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Third time not the charm
Times photo: Adam Krebs Monroe freshman pitcher Becca Armstrong makes a throw to first in front of senior catcher Paisley Bennett in the Cheesemakers 14-2 loss to Fort Atkinson in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final Friday.
EVANSVILLE - Errors did in Monroe's bid for a third straight trip to the WIAA Division 2 state softball tournament.

The Cheesemakers committed five errors that led to 12 unearned runs in a 14-2 six-inning loss to Fort Atkinson in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final.

"One of the keys was that we had to start well and we didn't," Monroe head coach Dale Buvid said. "We could have gotten out of a lot of those innings with lesser damage than we had, but that didn't happen. Hats off to Fort Atkinson. To beat a team like that, you have to play a lot better than we did."

Fort Atkinson got on the board right away in the top of the first, plating three runs right off the bat. With bases loaded and one out, Fort Atkinson's Emilie Bakken hit a shallow sacrifice to left field but Kelsey Erickson's throw home was late. Monroe catcher Paisley Bennett fired back to third to pick off another runner trying to advance, but the ball skirted into the outfield and two more runs scored.

"My teammates and my coaches just kept filling my head with positive thoughts and just told me to keep my head up," said Bennett, whose body visibly was worn out from hard slides and blocked balls by the end of the game.

After stranding bases loaded in the first, Monroe plated a run in the bottom of the second inning. Rachel Rogerson doubled with two outs and Bennett knocked her in with an RBI single to left field.

Fort Atkinson (22-4), the Badger South champions, poured in three more runs in each the third and fourth innings, which was capped off by a Lexie Weigand two-run home run to deep left field.

"With the wind blowing out, you thought even at 6-1 we still had a chance. The problem was that we could never right ourselves," Buvid said. "Today was one of those days. You give a good team some cracks and they're going to pound the door down and take it to you."

Trailing 10-2 in the fifth, Monroe added its final run. With Kristin McArdle standing on third base with two outs, Gwen Sutter singled down the right field line.

"We tried to keep our heads up, but we just couldn't get anything done on offense," Sutter said. "And our defense definitely wasn't what we wanted it to be. It just kind of went downhill."

Monroe (12-15) ends its up-and-down season knowing what it is losing in its seniors and what it is gaining on the mound. Freshman pitcher Becca Armstrong had shined over the previous month after coming up from the junior varsity.

"I'm not too sure we would have made it this far without her. She's done an awful lot in a month," Buvid said about his freshman. "Becca couldn't right herself in the circle today. She was really hard on herself. We could have made some plays to help her out too, but we didn't.

"After a day or two, she'll be all right. It's part of that maturation process. She'll understand though what kind of work she'll have to do if she wants to be like an Emilie Bakken and that team. If we want to get back to state next year or in a couple of years, we as a team have some work to do."

Armstrong allowed 10 hits and seven walks while striking out just three hitters in 5 2/3 innings of work.

"You always have to keep yourself up. When you get down, that's when you're going to be at your worse," Bennett said, offering Armstrong advice.

"Everything's not going to go your way, but when you have the opportunity to take advantage of (a high caliber game), you have to take it. You never know when something like this is going to come again."

Bennett, Sutter and Brandi Trewartha were key cogs on the Cheesemakers' last two runs to state, but eight seniors will ride out into the sunset.

"We've had a lot of success with them. They've had great careers here and some good moments. This year we had some tough moments too," Buvid said. "You feel bad, but at the same time, if they look back they will have a lot of fond memories of great successes and brutal times. I think all in all they have had a positive experience. I hope they have."