Cardinals take down Wolves in home opener

By Joe Peine
Posted 4/10/24

The Spring Valley Cardinals softball team defeated the Elmwood-Plum City Wolves in their home opener on Thursday by a score of 8-4. It was a game that was both closer and more of a blowout than it …

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Cardinals take down Wolves in home opener


The Spring Valley Cardinals softball team defeated the Elmwood-Plum City Wolves in their home opener on Thursday by a score of 8-4. It was a game that was both closer and more of a blowout than it seemed. As the away team, Elmwood came to bat first, but got sat down in order by Cardinal hurler Maddie Shafer.

Spring Valley answered with what looked like was going to be a much bigger inning than it was.

After an opening strikeout for the Cardinals, they put four straight girls on base. Unfortunately for the home team, they took their second out on a fielder’s choice, and the Wolves secured the final out after pitcher Britta Link induced a groundball and escaped the inning still tied 0-0.

The second and third innings were essentially carbon copies of each other; the Wolves went down 1, 2, 3 while Spring Valley got a run in each frame.

First, with one out in the second inning, Danika Schmitt delivered a single, and two batters later, Evah Butts knocked her in with a single of her own.

Then a walk, a single and a walk loaded the bases for Reese Vivoda to start the third inning. She answered the call with an RBI single to put Spring Valley up by two. However, with two outs and the bases juiced, EPC was able to retire the side without any further damage as Link induced another infield grounder for the final out.  

The Wolves got on the board with a sacrifice by Lexi Snapp in the top of the fourth after Hannah Fesenmaier and Link both walked. That’s all they ended up with though, and the game moved into the second half with Spring Valley up 2-1.

That score didn’t hold very long as Addie Nelson, Butts and Megan Harvey all scored in the bottom of the frame, and then the Cardinals scored three more in the bottom of the fifth, with Schmitt, Nelson and Butts all coming around to make it 8-1 after five.

The Wolves made it interesting late, plating Fesenmaier and Adda Ingli in the sixth and Abby Krings in the seventh, but ultimately, they couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole they found themselves in. Thus, the Cardinals went on to win their home opener with a final score of 8-4.

Link struggled with control in her first start of the season for the Wolves with eight walks in four innings, but her four strikeouts are encouraging. The top of the Wolves’ lineup did most of the heavy lifting in this one offensively as shortstop Bechel finished going 2-4, center fielder Fesenmaier went 1-2 with a walk and two runs scored and catcher Riley Ginsbach went 2-3 with an RBI.

For the Cardinals, Shafer pitched a complete game, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and three walks. While that’s more traffic on the bases than she might’ve liked, her stuff was electric, garnering 12 total strikeouts in seven innings of work.

Shafer’s opening day win was facilitated by Butts, Harvey, Schmitt and Nelson all scoring two runs apiece. Butts and Harvey posted identical lines and filled out the box score going 2-3 with a walk and an RBI to go along with their two runs scored.

Head Coach Amy Shafer was understandably pleased with her team’s win.

“Maddie Shafer pitched a great game, getting more than half of our outs in strike outs. She is our top arm this season, and I expect she will pitch most, if not all, of our conference innings this year,” Shafer said. “We did well getting the bat on the ball. It's early in the season so I expect our hitting to improve more each game and to not leave so many runners on base.”

Coach Shafter says they will be focusing on specific defensive situations and more aggressive baserunning in the coming practices in the hopes of limiting errors in the field, getting into scoring position offense and manufacturing opportunities to get more runs across home plate.

Wolves Head Coach Paige Saniter recognizes that her team made some mental mistakes in this one but says she’s confident the girls will improve as the season goes on.

“We are young, and I have tossed some girls into new positions. We are working hard and learning every day, and we were a lot more confident at the plate,” Saniter said. “Base running and situational defense is going to be our main focus going forward.” 

Saniter says she encourages the girls to watch higher level softball, and she’s been trying to lay the expectation of thinking about the play ahead.

“I’m trying to get them to tell themselves their options as our pitcher readies for the next pitch. Like, the runners here and here, so if it’s hit slow, go here. If it’s hit hard, go here. If it’s hit right to me, throw there,” Saniter said. “It’s just about that mental preparation and how that saves you precious time on plays. I’m really waiting on one girl that will be willing to step up and lead our defense with communication and aggression.” 

Link and Krings are their top two pitchers this year. Saniter says they both are working hard to improve their games, and she’s confident in their abilities. 

“Overall, I’m really looking forward to working with this group of girls,” Saniter said. “They are fun, hardworking, and determined to learn. It will be a fun season.”

With this win, Spring Valley moves to 3-1 in the early goings of the season, and they will look to build on their early success with a full slate of road games this week. First up is a trip to Colfax to play the Vikings on Monday, then they play the Hilltoppers in Glenwood City on Tuesday before finally wrapping things up on Friday when they travel to Balsam Lake to play the Unity Eagles on Friday. First pitch for all those games is at 5 p.m.

With this loss, Elmwood-Plum City falls to 0-2 on the season after having two of their first four games cancelled or postponed due to weather. Mother Nature permitting, they will look to right the ship this week with a two-game split home and road slate.

Week 2 play begins on Monday in Plum City for the Wolves’ home opener when they host the Durand-Arkansaw Panthers, and then continues Thursday when they travel to Mondovi to play the Buffaloes. First pitch is at 5 p.m. for both contests.

Spring Valley Cardinals, EPC Wolves, softball, Dunn-St. Croix Conference