Wilmot senior Madi Zerr winds up to launch a pitch during her team’s WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal meeting with Pulaski on Thursday at Goodman Field in Madison (Jason Arndt/The Report).

By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

In retrospect, the WIAA Division 1 state softball quarterfinal contest between Wilmot and Pulaski had the makings of a tight contest on June 6, especially after their lone meeting earlier in the season.

On April 20 in Wilmot, where the Red Raiders participated in the Western Kenosha County Invite, the Panthers squeaked by with a 1-0 win against junior Lauren Dixon.

Unfortunately, unlike the initial meeting, Dixon and the Red Raiders came away with a 1-0 victory at Madison’s Goodman Diamond on June 6 despite a strong pitching performance from Panthers’ senior left-hander Madi Zerr.

Zerr struck out five, walked one and allowed one earned run on four hits through seven innings to take the loss.

Assistant coach Ryan Dahl along with coach Jenny Jacobson walk alongside Hailie Morton, who was struck by a pitch from Pulaski’s Lauren Dixon, during the WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal on Thursday at Madison’s Goodman Diamond (Jason Arndt/The Report).

However, Dixon painted the corners and often jammed Panther hitters inside, holding Wilmot to four hits with a strikeout and walk.

“We just struggled at the plate. Unfortunately, it really came down to one pitch,” said Panthers coach Jenny Jacobson. “Madi pitched well and I couldn’t expect anything more from her.”

Zerr allowed the lone run in the top of the fourth inning on sophomore Peighton Agamaite’s single that plated senior Josephine Wesoloski, who led off with a triple.

Senior Haley Lamberson, meanwhile, acknowledged Dixon’s pitching style was different compared to pitchers they faced throughout the season.

“Other pitchers that we played against, they usually don’t use the inside and outside corners, it is more up and down and off-speed,” said Lamberson, who went 2-for-3 to lead the Wilmot offense. “She mainly worked the corners.”

Zerr agreed, adding that Dixon jammed her teammates inside, including sophomore Hailie Morton, who advanced to first base on a hit by pitch.

“She definitely went in and out on us, whereas we are usually used to pitchers not wanting to pitch to us and they go outside,” Zerr said. “She definitely jammed us a lot. She worked her corners really well.”

Pulaski coach Billi Vertz, whose team won 20 of its last 22 games since April 20, said her Red Raiders squad needed to play flawless softball to defeat the Panthers.

“They are a quality team, and when we played them, they scored on an error and passed ball; we didn’t play clean,” she said. “When you come to this part of the season, you have to play clean.”

Wilmot concluded its season 18-10, however, the Panthers overcame a sluggish start to reach the state championship series.

Senior Haley Lamberson (1) and Zerr console each other following the Panthers 1-0 loss to Pulaski on Thursday at Goodman Diamond in Madison (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Team growth
After opening the year 1-4, Wilmot went on a nine-game winning streak before dropping five of its last nine games entering the postseason. But the Panthers strung together four consecutive playoff wins, including regional and sectional titles, which punched a ticket to state.

Zerr, part of the 2017 state runner-up team, credited her young squad for coming together at the right time.

“At the beginning of the season, I knew that it was going to be tough, but we were a young team,” she said.

Eight of the 15 players who appeared on the state roster were either freshmen or sophomores.

Despite their youth, Zerr said her younger teammates held themselves accountable.

“They did what they had to do and held themselves accountable for the mistakes they made,” she said. “That is what really brought us to our last few games.”

Zerr played a role in the playoff run, helping the Panthers pass Fort Atkinson, Westosha Central, Oregon and Beloit Memorial to claim the sectional title.

SLC streak continues
The Panthers’ sectional title continued the streak of Southern Lakes Conference teams appearing at the state tournament to 10 seasons.

Since 2010, Wilmot and Westosha Central have appeared four times each, Union Grove advanced in both divisions 1 and 2, Delavan-Darien once and Burlington finished the 2018 campaign as state runner-up.

In 2019, with the streak at stake following an Elkhorn loss to Beloit Memorial in the sectional semifinal, the Panthers responded by defeating the Purple Knights to claim their second sectional title in three years.

“We were the only SLC team to come up here and we were the only SLC team in the sectional finals. That is awesome,” Jacobson said.

 
 

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