Germantown girls softball team makes first state trip since 1997
Renard silences Homestead, 3-0
Germantown - Senior catcher Kelsey Smith did not want to endure what she and the rest of the team went through last season, when archrival Homestead stunned the then-North Shore champion Warhawks in the WIAA sectional final.
And Smith and the Warhawks didn't let it happen again, as after another North Shore championship and another regular season sweep of the Highlanders, they took care of business and earned their first WIAA state tournament berth in 15 years with a 3-0 sectional final victory over Homestead at Kennedy Middle School on June 7.
"This is the best moment," said Smith, whose sacrifice fly in the sixth inning added a critical insurance run. "It's the best way to play the last home game on this field.
"This game was everything, because I remember all the crying that went on after the (sectional) game last year. All those tears we cried went into this year's effort. We learned important lessons."
With the win, the Warhawks (21-4 overall) earned a WIAA state quarterfinal slot at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Goodman Diamond in Madison, against defending state champion Stevens Point (22-5), which was a 3-0 winner over Beaver Dam. It is Germantown's third overall trip to state and its first since the back-to-back efforts of 1996 (its only title) and 1997.
Team intense, focused
Warhawks co-coach Amy Barbiaux was pleased with the intensity the team showed in the final.
"We were focused and intense, but not uptight," she said. "We worked for this game and we were prepared for Homestead. We know how many great things that they have done in the past over there and we know every game with them is a battle."
Germantown's victory broke a run of five state tournament berths in six years for Homestead.
"We thought we could keep the streak going, but we couldn't quite get it done today," Highlanders coach Dave Keel said. "We had a couple of good chances, but we just couldn't get the big hit.
"I give a lot of credit to (Germantown pitcher Lauren) Renard. She really hit her spots and mixed up her pitches well. She really kept us off-balance."
Renard, who had six strikeouts and one walk, said she had a really good curveball working.
Go ahead late
"It was hitting the outside corner perfectly again and again," she said. "This is great. It was like a big cloud hanging over us (from last year). When we finally got the lead (in the fifth inning), it was a huge relief for me. It made pitching all that much easier."
In that frame, senior Sarah Artz singled, and following a walk and a wild pitch, she scored on an infield single by junior Amanda Witzlib.
Germantown got some valuable insurance runs in the sixth, as senior Erika Swoboda got on by an error and after a single by junior Felicia Kons and a wild pitch, she scored on Smith's sacrifice fly. Back-to-back walks, including the critical one to Renard, brought in Germantown's third run.
The Highlanders then went down quietly in the seventh.
"It seems like we were under a five-year curse," the four-year letter-winner Swoboda said. "We were working hard this season for this and we just kept doing what we had been doing."
Homestead finished the year at 19-5.
"We had been confident going in," Keel said, "and we thought we were ready to come here and do a great job."
The loss ended a great career for senior Highlanders pitcher Rachel Behnken.
Homestead had five hits and committed four errors while Germantown had four hits and two errors.
"We just tried to keep it day-to-day," Barbiaux said. "Just another game. Just stay in the moment."
"These are the kind of games that we play for," added Renard.
WHAT:WIAA State Softball tournament, Goodman Diamond, Madison
WHEN: Thursday, Division 1 quarterfinals
Chippewa Falls (24-2) vs. Sussex Hamilton (16-9), 9 a.m.
Appleton East (22-4) vs. Westosha Central (22-6), 11 a.m.
Sun Prairie (21-3) vs. Franklin (22-6), 1:30 p.m.
Stevens Point (22-5) vs. Germantown (21-4), 3:30 p.m.
SEMIFINALS: Friday, upper bracket, 6 p.m.; lower bracket, 8 p.m.
CHAMPIONSHIP: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
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