Despite a turbulent start to the softball season, when Wilmot Union High School held a 3-3 record, the resilient Panthers refused to give up.

Their resilience, combined with daily reminders by coach Jenny Jacobson, led to a resurgent team that finished the regular season on a 10-game win streak.

Jason Arndt
Editor

“At the beginning of the season, it was a little rocky,” Jacobson said after the Panthers’ 2-1 defeat of Oak Creek. “I knew that this team had something special. I made sure that I told them that on a daily basis.”

The team’s turning point, according to Jacobson and players, was the Poynette Jamboree where they beat 2016 state champion Stevens Point.

Wilmot, which finished second in Southern Lakes Conference play at 12-2 and 16-4 overall, continued to forge ahead in the post season.

After winning three straight regional and sectional contests, including an 11-9 slugfest against Westosha Central, the Panthers received tickets to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in Madison for the first time since 2011.

What yours truly saw in the three days at the state tournament was a team simply elated for an opportunity to compete among Wisconsin’s best teams.

After defeating Germantown in the quarterfinal to set up a semifinal match against Oak Creek. The Knights, who boasted a 29-1 record entering the semifinal received its only loss against the Panthers.

Unlike the first time, this matchup was on the state stage, with the winner moving to the title match.

Once Kalyssa Koehn recorded the last out in the Panthers’ 2-1 defeat of Oak Creek, the roar of the Wilmot crowd rumbled Madison’s Goodman Field, and an exuberant team celebrated.

After the game, I witnessed sophomore Haley Lamberson cry tears of joy, similar to Montana Platts following the sectional final victory against Westosha Central.

While the Panthers did not claim the state title, the four seniors, Koehn, Riley Regnier, Taylor Danielson and Sarah Hutchinson, left the field satisfied, knowing they finished their careers with their names on the state record books.

When asked about whether the team accomplished its Unfinished Business motto, Danielson believes it satisfied its goal.

“Business is finished. We came farther than we have ever come before,” Danielson said.

Calm and collected
Before and during each game, what yours truly saw was a team with strong composure, even when the high stakes contests were close.

Add in larger crowds and for some teams, this could lead to loss of focus and potentially the season.

According Hutchinson, who shut down Germantown and allowed one run to Oak Creek, the roar of the crowd gave her the push she needed in the pitcher’s circle.

“The big crowd had to be my favorite part, I love all the noise, and I fed off the energy,” Hutchinson said.

Although the team came up short in the state championship game, Hutchinson said it was worth it, considering the start of the season.

“The thing I loved most about this team was our resiliency, in the face of adversity we never gave up,” Hutchinson said. “We had overcome a lot this season, and it was a tough journey but it was worth every second.”

Defense comes up huge
While Hutchinson kept opponents in check at the plate, the defense behind her made stellar plays to save some runs, including a key dives by sophomore Madison Zerr in left field.

For example, in the Germantown quarterfinal, the left fielder snagged a fly ball and gunned down a Warhawk runner at second base.

In the same Germantown game, right fielder Annalise Devall hustled to shallow right centerfield to make a play.

Against Oak Creek, Zerr, again, made a diving snag in left field.

Platts and Koehn, meanwhile, remained vigilant on the left side of the infield in the 2-1 Oak Creek win.

With runners on the corners, Platts gunned down a runner at the plate with one out in the sixth inning to prevent a Knights go-ahead run.

Furthermore, in the seventh inning, Koehn had three consecutive putouts to send the Panthers to the state title game.

 
 

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