Members of the Westosha Central softball team congratulate each other following Tuesday’s 3-0 sectional semifinal win against Wilmot (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Central defeats Panthers in extra innings

By Jason Arndt

After Tuesday’s WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal showdown between Westosha Central and Wilmot, where both starting pitchers combined for 25 strikeouts, winning pitcher Olivia Kazumura had no way to describe the duel against Wilmot’s Madi Zerr.

“I can’t really explain it, we both came to play, and we both wanted to win,” said Kazumura, who jumped to 15-3 on the season.

Through nine innings, the dueling aces kept the game scoreless, until the top of the 10th inning when the fourth-seeded Falcons scraped together three runs to come away with the 3-0 victory against top-seeded Wilmot.

With the Falcons victory, they advance to Thursday’s sectional final against second-seeded Burlington, hosted by Wilmot Union High School.

Opening pitch is at 5 p.m.

Kazumura, who entered Tuesday’s sectional semifinal with 21 strikeouts in two postseason contests, added 13 more against the Panthers.

She walked three and allowed three hits.

Falcons co-coach Tom Lampe, noting Kazumura’s recent hot streak, believes the junior pitcher found her rhythm after the Falcons 10-0 loss to Burlington on May 8.

“Olivia has really been coming through in the past few weeks,” he said. “Against Badger (in the regional), she faced 12 batters and had 12 strikeouts.”

Kazumura’s battery mate, senior catcher Andrea Edquist, agreed.

“Olivia has been throwing great for the past four or five games,” she said, adding Kazumura’s counterpart made Tuesday’s victory a challenge.

Zerr allowed three unearned runs on four hits, walked four and struck out 12 through 10 innings.

“They were both on their games, and were really good,” said Edquist. “We knew she was going to get us with her rise ball up high.”

Kazumura kept Panthers hitless
Kazumura, who logged 11 strikeouts through the first seven innings, allowed her first hit with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.

After Panthers Haley Lamberson broke up the no-hitter on a single, Montana Platts followed up with single of her own, but Kazumura forced Anna Wischnowski to ground out to end the Wilmot threat.

Following a scoreless ninth inning by both teams, the Falcons posted the first runs in the top of the 10th inning, but came at the expense of two Panthers fielding errors.

Falcons load the bases
With one out in the top of the 10th inning, seniors Rylee Johnson and Kayla Kerkman each advanced on errors by shortstop Platts, which put runners on first and second base.

The errors, according to Panthers coach Jenny Jacobson, were heartbreaking to see.

“She makes those plays all of the time and it breaks my heart,” she said. “She is one of the best defensive players we have seen in awhile.”

Sophomore Carlie Odejewski loaded the bases on a walk, which sent junior Becca Edwards to plate, where she drew a walk to score Johnson.

Edwards, who posted the game’s first hit in the first inning, said it was a challenge to face Zerr.

“She threw really well, she had a really good game,” Edwards said.

Edquist, the next batter, then hit a two-run single to give the Falcons a 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the 10th inning.

The three runs were enough for Kazumura, who retired the Panthers side in the bottom of 10th inning, which secured the Falcons 3-0 shutout.

For Jacobson, the loss comes despite Zerr’s stellar effort, and perhaps a tighter strike zone.

“I just felt bad because she pitched on heck of a game,” Jacobson said.

Lampe, meanwhile, said Zerr kept his hitters off-balance.

“Madi has stymied us for three games now, she is a junior, not a senior and we have to deal with her again next year,” Lampe said. “She really had us off-balance.”

For the Falcons, who lost 11-9 to Wilmot in last year’s sectional final, Kazumura said Tuesday’s win was redemption.

“I just wanted to win, based on last year, I didn’t want that to happen again,” she said.

Falcons seek revenge
While the Falcons (20-8) are one win away from a state berth, they need to face No. 2 Burlington (19-5), which defeated them in both regular season meetings.

“All we can be is who we are,” Lampe said. “Our girls are confident and we know Burlington is good and we are not taking anybody lightly.”

Wilmot concludes its season at 17-4.


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