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Fond du Lac stuns top-ranked Oshkosh North to win WIAA regional title
OSHKOSH – It had all the makings of a storybook comeback until Abby Freismuth and the Fond du Lac Cardinals had a plot twist of their own.
Freismuth struck out Oshkosh North’s Noelle Frank with the tying runs on base for the final out and the Cardinals – who had lost to the Spartans by 22 runs earlier this month – upset the top-ranked team in Division 1, 5-3, in a WIAA Division 1 regional final on Tuesday.
The stunning loss ended the two-time Fox Valley Association champion’s season, while vaulting the eighth-seeded Cardinals into the sectional level for the first time in more than 17 years. Fond du Lac will travel to face fourth-seeded Oshkosh West on Tuesday.
“It’s outstanding. It’s something I never thought would happen but I guess we’re here and it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Freismuth said. “It’s always been our goal to beat Oshkosh North, they have been on top, and here we are now.”
Freismuth scattered eight hits and four walks in seven innings, while striking out six – including all three outs in the final frame. And those final outs came with Oshkosh North mounting the pressure.
Trailing by four runs entering the final inning, Mathena Higgins and Brooke Ellestad smacked back-to-back singles off Freismuth to open the frame. The hurler then fanned Syd Supple for the first out and struck out Sophie Averkamp for out No. 2 after Libby Neveau had walked to load the bases.
“I give our kids credit, they didn’t quit. They kept grinding all the way through. They definitely worked until the very end,” Oshkosh North coach Cindy Suess said. “It was too little, too late basically.”
Shea Thull, who went 3-for-3, delivered a two-run single to narrow Fond du Lac’s lead to two and put the tying runs on base but Freismuth registered the final out to ignite a Fond du Lac celebration.
“I went out there (in the seventh) and told them to relax, let’s get one out at a time. Just make the play and they got it done,” Fond du Lac head coach Adam Rushing said. “This feels good. These girls work very, very hard. I’m proud of them and hopefully we can keep going.”
Freismuth also plated the Cardinals’ first run of the game when her squeeze bunt brought home Megan Elford, who had smashed a one-out triple in the third inning.
But the turning point of the contest came a few innings later.
The Spartans had runners at second and third with one out and then loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth inning but failed to score. The Cardinals then answered with a four-run outburst in the top of the sixth to take a 5-0 advantage.
“That was huge,” Rushing said. “Anybody knows who has played this team, they can hit the ball very well. One wasn’t enough.”
Kellie Hierl started the inning with a single before the next three Cardinal hitters reached on misplayed sacrifice bunts and a hit batter. A passed ball in that sequence of hitters also helped Fond du Lac plate two runs.
With runners at second and third, Supple would get the first out of the inning, but Nyah Odekirk followed with a line-drive single to left field to plate two more runs.
“It felt great. I was just thinking hit the ball and that’s what happened,” Odekirk said. “We pulled it together and we played our best.”
Thull, the lone senior on the Spartans’ roster, led off the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to center field to get North on the board, but Freismuth retired the next three hitters she faced to prevent the Spartans from getting any closer.
“Fantastic ball movement today,” Rushing said of Freismuth. “She was hitting her spots, making them pop up and hit ground balls when we needed them.”
It was the third win in three days for the Cardinals, who knocked off Oconomowoc, 9-5, in a regional semifinal on Wednesday. Fond du Lac had just one WIAA Tournament win from 2001-17.
The loss stunned Oshkosh North, which had reached the WIAA state tournament the past two seasons and had not lost to a team from Wisconsin this season.
Thull and Ellestad each finished with three hits in the game for the Spartans and Supple struck out 11 while allowing just one earned run, but it wasn’t enough for North.
“They just flat out outplayed us. They had more energy and they outplayed us,” Suess said. “We made mistakes. We didn’t do the little things. We didn’t get bunts down. We didn’t execute like we should have and we didn’t get timely hitting. To win you have to do the little things right and we did not do a lot of little things right today.”
Fond du Lac 001 004 0 – 5 6 0
Oshkosh North 000 001 2 – 3 8 2
WP: Abby Fresimuth (7 IP, 6 Ks). LP: Syd Supple (7 IP, 11 Ks).
FDL – Megan Elford 3B
Abby Freismuth RBI
Nyah Odekirk 2 RBI
ON – Brooke Ellestad 3×4; Syd Supple 2B; Shea Thull 3×3, HR, 3 RBI.