Wilmot senior Madi Zerr winds up to launch a pitch during her team’s WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal meeting with Pulaski last season. (Jason Arndt/The Report).

Wilmot senior lefty brings hitting, pitching

By Mike Ramczyk

A power left-handed pitcher and clutch hitter on the softball diamond, Madison, or Madi Zerr, was the best player on the area’s best team, the Wilmot Panthers in 2019.

Her 2019 season, however, came after she overcame a serious back injury.

Her banner season earned her Southern Lakes Conference Athlete of the Year, second team All-State accolades from the Wisconsin Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association.

In addition, she was named Southern Lakes Newspapers All-Area Player of the Year in this publication’s fourth annual installment.

For the full list, click here.

For the list of All-Area Baseball honorees, click here.

A 12-4 record on the mound, 110 strikeouts, a 3.38 earned-run average and a .421 batting average at the plate go a long way when determining postseason awards.

But people may not know about the Trevor native’s knowledge of the game, something coaches and teammates appreciated over the years.

“The energy and competitiveness she brought to our team day in and day out was remarkable,” said Ryan Kerkman, who coached Zerr with the travel club Lakeland Legends for nine years. “What made it so enjoyable to coach her, was her knowledge of the game.”

“Now that I’m done coaching her, we’ve had several long conversations, which really opened my eyes to how great of an individual she is off the field.”

Wilmot outfielder Haley Lamberson, who teamed up with Zerr to help the Panthers advance to the WIAA Division 1 State Tournament in June, said Zerr is the type of special athlete that makes everyone around her better. The girls are best friends.

“She was one of the most hard-working players and always did whatever it took to win the game and do what’s best for the team,” said Lamberson, who graduated with Zerr. “Both offensively and defensively she led the way for our team and was a huge reason on why we made it to state this year.”

SLN correspondent Mike Ramczyk caught up with Zerr to find out her secret to success and talked about her future academic and athletic career at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

SLN: Congrats on winning POY. What does it mean to you?
MZ: Being picked for the POY for Southern Lakes Newspapers is an award I won’t forget. Being POY for the conference that coaches pick is a big honor, too, but seeing the community and the newspaper editors see my level and passion for the game, high enough out of everyone they could have chosen, is a bigger honor in my head.
The area is known for good softball. There are so many of my teammates and my opponents that can play really good softball mentally and physically. Knowing that I am one of the top softball athletes is another big honor and achievement that I have been working at ever since I stepped foot on the diamond as a Panther.

SLN: What have you been up to this summer?
MZ: My summer has been very busy. I have played travel ball for Lakeland Legends ever since I was 9 years old, so for it being the last year I spent a lot of time with them because they are my second family. I worked a lot at the Grand Geneva and spent a lot of time with my friends and family before I head off to college.

SLN: Why Eau Claire? What drew you to the school?
MZ: I was very nervous about touring UWEC at first. It was far away from my family.
When coach (Leslie) Huntington told me she was very interested, I decided that I had to go up. Right when I stepped foot on the campus, I fell in love with it. The campus itself is gorgeous, and there was construction all over and some people might think that’s a bad thing. But in my head I saw a growing school.
I talked to a lot of people who go there and they said academics was fantastic as well. I knew I would go to school here even if softball wasn’t a factor. Then the softball part came along. The coaching staff and what they are doing with the program is exactly what I was looking for. UWEC is my dream school, and I am honored I get to play softball as well.

SLN: Talk about state softball. How special was it?
MZ: My favorite memory from high school was, by far, going to state two times in my career.
As a sophomore playing on varsity and starting in left (field), I had no clue why state was such a big deal until we got to the fun playoff games. The adrenaline and atmosphere of the games were something I have never seen or experienced. Going to state and playing in front of so many people, and the fact that your school comes and supports you, takes the playoff games and (multiplies) them by 100 and that’s what a state game feels like.
Knowing that I am on Goodman Diamond to represent Wilmot Union High School is an honor in itself.
Being in the newspapers about our team’s accomplishments about going into state made people in the community know who Wilmot softball is. I was out in Kenosha doing some shopping with my Wilmot softball shirt on and a guy, I had no clue who he was, came up to me and congratulated me on making it to state and representing Kenosha County.

SLN: How did your game improve this year?
MZ: I would have to say my sophomore summer and junior year offseason was where I grew.
I knew that since pitcher Sarah (Hutchinson) was gone, I had to step up and be there for my team. I worked really hard on my mental and physical game.
When I came back for our gyms and tryouts, coach J (Jenny Jacobson) told me how much she saw me improve and that she (was) very proud and excited for the upcoming season.
Haley (Lamberson) is one of those players that doesn’t let you not improve. By having her on and off the field as my best friend we would go hit on off-days and talk about the mental game. I have to thank her for always pushing me and improving me as a player as well.

SLN: How did you get your start in softball? Why did you fall in love with the game?
MZ: Ever since I was a little kid growing up with four siblings, I traveled a lot to watch my sisters and brothers play sports. My older brother Josh is someone I look up to and he played baseball. I told my dad that I wanted to play sports and he put me in softball right away. My dad said when he got me my first glove it was natural and he knew I would develop into a great player.
My brother would go in the backyard and help me as much as he could as well.
The game has definitely made bonds and connections with people I love and inspire to be. Falling in love with softball was easy.

SLN: What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in your personal and softball life?
MZ: My biggest obstacle in my personal life was probably trying to juggle all of the stuff that I do in my life and trying to make it all work.
My junior year of travel softball I hurt my back pretty bad to the point where I had really bad pain in my back every time I pitched.
The doctor said that if I couldn’t get it back to normal, I’d be putting my body in danger if I kept playing the sport I love. I didn’t think I was going to be able to play my senior year. I did everything the doctor told me and proved them wrong, and I came back my senior year better than ever.

SLN: What are you majoring in? What do you want to be someday?
MZ: I’m currently majoring in public relations. I’m not quite sure on what job or what I want to be when I grow up, but I know it has to do with something with PR.

SLN: What will you remember most about Wilmot softball?
MZ: Wilmot softball has brought me so many friendships and memories. I will never forget the inside jokes with my teammates. Even though sometimes it was a little rocky, it was the best four years I’ve ever had, and I got to play with and grow with the girls. A lot of softball players think school softball isn’t fun or it’s not worth playing. Maybe at their school it is, but at Wilmot. the players and coaches have made a legacy that playing is an honor and privilege to represent what was before you.

SLN: What advice would you have for young players that want to be like you?
MZ: My advice to little kids is to just keep loving the game.
Don’t let anyone burn you out of the game you love. Play the sport you love even if it’s not softball. Use all the perks softball has to offer. Make the memories, make the connections, have the lifelong best friends and keep falling in love with the game. Every chance you have, improve. Improvement and growth is one thing that you need to be the best athlete you can be. Also, everyone’s journey gets bumpy, but you got to persevere and fight the adversity that softball and life throws at you. Always make sure you’re having fun.

Favorite movie: “Sandlot”
Song: “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” by John Denver (Every bus ride we would play this on the way home)
Softball is: A place I feel at home.
Food ritual: Haley and I would eat an orange before every game.
Netflix or Hulu: Netflix
If you could have dinner with one person dead or alive, who would it be and why? My Aunt Mary, because she had the best advice.


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