The Middle Border has two regional champions this year

By Joe Peine
Posted 5/29/24

The Ellsworth Panthers defeated the Altoona Railroaders 8-1 on Wednesday and then beat the St. Croix Central Panthers 9-5 the following day to become this year’s Division 2 regional champions.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

The Middle Border has two regional champions this year


The Ellsworth Panthers defeated the Altoona Railroaders 8-1 on Wednesday and then beat the St. Croix Central Panthers 9-5 the following day to become this year’s Division 2 regional champions.

Game one was tight all the way through. After a pair of shutout innings by both sides, Altoona scored an unearned run off starting pitcher Aliza Acker after an error on the play.

The team rallied in the bottom of the frame when Madi Peterson reached on a dropped third strike which turned into a passed ball and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice groundball. Then, with two outs, Delaney Johnson singled to tie the game, scoring Peterson from second.

The pitchers’ dual resumed after that, and it wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth inning that the tie was broken, or maybe shattered might be the better word for it.

Johnson led off in the bottom of the frame and doubled on the second pitch she saw. Acker followed this up, swinging on the very next pitch and taking it deep to put two runs on the board after just three pitches.

Aaliyah Huppert then hit a fly ball to right field and reached safely on an error. Morgan Kolodzienski got behind in the count 1-2 but managed to work it full and draw the walk anyways, putting two on for Mya Hill. She promptly launched a bases clearing double to center field making it 4-1 after a perfect throw to the plate garnered Altoona their first out.

The line kept moving when Molly Janke singled and stole second, putting runners at second and third. That’s when things got really out of hand as Peterson, Karli Gutting and Johnson hit three doubles in a row to make it 8-1, and that number would hold through the final frame as the Panthers became regional champions and advanced to the sectional round of play.

Gutting hit out of the leadoff spot in this one, and she and number two hitter Johnson just had a field day. Gutting went 3-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI while Johnson went 3-4 with a pair of doubles, a run and two RBIs.

Acker’s final line was elite, going seven innings and allowing just three hits, two walks and striking out nine.

Game two was a bit of a slugfest, but the Ellsworth Panthers consistently outplayed their rival St. Croix Central Panthers throughout.

The game started with Gutting drawing a walk and the duo of Johnson and Acker going back-to-back with doubles as Ellsworth jumped out to a 2-0 lead after one inning of play. Johnson then led off the third inning by putting one over the fence, adding one to the Panthers’ total making it 3-0.

St. Croix Central finally got on the board in the top of the fifth inning, putting up four runs and taking the lead, although only three would be charged to Acker after a fielding error resulted in an extra batter crossing the plate.

Yet, down by one in the bottom of the fifth, Ellsworth rallied and answered back, scoring four of their own to make it 7-4. They would add two more to that total in the bottom of the sixth, and the game would end shortly thereafter, with a final score of 9-5.

It wasn’t the cleanest game for Acker, but she pitched all seven innings, allowing eight hits, three walks, and three earned runs while striking out six.

On the other side of the ball, Kolodzienski had a big game for the Panthers in this round of play, going 3-4 with a double and four RBI. Janke also had a nice day, finishing 2-4, and finally, Acker helped her own cause going 1-1 at the dish with three walks and two RBIs.

While the regional round of play for the Panthers featured top performances from many of their regulars, the MVP of the week was easily Johnson. Neither of Ellsworth’s opponents had an answer for her at the plate as she got one extra base hit after another. Combining both games, she went 7-8 with a home run, four doubles, five runs and three RBIs for an absurd 2.625 OPS.

The Panthers will look to keep it rolling this week when they travel to Rice Lake to play the 1-seed Warriors on Tuesday. Should they win, they will advance to the sectional championship round in Baldwin at Millpond Park on Thursday to play the winner of New London and Mosinee. Both games are scheduled for 5 p.m.


The Prescott Cardinals won the 2024 Regional Championship on Thursday beating the Arcadia Raiders 6-1.

The Cardinals continued their dominant season with another near flawless performance, rolling through the regionals and into the sectional round of play.

Neither team scored the first time through the order, but that all changed when the top of the order came back around for Prescott in the third inning.

Rory Zuehlsdorf got things going for the red birds with a one-out double, after which the Raiders thought it prudent to walk the hot-hitting Leah French. Two batters later, with two on and two out, Megan Richter knocked a bases clearing triple and put two runs on the board for the Cardinals.

Ella Stewart then reached on an error, scoring Richter in the process. Cadyn Hillebrand singled and Talli Roth followed that up with a line drive, also reaching on an error but scoring Hillebrand and making it 4-0. Richter would get another RBI in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly, and Prescott would sail to a 6-1 victory.

Zuehlsdorf and French continued putting up great postseason numbers this week, hitting back-to-back in the lineup in the 2-hole and 3-hole, respectively. Zuehlsdorf went 2-4 with a double and two runs scored while French went 1-2 with a triple, two walks and two runs scored. Hillebrand also had a nice day at the plate, going 2-3 with a stolen base, and finally, Richter’s triple was perhaps the biggest of the game, clearing the bases and getting an early multi-run lead for Prescott.

Stewart was virtually unhittable once again for the Cardinals, although she did issue more than a few free passes. She pitched a complete game, allowing just one hit, four walks and one unearned run to go with nine punchouts. Yes, the walks were high, but Prescott has nothing to worry about with their ace going into the sectional round of play.

Looking ahead, the 17-8 Cardinals will host the 17-6 Aquinas Blugolds on Tuesday, as Prescott has the higher seed. Should they prove victorious, they will advance to the sectional championship round on Thursday, which will be played at Bloomer Softball Complex. Both games have a first pitch time of 5 p.m.

Ellsworth Panthers, Division 2 regional champs, Prescott Cardinals, Division 3 regional champs, softball