Prep softball: Revenge-minded Superior blanks Proctor for LSC title
Spartan pitcher Haley Zembo recorded her second no-hitter in as many weeks and struck out 16 batters in the process.
PROCTOR — When Superior’s Emma Raye stepped to the plate to face Proctor’s Maddy Walsh Wednesday at Egerdahl Field, she knew this game was a little different.
The game was essentially the Lake Superior Conference championship game — a game Proctor, currently the seventh-ranked team in Class AA in Minnesota, won in 2021 when the teams faced off.
Raye, a Wisconsin recruit, watched one pitch go by for a ball, but when she swung on the second pitch the ball ended up near the home sideline on the far side of the Proctor football field.
“It was kind of a redemption type of feel,” Raye said. “I was looking for that pitch and I got it and exactly where to put it. I just really wanted to come in and win this game.”
The home run off Walsh — the 2021 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year — set the tone for a game Superior had circled on its calendar before the season began.
“How can you not feel good starting a big game like that?” Superior coach Mike Sather said. “When your first batter hits a home run, right away the momentum is on our side.”
After Indigo Fish drove in Melania Luostari with an RBI single, pitcher Haley Zembo had all the cushion she would need.
The junior hurler threw her second no-hitter in the last two weeks and struck out 16 batters in the 5-0 win over the previously undefeated Rails and clinched the LSC title.
“She had a great day on the mound,” Sather said. “She walked a few batters, but when she did she came back and she got the next batter. She had 16 strikeouts, which is an outstanding performance. That doesn’t leave much room for another team to score runs when 16 batters strike out.”
Zembo tried to adapt her pitching to the umpire’s strike zone and the strategy worked. She walked a pair of batters in the first inning, but the Rails only had two baserunners in the final six innings of the game. Walsh reached on a fielding error in the fourth inning and Zembo walked a batter in the seventh inning.
“I tried to adjust with the umpire and what he was calling,” Zembo said. “Then I tried to move the ball around to make it harder for them to adjust straight away and hit.”
When Walsh reached in the fourth inning, she advanced to second on a throwing error and the courtesy runner advanced to third on a wild pitch. Despite the opportunity, the Rails couldn’t muster anything to get the runner home.
“We had three changes there basically and good hitters up there and that happens,” Proctor coach Bud Joyce said. “She’s a good pitcher, she got out of it. We’re a little handcuffed with our runners for Maddy. Maddy is pretty fast — maybe she scores on the ball back to the pitcher. At that time it was 2-0 and it would have probably made the game a little different.”
The next inning Superior’s Natalee Sigfrids hit an RBI single and Avery Visger followed it up with a two-run home run — the first of her high school career — to give Zembo a little more cushion for the final two innings.
Walsh allowed five hits and two earned runs while striking out seven.
The Rails were disappointed in the loss, but they still have plenty of opportunities to make it a special season.
“It’s just one game,” Joyce said. “In the grand scheme of things it’s not our ultimate goal. A lot of people are excited about the conference stuff. It’s a big deal to us, but it’s not what we’re ultimately after. We want to do well in the playoffs and hopefully take that next step.”
Proctor (16-1) will face another stiff challenge when they host Section 7AA rivals Greenway at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The Raiders defeated the Rails in the section title game to earn a spot at the state tournament in Mankato in 2021.
The LSC title isn’t the only goal the Spartans have, but Zembo and her teammates took a few moments after the game to savor the victory.
“It feels really good,” Zembo said. “We were determined to win — we wanted revenge and to take the conference back. Our team definitely pulled it together. We all had really timely hits and just having them behind my back is amazing.”
Superior is scheduled to play at Bloomer at 5 p.m. Thursday.
This story was edited at 10:40 p.m. on May 18 to correct the day of the Proctor-Greenway game. It was originally posted at 7:51.