Kaylee Karels throw

Putting an exclamation point on a goal head coach Mike Barton had at the beginning of the season, the varsity softball girls finished second in the Valley Conference when they rolled over St. Clair/Loyola 17-3 in Janesville on Monday.

With a perfect 6-0 record, LCWM won the conference. With losses to the Clippers and the Knights, Martin County West was third. Nicollet and St. Clair/Loyola went 2-4. GHEC/T/ML and Madelia each had one win.

Later in the day, on the same field, the Clippers lost a 7-6 heartbreaker to JWP.

“The conference game was the big one,” said head coach Mike Barton. “It was nice to get the win. I am happy for the girls we achieved that goal.”

The Clippers jumped out to a 6-0 lead against St. Clair/Loyola on the artificial turf. Kaylee Karels led off the bottom of the first with a single. Cassandra Connor got hit by a pitch, Laci Hollerich, Greta Hahn and Delaney Thompson also singled in the inning, and the Cyclones committed three errors.

The Clippers scored four more runs in the second, one in the third and six in the fourth.

The Clippers walked four times, never struck out and racked up 13 hits in their four innings at the plate. Hollerich went 4-4, all singles. Cassandra Connor had a double and a single and got hit by a pitch twice. Hahn had two singles. Lexy Waldron and Sophie Shouler each hit a double. Karels, Harley Connor and Thompson each had one single.

The Clippers have really upped their batting of late, not walking much or striking out much either. 

“I like the aggressiveness,” Barton said. “If it is 3-0, I will give them a hold sign, but a lot of times I don’t because I want them to have the confidence.”

The Cyclones scored a run in the second on double followed by a single. They added two more runs in the third after a double and a pair of singles.

Tossing 47 strikes and 19 balls, Hailey Plonsky served up the win. In five innings, she allowed five hits and two walks.

“That’s all you can ask as a coach: throw around the plate and keep the ball down, and that’s what Hailey has done all year,” Barton said. “She’s not going to blow it past anybody, but she hits her spots.”

The Clippers had one error. The Cyclones errored four times.

Against JWP right after their win over the Cyclones, the Clippers had a 3-0 advantage after the top of the first when Karels singled and scored on a Hollerich triple. Hollerich touched the plate after a stray pitch. Waldron singled, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a Harley Connor single.

After Emma Sweere singled to start the second, she moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a Karels double to put the Clippers in front 4-0.

The Bulldogs scored a run in the fourth on a double with a stolen base and an RBI ground.

The Clippers tacked on two more runs in the sixth. Waldron singled, Harley Connor got on base when the ball got through the left fielder’s glove. Both scored on another error.

But the rest of the game was all Bulldogs. On four hits and a Clipper error, they scored four runs in the sixth to narrow their deficit to one, 6-5. After two walks, a single and a two-RBI double, they walked off in the seventh with the win.

“We hit well,” Barton said. “A play here or there would have made the difference, but credit to the JWP girls. They hit the ball well too. They only one game last year, and this year they are over .500. Megan (Christopher, the JWP head coach) has done a good job with them. I told our girls don’t hang your heads.”

The Clippers whiffed four times, walked once and had 10 hits. Continuing with a hot bat, Karels hit a pair of singles as did Waldron and Kiera Schipper. Hollerich hit a triple. Shouler, Harley Connor and Sweere each had one single.

Lilly Lamont went the distance in the loss. She gave up nine hits, walked two and struck out one.

Each team had one error.

The Clippers were back in action the next day when they played host Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s. They also took on visiting New Ulm Cathedral on Thursday. See upcoming story.

Above: Kaylee Karels rockets a ball in from centerfield during the game against JWP.