loss at Barneveld April 24.
Thursday’s regional championship was coach Jeff Hodgson and the Belmont program’s 19th regional title in the past 25 years. The Braves have also advanced to state seven times (1999, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2017, 2019). during that span, winning state titles in ’02 and ’19.
Standing in the way this year of a return trip to Madison are Highland and either Oakfield or Barneveld.
Belmont traveled to Highland for a D5 sectional semifinal Tuesday afternoon. The winner will advance to face either top-seeded and #2-ranked Oakfield (22–3) or No. 3 seed Barneveld (22–7) in a sectional semifinal Thursday at Oakfield at 5 p.m.
Thursday’s regional championship was a tight game until the Braves plated four runs in the bottom of the fourth and added four more an inning later to build a 92 lead.
An error allowed the Panthers (15–7) to take an early 1–0 lead in the top of the second.
Belmont answered back in the bottom half of the inning when junior Lainey Riechers doubled and later scored on a passed ball to tie the game.
Brukuet Swedlund made the Braves pay after an intentional walk to catcher Myah Johnson in the top of the fourth.
Johnson gave Juda/Albany a brief 2–1 lead with a single to centerfield.
Reese Runde walked and Riechers singled to centerfield to start the Braves’ four-run rally in the bottom of the fourth.
Addison McNett hit a sac fly to right field to score Runde, then after a walk by sophomore Morgan Freeman, senior pitcher Payton Johnsen laid down a sac bunt and a Juda/Albany throwing error resulted in two Belmont runs.
The after a walk to sophomore Kaci Riechers, the Panthers elected to trade an out for a run, when sophomore Reichers was thrown out attempting to steal second base, while courtesy runner Claire Runde stole home to make it 5–2.
Another Juda error led to another big Belmont inning in the fifth.
Johnsen had a two-run RBI single to center field, then Kaci Riechers lined an RBI single to left field and McNett scored on another error on the play to make it 9–2.
Johnsen improved to 15–3 on the year with the win, allowing three runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks in the seven-inning complete game, and went 1-for-2 with two RBI at the plate.
Lainey Riechers went 3-for-4 with three runs scored in three runs scored in the game for Belmont. Kaci Richers also went 2-for-2 with a walk in the win.
Belmont advanced to Thursday’s regional final with a 6–3 regional semifinal win over Southwestern (9–13) last Tuesday.
Johnsen struck out three and allowed just two runs, one earned, on three hits in five innings to earn the win. Senior Mia Hodgson pitched the final two innings for Belmont to close out the game.
The Braves scored twice in the first and three times in the bottom of second to build a 5–0 lead and never trailed.
Reese Runde had an RBI sac bunt and Lainey Riechers added an RBI single in the first.
Kaci Riechers had a sac fly in the second and senior catcher Rylee Rogers added a two-out RBI triple to make it 4–0. Hodgson followed with an RBI single to make it 5–0.
WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal
Belmont 6, Southwestern 3
(from Tuesday, May 23 @ Belmont)
Southwestern...002 000 1 — 3 5 0
Belmont.............230 010 x — 6 9 1
Leading hitters — S: Droessler 2x3 (RBI, Ehrlich 1x2 (RBI); B: Rylee Rogers 2x3 (RBI, 2R), Morgan Freeman 2x3 (R). 2B — B: Reese Runde. 3B — B: Rogers.
W — Payton Johnsen (14–3, 5IP, 3H, 2R, 1ER, 3K, 1BB). L — Kaitlyn Mick (6IP, 9H, 6R, 6ER, 0K, 0BB).
WIAA Division 5 regional final
Belmont 9, Juda/Albany 3
(from Thursday, May 25 @ Belmont)
Juda/Albany...010 101 0 — 3 3 4
Belmont...........010 440 x — 9 9 2
Leading hitters — JA: Swedlund 1x3 (2RBI); B: Lainey Riechers 3x3 (3R), Payton Johnsen 1x2 (2RBI, 2R), Kaci Riechers 2x2. 2B — B: L. Riechers.
W — Payton Johnsen (15–3, 7IP, 3H, 3R, 3ER, 1K, 2BB). L — Avery Briggs (5IP, 7H, 7R, 1ER, 2K, 3BB).