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Prep softball: Spartans fall short in semifinal matchup with Kaukauna

The top-seeded Galloping Ghosts notched their 50th straight win to advance to the state championship game against Sun Prairie.

Superior’s Emma Raye (27) stops a throw home as Kaukauna’s Kally Meredith (17) slides in safely
Superior’s Emma Raye (27) stops a throw home as Kaukauna’s Kally Meredith (17) slides in safely in the fourth inning of the Spartans’ semifinal loss late Friday evening, June 10, 2022 at the WIAA State Softball Tournament at the Goodman Diamond in Madison.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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MADISON — A postseason run nearly three decades in the making was cut short for the Superior Spartans in the WIAA Division 1 semifinals by powerhouse Kaukauna Friday, June 11, under the lights of the Goodman Softball Diamond on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.

The 10-0 five-inning defeat to the defending state champion Galloping Ghosts, now winners of 50 consecutive games, brings the Spartans’ final record to 19-3 overall for the season.

Though the ending was not what they had hoped for, coach Mike Sather said the 2022 season is one they’ll never forget.

Superior’s Ari Robillard (3) fields a throw to second base to pick off Kaukauna’s Kally Meredith (17)
Superior’s Ari Robillard (3) fields a throw to second base to pick off Kaukauna’s Kally Meredith (17) in the first inning of the Spartans’ 10-0 loss late Friday evening, June 10, 2022 at the WIAA State Softball Tournament at the Goodman Diamond in Madison.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“It’s something that everyone involved is going to remember for the rest of their lives,” Sather said. “It was just an awesome thing and it was exciting. Of course it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but (we’re) just happy to be here.”

Junior catcher Emma Raye, a future Badgers softball player, echoed her coach's sentiments.

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“It’s just been a great experience,” Raye said. “I had a phenomenal group of girls to be playing with and being able to play on my future field, I mean that's just exciting. Overall, it’s just been an exciting season.”

Superior’s Melania Luostari (33) fires a throw to first base
Superior’s Melania Luostari (33) fires a throw to first base after fielding a bunt in the third inning of the Spartans’ loss to Kaukauna late Friday evening, June 10, 2022 at the WIAA State Softball Tournament at the Goodman Diamond in Madison.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Friday’s contest marked the second time the two teams have squared off this season, with their previous meeting taking place on May 14 during a tournament in Chippewa Falls. After falling 3-0 in their meeting in May, the Spartans had yet to trail in any of their next seven games until the rematch, which saw the Galloping Ghosts take a quick 2-0 lead in the second inning.

The two runs came after a walk and a single brought two aboard for Lilly Roehrig, who smashed a double to deep left-center field to send both home. Kaukauna followed up the second inning rally with another two-run frame its next time up, which was aided by uncharacteristic errors by the typically sharp-fielding Spartans.

“They’re a really fast team and they’re obviously well-coached. We have a lot of young players and I think they were a little over-excited,” Sather said. “A lot of our throws were just because of the excitement and stuff, we were a little bit off today. I mean if we made good throws we would have got some of their players out.”

Superior’s Natalee Sigfrids (9) fields a throw to second base
Superior’s Natalee Sigfrids (9) fields a throw to second base as Kaukauna’s Kally Meredith (17) slides in safely in the first inning of the Spartans’ 10-0 loss late Friday evening, June 10, 2022 at the WIAA State Softball Tournament at the Goodman Diamond in Madison.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The senior-laden Galloping Ghosts ended the game in the fifth inning by scoring six additional runs with errors and walks looming large in the rally. Starting pitcher Haley Zembo was pulled with two outs and the bases loaded for Ari Robillard, who secured the final out.

Kaukana starting pitcher Karly Meredith, who entered the contest with an unblemished record and an ERA of 0.12, kept the Superior bats in check with only two hits surrendered in the winning effort, to Melania Luostari and Indigo Fish.

Superior’s Haley Zembo (20) fires a pitch in the third inning
Superior’s Haley Zembo (20) fires a pitch in the third inning of the Spartans’ loss to Kaukauna late Friday evening, June 10, 2022 at the WIAA State Softball Tournament at the Goodman Diamond in Madison.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

While the loss was a source of disappointment for members of the Spartans team, excitement remains for next season with the team set to return nearly its entire roster with the exception of graduated seniors Natalee Sigfrids, Kaylee Baker and Brooke Hendry.

Raye said the team is already eager to get started putting in the work for another run next season.

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Superior’s Emma Raye (27) hugs senior Natalee Sigfrids (9) after the Spartans’ 10-0 loss to Kaukauna
Superior’s Emma Raye (27) hugs senior Natalee Sigfrids (9) after the Spartans’ 10-0 loss to Kaukauna in the semi final of the WIAA State Softball Tournament late Friday night, June 10, 2022, at the Goodman Diamond in Madison
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“We did not want to lose this game. We had intentions to come in and win and beat the No. 1 team,” Raye said. “We already have girls who are like ‘Let’s take BP tomorrow. Let’s get back out there. Let’s be better next year.’ Because we want to make it back here, and we want a state championship.”

WP: Karly Meredith 5IP, 0R, 2H, 2BB, 4K. LP: Haley Zembo 3.2IP, 7H, 10R, 4ER, 7BB, 3K; Ari Robillard 0.1IP, H. K: Karly Meredith 1x3, BB, R; Paige Miller 1x3, 2R; Taryn Christopher 1x1, BB, 2R; Haylie Wittman 2x3, 2R, RBI; Anna Lacount 1x1, RBI; Lilly Roehrig 2x3, 4RBIs. S: Melania Luostari 1x2; Indigo Fish 1x2.

Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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