KIMBERLY – The end of Madi Surprise’s softball career came a bit too quick for the Kimberly senior center fielder.
Kimberly (21-6) battles Watertown (20-8) in a WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal at 11 a.m. Thursday at Goodman Diamond in Madison.
That means for Surprise and the rest of the Papermakers’ seniors, one last week of practices and a last slate of games to try to repeat as Division 1 state champs.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about,” Surprise said. “Especially with so many seniors on the team. We all grew up playing Kimberly softball together.”
Prep profile: Kimberly’s Abby Menting
Kimberly won the state title last season in a 15-inning thriller that finished as the longest game in state tournament history.
Megan Kleist, the sensational University of Oregon recruit, was the winning pitcher in that game, with Abby Menting behind the plate. This season, Kleist has battled a lingering shoulder problem and has played mostly infield, with Menting in the circle.
Menting (6-2, 3.82 ERA) shared pitching duties this season with Summer Zachow and Brooke Schumacher and Kleist has been a terror at the plate, leading the area with a .618 batting average. She also has six home runs and 29 RBI, with a slugging percentage of 1.092.
“It’s a little different look for us,” Kimberly coach Bill Weyers said. “But as we know, if we make the routine play behind (Menting) and we hit the ball like we have been, we’ll have a chance at the end.”
The Papermakers have a mostly senior-laden roster with familiar names such as Jenna Smarzinski, Sara Rosenow and Carleigh Johnson dotting the lineup.
There’s also a good mix of youth, with sophomore shortstop Kam Kroner having a big year on defense and at the plate (.421 average).
Kroner was unable to play in last year’s state run due to a torn ACL, but relishes the opportunity she has this season.
“Last year, it really helped because I got to experience everything with them,” she said. “I was still a part of everything there and that’s going to help a little bit being down there this year.
“Even though it’s kind of nerve-wracking to play with a lot of seniors on that big of a stage, they really help out with everything on the field and off the field, giving me confidence and stuff.”
Weyers points to his coaching staff of Rob Lang, Patrick Johnson, Rosie Wettstein and Jennifer Leitner as a big help in getting the Papermakers ready for the state tournament.
“They’ve done a great job of preparing our girls through this run through regionals and sectionals,” Weyers said. “We have had some great scouting and they’ve done a great job getting our girls ready.”
Surprise said that while the Papermakers are the defending state champs, this year’s team is intent on writing its own chapter in Kimberly history.
“We just can’t say, ‘Oh, we won it last year, we can’t do anything again this year,’ ” Surprise said. “We have to just do our thing and show everybody that talent and teamwork is going to help us win it again.”
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @PCRicardo
DIVISION 1 STATE
DeForest (21-9) vs. Germantown (23-5), 9 a.m.
Kimberly (21-6) vs. Watertown (20-8), 11 a.m.
Chippewa Falls (24-4) vs. Westosha Central (25-4), 1:30 p.m.
Bay Port (24-3) vs. Kenosha Bradford (20-9), 3:30 p.m.
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6 p.m.
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 8 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 5:30 p.m.