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Monroe topples MG
Monroes Ellyn Grossen slides safely into home plate past Monona Groves catcher to score the first run of a 9-3 victory at home Thursday. (Times photo: Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - As a new starting pitcher for Monroe, sophomore Natalie Dillon continues to impress.

Dillon flirted with a no-hitter and helped propel the Cheesemakers to a 9-3 win over Monona Grove Thursday at Twining Park. Dillon carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Kelsey Stinson crushed a three-run double to center.

"I feel like I'm getting better every time," Dillon said. "I have a good team to shore me up and keep me positive. Coach (Dale) Buvid and coach (Noel) Herbst always tell me to get ahead in the count. I feel like I did well with that in this game. That was a big part of my success."

Monroe (4-0, 2-0 Badger South) continued the hot hitting start, pounding out 12 hits and six extra-base hits. Monroe senior Katie Holmes went 3-for-3 with one RBI. Senior Kirsten Vetterli went 2-for-3 with two RBI and Dillon was 2-for-4 with one RBI and a triple. Dillon was excited to be able to contribute as a hitter.

"Normally, I just try to focus on pitching," she said. "For the hitting, that is just a bonus."

The Cheesemakers jumped on Silver Eagles' starting pitcher Stinson with a four-run first. Monroe senior Ellie Grossen led off lining a double to left. Senior Chandra McGuire lined an RBI single to left. Senior Kayla Updike knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly to give the Cheesemakers a 2-0 lead. Senior Taylor O'Leksy singled and Vetterli crushed an RBI double to right center and Holmes had an RBI single to center to give the Cheesemakers a 4-0 lead.

After four games and two in the Badger South Conference, the Cheesemakers appear to still be the favorite to repeat as conference champions. The Cheesemakers are averaging 13 hits and 9.7 runs per game through the first four games.

"I think we are definitely in the running," Holmes said. "Obviously, it's our goal to win. We don't expect to come out and have the game handed to us.

"We have to keep working hard and do all of the little things right. As a team we did a fantastic job with pitch selection. We did a good job of not swinging at the rise ball and only swinging at strikes."

The Cheesemakers batted around the order in a four-run second off Stinson. McGuire, who was on base three of the four times she batted going 1-for-2 with two walks and two stolen bases, walked in the second. Updike also walked and O'Leksy came through with an RBI groundout. Junior Kari Jordan then smoked an RBI triple to center and Dillon then lined an RBI single to center to give the Cheesemakers an 8-0 lead. Updike was also on base three times (1-for-2 with two walks and two stolen bases).

"We certainly are a contender," Monroe coach Dale Buvid said. "I think Kelsey Stinson is probably the best returning pitcher in the conference. For the first two innings, we hit the ball really well."

Dillon had to pitch out of a jam in the fourth. After she struck out Monona Grove's Cassidy Gerothanas, she walked Natalie Mikalsen and Meredith Holt. She got Stinson to pop out. Monroe sophomore catcher Hannah Vetterli then threw out Holt trying to steal second. Dillon pitched a complete game and gave up three runs on four hits. She struck out seven and walked two.

"It's nice we can trust a sophomore catcher to throw her out without giving up a run," Buvid said.

Buvid was excited by Dillon's pitching performance.

"Natalie's pace was a lot better," he said. "She kept the fastball down and had better location. It's a step in the right direction."

Monroe will leave Saturday for a Florida trip where they will play four games next week during spring break. The Cheesemakers will play Newington High School, Conn. at 8 a.m. Tuesday, April 15, La Crosse Central and Kendall, NY Wednesday, April 16 and Whitefish Bay Dominican Thursday, April 17.

"It's 50 percent fun and 50 percent softball," Buvid said. "La Crosse Central is ranked 12th in Division 1. We will have our hands full. We are always looking to get better. We always say we practice to beat the best. We want to see our young pitcher, catcher and young players continue to grow. Hopefully, we can keep the bats going."