There is an old cliché that says good pitching and defense will win a lot of games. Cheyenne Sowinski and the New Berlin West softball team were a firsthand example of that Saturday afternoon.
Sowinski outdueled her counterpart Jennah Speth, and the Vikings came away with a well-played 2-1 victory to win the 2016 WIAA State Softball Championship at Goodman Diamond on June 11 in Madison.
Sowinski pitched seven innings, allowing only five hits, one tainted run and a walk and fanning four to earn the biggest victory of her young career. Speth, who struck 22 batters in nine innings the day before, fanned 14 in seven innings, also allowing five hits, two walks and two earned runs.
'Chey pitched a great game,' West coach Greg Klotz said of his sophomore ace. 'The other girl had 14 strikeouts, but Chey pitched great, too.'
Shortstop Katey Devine, second baseman Leah Marrari, righfielder Charlotte Ropas, centerfielder Maddie Minik and first baseman Hannah Giammarco all made important defensive plays that contributed to the victory.
'I couldn't be more proud of our defense,' Sowinski said. 'We've gotten better and stronger. Our outfield is diving, making big plays; our infield is doing everything they can to keep it in front of them. And I'm happy with (her catcher) Riley (Farrell). She does everything back there.'
Marrari, the slick fielding second baseman, got right to the point when asked about the defense's attitude
'I try and give Cheyenne everything I have because I know she is such a great pitcher,' she said.
Afterward Klotz said he was not happy with his team's early approach at the plate.
'I was a little frustrated the first time through the lineup,' he said. 'We know she (Speth) likes to throw it outside. I haven't yelled on the bench this year, but I yelled this time. It was my own daughter (Camryn). She looked at three pitches. We cannot be looking at three strikes.'
Minik walked to open the third inning, and after a strikeout, Camryn Klotz came up with perhaps the biggest hit of the day when she drilled a line drive down the right field line that went all the way to the wall.
She got the message.
'After the first strikeout I had, that was the third time in a row counting yesterday,' she said. 'My dad made me feel bad about it. I fouled some off, and then there it was, right down the right field line.'
Minik scored easily, and Klotz ended up on third with a triple. Sowinski then hit a shot into left field between short and third to score Minik, and that would be all the runs the Vikings needed.
In the second inning with a runner on first and two outs, the Comets' Holly Allen hit a ball up the middle, which Marrari made a great play on a short hop and flipped to Devine at second to end the inning. Then Delavan-Darien's Morgyn DeLara led off the fourth inning with a deep fly ball to center, which Minik raced back and pulled in.
The Comets' Sydney Anderson led off the bottom of the fifth with a slow roller down the first base line that was foul but rolled fair. Giammarco, the first baseman, alertly picked the ball up when it rolled back fair. But instead of tagging Anderson for the easy out, she turned and went back to touch the bag, and Anderson raced by her and was safe at first.
After a pop-up to Sowinski, Sowinski's pitch got away from Farrell, sending Anderson to second. Shelby Gramly, the ninth hitter, then singled to right field, scoring Anderson.
Katelyn Gonzalez singled to right, moving Gramly to third. But with the tying run on third, Sowinski retired Speth on a grounder to Marrari, who flipped to Devine for the force out to end the 'rally.'
Speth had retired the final seven Vikings, so it looked like the game was in the hands of Sowinski and the defense the rest of the way.
DeLara led off the sixth with a bullet to right field, which Ropas initially came in on. She then realized her mistake, took a couple steps back, leapt and made perhaps a game-changing play. That's because Hunter Huber singled to center on the next play.
Taylor McKinney, who fanned twice against Sowinski, sacrificed Huber to second with the tying run, as Koltz made a nice play charging the ball and firing to Marrari, covering first for the out. Anderson then grounded out to Giammarco to end the threat.
The Vikings had a 1-2-3 inning, and it all came down to the bottom of the seventh, when Sowinski and the defense came through.
After Sowinski struck out Allen with the New Berlin fans going crazy, Gramly hit a grounder to Klotz. The throw was a little off the mark, but Giammarco made an outstanding stretch to catch the ball and stay on the base as the umpire rang out the second out of the inning.
Jaida Speth, the leadoff hitter, then hit an in-between hopper to Devine, who charged the ball, snagged it on the short hop and drilled a perfect throw to Giammarco to send the Vikings into a screaming, jumping group hug on the mound.
'My coach told me that it was a do or die kind of play,' Devine said. 'You just have to go for it. My throw was right there, so I was happy about that.'
When asked how she felt after the final out, she said 'I was just refreshed. It was like a nice release; all that hard work. It's finally paid off.'
New Berlin West won their first state championship in only their second trip to the big show (they lost in the first round in 2013).
'Our girls battled, and sometimes you light a little spark underneath the right person,' Greg Klotz said. 'Maddie walked, and Cam comes through, hitting the ball hard — she swung a little late — but gets that triple. Then Chey comes through and scores her. That's all we needed to get Chey on the mound with our defense behind her.
'I was really happy with that. The game went fast. I couldn't believe it.'