MADISON 鈥 New Berlin Eisenhower coach Kaelyn Hogan must have thought she was experiencing a cruel dosage of deja vu.

Then after that false alarm, it was figuring out just how to score one more run.

But that run proved to be elusive for the Lions in their return trip to Madison Friday evening, as some early miscues coupled with a lack of timely hitting resulted in a 2-1 victory for Waupun in a WIAA Division 2 state semifinal softball game at Goodman Diamond.

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"I think that鈥檚 really what we just were missing was just that one," Hogan said.

The second-seeded Lions (21-5) generated their best scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fifth inning when senior Ryann Nutt hit a leadoff triple to right field and was promptly drilled with the relay throw, requiring a few moments to let the pain dull.

"When I was running over to the coach鈥檚 box, she goes, 鈥楥oach, just so you know, I鈥檓 going to swing at the first pitch,鈥" Hogan said. "Just kind of knowing the pitcher鈥檚 trying to get ahead in the count early, so she鈥檚 like, hey, I think I鈥檓 gonna see something good here and she sure gave it a ride."

But after a comebacker to Waupun sophomore pitcher Addison Braun resulted in the first out, Hogan put on a safety squeeze and senior Taylor Freitag laid down a bunt that was fielded by senior first baseman Lexie Gerritson.

Gerritson faked as if she was going to throw to first, baiting Nutt off the bag and resulting in a rundown. Ultimately, Nutt was tagged out at home by Braun and the No. 3-seeded Warriors (19-4) escaped with zero damage.

"We just needed one more to just execute to be able to plate that run," Hogan said. "Just a tough one to swallow."

Nutt gave the Lions faithful hope with a one-out single through the right side but was stranded, as Waupun advanced to face top-seeded Mosinee in the D2 championship game today at 4 p.m.

鈥淭o be here at the state tournament is really something incredible to accomplish,鈥 Hogan said. 鈥淏ack-to-back years we were able to do that.鈥

Surely, Eisenhower will lament what could have been. But the 鈥渨hat could have been鈥 could have also been so much worse if a repeat of last year鈥檚 trip to state transpired.

One year ago, senior pitcher Ashley Bonin only lasted 1/3 of an inning as New London erupted for eight runs in the first and went on to run rule the Lions. This time around, Eisenhower committed three errors in the opening frame, leading to the contest鈥檚 first run.

But Bonin, a year wiser and having experienced this stage before, got out the jam without any further damage. Then the Lions answered with a run in the home half, as Freitag singled with two outs and came all the way around after a passed ball, an error and a wild pitch.

鈥淚 was really happy with how she responded because of course there鈥檚 maybe the looming thought of last year,鈥 Hogan said. 鈥淪o to come in, only give up three hits and just really keep us in that game, I thought she did an incredible job and I鈥檓 just so proud of her.

鈥淩eally, I don鈥檛 think there was any single batter in their lineup who did much damage on us. I really think it came down to just some defensive blunders and the run they scored on a passed ball and then the one in the first inning.鈥

From there, a pitchers鈥 duel transpired.

Bonin allowed just two hits over the final six innings. But one of them circled the bases, as sophomore Ava Vande Zande led off the third with a single, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and hustled home when a pitch trickled away from junior catcher Jayda Karls, barely beating the tag for what turned out to be the winning run.

That was the final blemish on Bonin鈥檚 line, as she struck out five and only walked one batter in a complete game effort.

鈥淚 thought aside from that first inning where we were a little unsettled, I thought we kind of dialed it in and just played mostly a clean game after that,鈥 Hogan said. 鈥淲e made some great plays in the field.

鈥淚 thought Ashley executed the gameplan perfectly just attacking the hitters. She did so great.鈥

As Hogan held her own, Eisenhower threatened multiple times at the plate, only to strand eight baserunners.

Two of those came in the fourth when a double steal resulted in runners on second and third with one out. But Braun got out of trouble with a strikeout and groundout, then pulled a Houdini in the fifth before denying the Lions once again over the final two innings.

Vande Zande had two of Waupun鈥檚 three hits, while Braun struck out nine and walked two in seven innings of work. Along with Nutt, junior Jazmine Karls also had two hits for the Lions.

鈥淭oday things didn鈥檛 go how we wanted them to, but you can鈥檛 ask for anything else other than a close game at state after last year,鈥 Hogan said. 鈥淭o me, in my mind, this is improvement. It鈥檚 a step in the right direction for all these girls.鈥

Last year, sadly, would be the last time Hogan had the chance to coach alongside her father, Jeff, an assistant on the staff who passed away following a battle with cancer in January. The Lions rallied around their coach to get back to state for the second straight year and eighth time in program history.

鈥淚 remember we were up north on the pontoon and someone sent me the groupings because I hadn鈥檛 seen them,鈥 Hogan said. 鈥淏ut I鈥檓 like, 鈥極h, holy cow.鈥 And he鈥檚 just like ... we were both feeling very confident that if we did what we are capable of doing that we could make it back here, so I鈥檓 happy we were able to do it.鈥


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