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GLENWOOD CITY — For the second straight time, the Glenwood City Hilltoppers’ softball season ended with a sectional semifinal loss.
Another stellar year that included back-to-back Dunn-St. Croix and regional championships, came to a sudden end last Monday, June 21 when the upstart and unranked Fall Creek Crickets (14-11) hopped into Glenwood City and used a seven-run sixth inning to stun the third-ranked Hilltoppers’ 14-9 in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal game.
In 2019, the Toppers lost to Thorp, 4-1, in another Division 4 sectional semi.
The 14 runs, only eight of which were earned, that the Crickets scored in the seven-inning playoff contest were the most surrendered in any game this season by the Hilltoppers, surpassing the 12 scores they gave up in a non-conference loss to Spooner back on May 14 in a game that featured Kendall Schutz and Maddie Klatt pitching. The Toppers had their 12-game winning streak snapped and finished 21-4 on the season.
The Toppers’ senior pitching ace Maddie Oehlke surrendered ten hits to Fall Creek including five, three of which went for a pair of doubles and a triple, in that decisive sixth inning to blow open a close game. Glenwood City, who held a 5-4 advantage after five innings of play, also had a critical missed coverage to open that sixth frame that sparked the Crickets’ offense.
“It was neck and neck going into the sixth, but a costly missed coverage for an out at first base on their lefty slapper to start the inning and our choice to hold runners (fielder’s choice) at third twice to prevent a score, led to four straight hits by them (Crickets) and eventually the seven runs,” Glenwood City head coach Matthew Schutz stated.
“We probably should have went for the outs and allowed a couple runs,” he added.
The Hilltoppers had 12 hits of their own including; a two-run homer by senior Delanie Fayerweather in the first, and a 3-run, sixth-inning blast off the bat of classmate Maddie Oehlke that cleared the scoreboard in right field by 50 feet and three doubles but, left nine runners stranded on base including a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh to end the game and season. Three fielding errors added to Glenwood City’s woes.
“We then relied on our offense to try and get us back (into the game), but it was the sixth inning and who knows,” said Coach Schutz.
“And a few other errors throughout the game also hurt us defensively too,” he noted.
The Crickets served notice with a pair of first-inning triples and a run off Oehlke that they were not going to let the mighty Hilltoppers squash them.
After a ground out to open the game, Sam Olson hit a triple. Oehlke got the next Cricket batter to ground right back to her for an easy toss to first and the out but, Karley Harriman came up with Fall Creek’s second three-bagger of the inning to easily score Olson for the game’s first run. Maddie Oehlke finally retired the side with a strike out.
The Hilltoppers would get that run back in their half of the first and added a couple more.
Freshman Ryeah Oehlke led off Glenwood City’s first offensive foray with a single. She advanced to second on a passed ball during Kendall Schutz’ at bat which ended with a strike out. Ryeah then stole third and scored to knot the game when older sister Maddie Oehlke reached on a ground-ball error by the Crickets first baseman. Delanie Fayerweather, batting in the clean up position as she has all year, came to the plate and promptly launched a Sam Olson pitch over the outfield fence with Maddie O. on board for a two-run home run and a 3-1 lead. Alex Peterson followed with a single but Olson retired the Toppers with strike outs by Michaela Blaser and Morgan Johnson.
Following a scoreless second inning, Fall Creek retook the lead with three scores in the top of the third.
Oehlke issued her only walk of the game to Fall Creek’s Becky Hutchison to start the inning. Catcher Catrina Cline followed with a single to put a pair on for the Crickets. Maddie Oehlke got her counterpart to pop out to Blaser at third but, Hannah Herrem belted a two-RBI double that tied the contest at threes. After Oehlke registered another K for out number two, slap-hitter Lexi Gustafson reached on an error by Blaser which allowed Herrem to plate the Crickets go ahead run. Oehlke sat down the next batter but Fall Creek had a 4-3 advantage.
Glenwood City would get the equalizer in its half of the fourth frame when Morgan Johnson singled and later scored on an one-out sacrifice fly to center by Kendall Schutz. On that same play, freshman Avery Rubenzer was tagged out for the final out of the inning when she tried to go to third base after Johnson’s score.
In the bottom of the fifth, Delanie Fayerweather smacked a one-out double off a 3-2 Olson pitch. The senior scored two batters later when Blaser hit an RBI single that gave the Hilltoppers just their second lead of the game at 5-4.
It was a short-lived advantage, however.
The Crickets at bat in the top half of the sixth produced seven runs and an 11-5 lead.
Gustafson reached on the opening at bat for the Crickets after Michaela Blaser fielded a ground ball and threw to first base but no one was on the bag to make the catch as GC first baseman Libby Wagner had been playing up for the bunt. The ball rolled down the left field fence allowing Gustafson to advance all the way to third base. After a diving catch on a short pop up behind home plate by Fayerweather for the first out, Tori Marten hit a triple off Maddie O. to score Gustafson and knot the game at five runs apiece.
The next two Fall Creek batters reached on fielder’s choices as the Toppers defense was trying to keep Marten from scoring the go-ahead run from third base.
But, with the bases now loaded, the Crickets came to the top of their batting order where lead-off hitter Catrina Cline singled in a pair of runs. Pitcher Sam Olson gave herself and Fall Creek some insurance runs with a RBI double that scored a pair for a 9-5 lead. Herrem followed with another double to score Olson, and she in turn scored on a single by Harriman to make it 11-5 before Maddie Oehlke finally retired the side with a pair of ground outs.
While the Hilltoppers hadn’t trailed by that many runs this season they had been down by four scores to Durand with just a final at bat and rallied to win 9-8 in ten innings. They were looking to do the same as they were down to their final six outs.
After Rubenzer struck out and Aubree Logghe grounded out to the shortstop, Ryeah Oehlke safely reached base on a fielder’s choice. Kendall Schutz then singled to set the stage for Maddie Oehlke, who stepped to the plate and hit a tower 3-run shot over the scoreboard in right field to pull the Toppers to within 11-8. Fayerweather looked to keep the two-out rally going with her second double of the game but, it ended when Alex Peterson’s potential base hit was snared on a great leaping catch by the Fall Creek second baseman for the third out.
In the seventh, Fall Creek added three more runs to extend its lead back to six runs. An error allowed the lead off hitter, Tori Marten, to reach base and a single by Hutchison and a double from Cline ended with all three scoring runs.
Down to its final two outs after Blaser grounded out to the second baseman to start the bottom of the seventh, Morgan Johnson earned her second single of the day. With freshman Sydney Grant pinch running for Johnson, fellow freshman Madison Caress, who was pinch hitting for Rubenzer, reached on an error.
After Logghe K’ed for the Toppers’ second out, Ryeah Oehlke drew a walk to load the bases. Kendall Schutz stepped to the plate and earned an RBI when she was hit with a pitch bringing Grant home with Glenwood City’s ninth run. That brought Maddie Oehlke to the plate with a chance to repeat her last at bat (the 3-run homer) and pull the Toppers to within a run of the Crickets. Instead, she popped the ball up to third where its was caught for the third and final out of the game to end the Toppers spectacular season.
Oehlke slowly began to walk toward the dugout when Fayerweather, who had been waiting in the on deck circle, placed an arm around Oehlke’s shoulders and the two seniors, who had been such an integral part to the Hilltoppers rise toward prominence the past two seasons and this year’s co-most valuable players in the Dunn-St. Croix, quietly walked off together in the final game of their outstanding prep careers.
“Maddie and Delanie are two special athletes that helped pull all that together,” said Coach Schutz. “They have been a team since 3rd grade. In high school, Delanie has caught since her freshman year and Maddie played center field her freshman and sophomore years.”
“We wonder what could have been their junior year as pitcher and catcher with a slug of returners, but they continued their winning ways from two years ago. They got all the young athletes to buy into their previous success. They earned all those wins, both of them batting over .500 for the season, along with freshman Ryeah Oehlke.” Schutz enthused.
It was just Maddie Oehlke’s third loss of the season against 21 victories. She finished the game with six strike outs and one walk, surrendered ten hits and 14 runs, only eight of which were earned.
Offensively, Fayerweather finished 3-for-4 with a home run and a pair of doubles for two RBIs and two runs scored. Ryeah Oehlke, Alex Peterson, and Morgan Johnson each had a pair of hits, while Maddie Oehlke had the home run and four RBIs.
“Overall, we had a great season considering we had only three starters (two seniors and a junior) back from two years ago and we put three freshman on the infield and used four different sophomores and freshman for the outfield,” stated Coach Schutz. “No varsity experience from any of them. They were expected to step up from the start as we were determined to keep that conference championship in GC. They had their share of struggles, but the successes outweighed them.”
“We had 21 wins on the season tying the 2019 season in wins for another school best plus another conference and regional title. No matter their roles on the team, I’m very proud of all the girls on how hard they worked to learn the game and their resilience they showed throughout the season,” he added.