June 13, 2015
Scott A. Williams, Stevens Point Journal Media
MADISON – Finger nails are a little shorter. And the players might have needed oxygen from holding their collective breaths on more than a few occasions Saturday night.
When Christonna Shafranksi had the ball nestle into her glove for the final out, however, the hugs could officially begin all over Goodman Diamond.
Senior pitcher Kaylee Krostag grabbed catcher Paige Hintz in a bear hug. Shafranski and Sydney Alery wrapped their arms around each other.
Krostag had just put the finishing albeit nerve-wracking touches on a 1-0 verdict over Oakfield in the WIAA Division 4 state championship game.
“It was an intense play and as soon as (Shafranski) secured the ball, it was the best feeling,” said senior second baseman Hannah Raflik, one of five seniors ending their high school careers at the pinnacle of the sport.
Just a half inning earlier, Sarah Mitch put the Cardinals in the position to celebrate their third WIAA state championship — adding 2015 to the gold trophies brought home in 2003 and 2012.
The Cardinals finally solved Oakfield ace McKaela Ryan in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Sami Kay Shafranski opened the inning with a single. Pacelli once again demonstrated the importance of the little things when Hintz sacrificed her to second.
Mitch then took her turn to play hero, lining a single up the middle to plate Sami Kay Shafranski.
“I was just trying to get a hit,” Mitch said. “My coach talked to me right before and told me what I was doing wrong and helped me a little bit. I did what I did and did what she told me to do and I got the hit. When I saw Sami score, it was amazing.
“I don’t think it gets any better than this,” Mitch added. “It’s an unbelievable feeling right now, I’m absolutely speechless. It’s awesome.”
As birthdays go, they don’t get much better than getting to celebrate a state championship with a special group of girls.
And carrying the gold trophy around isn’t a bad present either.
“It’s a memorable birthday. This is my birthday present. I want this,” said a jubilant Pacelli coach Ann Molski, refusing to reveal her age. “In a good game against a good team, all you need is one run.
“We talked all year about how it was going to come down to one or two things we needed to execute.”
Championship teams thrive under pressure situations, and there were plenty of tense moments to last a lifetime against the Oaks.
Krostag gave an indication in a 6-1 semifinal win against McDonell Central just how unfazed she is by the moment.
Between the fifth and sixth innings, she showed off her dancing moves in the circle to the music being played over the public address system.
Nothing seems to shake the staff ace who also started in the state tournament as a sophomore.
“I do get a little nervous but then I can remind myself my defense is amazing and they can make all the plays,” Krostag said.
Houdini and Krostag showed they had a lot in common — at least on this day.
The Oaks loaded the bases with one out in the second inning and with no one out in the fourth.
Not a problem said Krostag, who shrugged off the pressure and made the pitches she needed to escape the jams and keep Oakfield off the scoreboard.
Not even a one-out triple by Oakfield’s Brianna Sabel in the top of the seventh protecting a one-run lead could rattle Krostag.
“It gets very mentally tough out there, but it felt really good to get that run,” Krostag said. “That was some huge stress off the shoulders. It’s okay, we got it done.”
“It’s really bitter-sweet especially because this is our last game, but we got to go out with a win. That was awesome.”
Pacelli (24-5) made a habit out of winning close games all season.
And the Cardinals managed to show their mettle once again in the most important game of the season.
“It was a quite an experience ,” said Ashleigh Fuchs, “We came here as freshmen and sophomores. It was really exciting to come back and compete at this level of competition.”
Not many seniors get to say they ended their high school careers as champions.
The five on the Pacelli roster are part of the lucky few.
“It’s an incredible feeling, I’m just so proud of everyone on our team,” Sami Kay Shafranski said. “We’ve all worked so hard this year and it just paid off.
“It’s so incredible to have this feeling, I don’t even know what it is. It’s been a blast.”