HURLEY — Tuesday’s game played out a whole lot like 2011 and that was a good thing for Hurley.
The No. 2 seed Midgettes held on to beat No. 3 Ladysmith 3-1 in Tuesday’s WIAA Division 3 regional semifinal. Hurley travels to top-seed Chequamegon Thursday for the regional final at 5 p.m. The Screaming Eagles defeated No. 5 Cameron 7-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Hurley pitcher Brittany Czarnecki escaped a one-out bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning Tuesday, surrendering just one run in the stress-filled inning.
That looked all too familiar for Ladysmith.
Flash back two years ago, the last time the Lumberjills made the two-hour drive to Hurley. The Midgettes led just 2-1 going into the top of the seventh inning. The Lumberjills loaded the bases with two outs, but Hurley sneaked out of trouble to win a regional title.
It was just as nailbiting in 2013 with many of the same Ladysmith players here and some of the same Hurley girls.
After getting two runners in scoring position and three hits during the first six innings, Ladysmith went to work with one out.
Three straight singles loaded the bases. Only one went in the outfield. The third hit went off Czarnecki’s glove — it was just out of her reach — then the second baseman’s glove and everyone was safe.
Czarnecki recovered after an infield mound meeting to strike out Brooke Potter for the second out.
Alyssa Mohr’s single fell just beyond the infield to only score one run. But leadoff hitter Michelle Fochs grounded out to third to end the threat.
“It was pretty stressful, but we all came through and we got it,” Czarnecki said of the seventh. “It helps me that my team backs me up behind me. It makes it a lot easier, less stressful.”
The win maintains Hurley’s chance at its first regional title since that win over the Lumberjills two years ago.
Hurley manager Jim Kivisto said he wasn’t having flashbacks to 2011.
“I just said, ‘We can get out of this’ and we did,” he said. “They weren’t really hitting the ball that hard. They weren’t even hitting the outfield. We’ve beaten Ladysmith a few times in the regionals where it came down to the last inning. They have a lot of seniors on that team and we have two. I’m glad the girls won and we have another chance to play on Thursday. We have to take care of our opportunities when we get them.”
The Lumberjills (8-4) had 12 hits in the regional opener against Chetek. Not so against young Hurley (11-5).
“When you have bases loaded, one out, you’ve got to score them and we didn’t do it,” Ladysmith manager Gary Nelson said.
Ladysmith has had no luck in Hurley over the years. Nelson thought maybe that would change in the seventh.
“I thought once we got certain batters on base that we could maybe make a run at it here because I sensed the younger pitcher — she threw well — but she was getting a little tired, I think going seven innings,” he said.
Czarnecki, who pitched complete-game five inning contests due to the compacted season, kept Ladysmith mostly in the infield all day with just three outs recorded by outfielders. The Midgettes didn’t commit an error and she struck out two with just one walk allowed, a key to her success.
“We didn’t get out of the infield; that was our problem,” Nelson said. “We couldn’t string base hits together until the last inning. We played hard, but we had some mental mistakes in the field that cost us. Our pitchers pitched well. We just couldn’t hit the ball.”
Kivisto said he was happy with Czarnecki and the defense, which made all the plays in a well-played game by Hurley.
“For the most part again, she got ahead of batters,” he said. “There was one inning where she struggled a little bit. Other than that, she pitched well.”
Runs were hard to come by on both sides, even though Hurley tallied 10 hits. The Midgettes stranded 10 baserunners.
“I told the girls after the game, we left a few runs out there,” Kivisto said. “If you put the ball in play, we score some more runs and that is crucial. We can’t leave girls out there. It’s your job to put the ball in play; they all know that. We left a few runs out there and overall it wasn’t a bad game.”
Hurley struck first in the bottom of the first inning. Sam Ofstad’s sacrifice fly plated Athena Butkiewicz, who walked to leadoff the game.
“That’s huge,” Kivisto said. “She did a great job getting that first run in and then she got a big hit in the bottom of the sixth in to get that big run.”
The Midgettes stranded runners at third base in the second and third innings with one left at second in the fourth.
Gabby Pecotte hit a one-out single to start a fifth-inning rally. Ofstad’s bunt single towards third base advanced her. Dana Brown’s second hit of the game brought Pecotte home for a 2-0 Hurley advantage.
A one-out walk to Courtney Clement loaded the bases, but Hurley stranded all three runners.
The Midgettes took advantage of a two-out error by the pitcher on a fly ball near the first-base line. Ladysmith almost got of the sixth inning without facing Ofstad, but she was the next batter after the error. Her double scored Butkiewicz and gave Hurley a 3-0 lead.
As stressful as the seventh inning was, it would have worse without that insurance run.
“That was big,” Nelson said.
A strikeout of Brown by Ladysmith’s Shelby Prince, who had just entered the game for the starter, Fochs, gave Ladysmith momentum going into the seventh, Nelson said. The seventh became a big scare for Hurley, but it wasn’t enough.
Kivisto said he’s not sure who will pitch against the Screaming Eagles Thursday. Butkiewicz hasn’t pitched in this year’s postseason yet; she was the winning pitcher in the 2011 win over Ladysmith.
“They like to bunt the ball when they get people on too. Athena’s a little better at that part of the game,” Kivisto said. “We’ll wait and see.”
Everyone but one player returns for Chequamegon.
“They deserved to be the No. 1 this year; they really did,” Kivisto said. “Right now, I think we deserved to be the No. 2. We’ll go down there and give it our best shot. Anything can happen in one game.”
In another regional final Thursday, Grantsburg plays at Clayton/Turtle Lake. Grantsburg beat Frederic/Luck 8-4 and Clayton/Turtle Lake knocked off Cumberland 12-6 on Tuesday.
The winner faces the winner of the Hurley/Chequamegon game in the sectional semifinal on May 28 at Chequamegon.
Ladysmith 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 1 7 1
Hurley 1 0 0 0 1 1 x — 3 10 0