The Burlington High School softball team had the mojo. But the magic that defined the Demons’ season finally ran out Saturday night.
The Demons, rocked by a six-run third inning, lost to Sun Prairie 7-1 in the WIAA Division 1 championship game at the Goodman Diamond in Madison. Burlington had won 13 straight since May 5.
In typical fashion, they didn’t lose without a fight.
Trailing 7-1, Burlington loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. But a team that has been known for its dramatic comebacks came up short when Bridi Allen lined to left field to end the game.
Sun Prairie (29-0) won its first state championship. Burlington, making its first state tournament appearance since 1988, finished 22-6.
“It was magical,” said Gary Caliva, Burlington’s 67-year-old coach. “The kids jelled together, the team chemistry was incredible ... I can’t tell you how much fun I had this year. In fact, my face hurts from smiling so much tonight.”
Added star pitcher Josie Klein, “I’ll remember this year like the best season in my life. All the girls are fantastic. They’re like my second family. I don’t know if anyone thought this, but I didn’t think we were going to state. So state this year was just a dream come true.”
Was Burlington tired after having to play the late game Friday night – a 12-7 semifinal victory over Slinger?
“I’m not much on excuses, but, actually, yeah,” senior second baseman Jaina Westphal said. “We were tired all day. But we were still energized. We were so happy to be there, so we were still pumped. Yes, we were tired, but we were so ready to go.”
Burlington, which started out fast in its two previous tournament games, did so again with a run in the top of the first inning. With one out, Westphal who had opened the game with a bunt single and then stole second, scored on Allen’s single.
But that was all the offense the Demons would manage against Maddie Gardner, who struck out seven.
In what was a key to the game, a usually reliable Burlington defense faltered in that six-run third inning, when Sun Prairie batted around the order. The Demons committed two of their three three errors in that inning, leading to three unearned runs.
That put Burlington in a 6-1 hole and the score remained that way until Sun Prairie scored an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“It just got away from us in that inning,” Caliva said “Other than that one inning, they played great softball.”
Klein, whose mother, Candee Fiebelkorn, started on Burlington’s 1984 state championship team, brought a 20-2 record into the game. She was not at her best after allowing nine hits, throwing a wild pitch and hitting a batter, but Caliva felt she still pitched well enough for Burlington to win.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We had chances of getting out of that inning without giving up any runs and she only gave up one other run in the game, So, without that inning, it’s a real tight ballgame. She actually pitched really, really well.”
Sun Prairie, which had advanced the state tournament four previous times with no championships, was led by shortstop Katie Tews, who went 2 for 3 with two RBIs. Gardner helped her cause with a two-run single in the second inning.
The bulk of Burlington’s offense was provided by Westphal went 3 for 3 with a walk, a double and triple, but the Demons combined for just four other hits — all singles. Maddie Berezowitz, Allen, and Gracie Peterson had the other hits.
“I was really focused,” Westphal said. “At the same time, I was a little too eager, a little too anxious, and it got me in some trouble a little bit. But I just wanted it so bad and I was completely on it hitting-wise. I thought I could have done better, but I’m glad I went out with a bang.”
Burlington loses to graduation five senior starters in Klein, Westphal, cousins Jenna and Ashley Schmalfeldt and Kya Kafar. And they will be leaving behind a silver runner-up trophy that a team bonded together to earn.
“It still means a lot,” Westphal said. “We hadn’t been there in 30-plus years (1988) and it means a lot to bring home a silver. It’s still a real honor to bring something home for Burlington to cherish and for the school to be recognized, so it was a big deal.”