Preble falls one game short of state
By Greg Bates
ASHWAUBENON – When faced with adversity all season, the Green Bay Preble softball team persevered.
But on the biggest stage – with a state tournament bid on the line – the Hornets made some uncharacteristic mistakes that proved costly against Kaukauna in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 sectional final game Wednesday, June 23, at Pioneer Park in Ashwaubenon.
Preble had two runners thrown out on the basepaths and couldn’t get a clutch hit, stranding 10 runners – six in scoring position – including the bases loaded in both of the final two innings.
The Ghosts took advantage of their opportunities and pulled off a 6-1 victory.
“We left runners on, and when you have that many runners on, you’ve got to bring them in,” Preble senior pitcher Ally Eden said. “You can’t win with one run.”
The Hornets, the No. 2-ranked team in Division I in the state, finished the game with eight hits – all singles – and committed two errors.
No. 5-ranked Kaukauna had seven hits – all at opportune times – and three errors.
“Mentally, we had too many issues that took us out of innings,” Ron Metzler, Preble head coach, said. “The team that played better today won.”
The Hornets were looking to make their first-ever trip to state.
This will be Kaukauna’s third appearance.
It won the Division I state title in 2010 and ’17.
After knocking off Preble (26-2), Kaukauna (25-2) is the highest-ranked team in this year’s state tournament field.
The Ghosts got their offense going early.
They had a runner on third base with two out when Khloe Hinkins stroked a single to plate leadoff hitter Kally Meredith.
After a double by Haylie Wittman to set Kaukauna up with runners at second and third, Eden induced a ground ball.
However, an infield error plated Hinkins and Wittman to make it 3-0.
“That pressure early on took it off us and put it on them,” Kaukauna coach Tim Roehrig said. “That was huge. There are always those pregame jitters. That was big for us just to get off to that start.”
Getting in an early hole didn’t affect the Hornet players much.
“We came back with one run, but then we just couldn’t bring it back,” Eden said. “We were up the whole time. We were positive. We were screaming. We did what we could.”
Gretchen Meier led off the third for Preble with a single.
She advanced to second with two out when Brooke Hock hit a single to shallow left field.
Meier took too big of a turn around third and was tagged out trying to scramble back to the base.
That ended the Hornets’ threat.
Preble’s Eleanor Hoge reached on an error to open the fourth.
Pinch-runner Maggie Nicholson came around to score on a one-out single by Melody Siudzinski to pull Preble within 3-1.
The Hornets had runners on first and second with two out, but Meier grounded out.
Kaukauna got its run back in the bottom of the inning when Taryn Christopher hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Paige Miller.
The Ghosts opened the game up in the fifth with back-to-back RBI doubles by Anna LaCount and Hinkins to make it 6-1.
Preble loaded the bases against pitcher Sklyer Calmes with nobody out in the sixth.
Madi Whitney grounded into a fielder’s choice, as Hoge was cut down at home.
Preble’s next two hitters both struck out.
“I think it brought us down a little bit because we had three opportunities to get people in, and then we didn’t,” Eden said. “We took it in the field, and our minds were not in the right place and we couldn’t make the plays.”
Again, in the final inning, Preble loaded the bases after Hock, Hoge, and Eden collected two-out singles.
Siudzinski grounded out to end the game and stranded three more runners.
It was a tough way to end the season for Preble.
However, it was a successful run, winning the Fox Classic Conference title with a perfect record and going unbeaten the first 21 games of the season.
“We were very, very good, just not perfect,” Metzler said about the season. “Are we satisfied? No. But you have to be happy with what you have.”
The loss meant the end of the careers for three Preble seniors: Eden, Hoge and Meier.
All three were starters and integral parts of the solid season.
“Obviously, they’re a big part of the team, pitching, first base – they batted 3 and 4 – played right field, which I feel is the hardest to play,” Metzler said.