Prescott freshman catcher Leah French sits behind the plate and looks to the dugout for a pitch signal. Johnson spoke highly of French's ability as a young catcher, especially her arm strength. Photo by Reagan Hoverman
News, Sports
A bounce back for the ages

Cardinals outscoring teams 58-1 in the last five games

By Reagan Hoverman

After Prescott’s devastating loss to the Ellsworth Panthers on Tuesday, April 19, the Cardinals are undefeated and have strung together what could be the most dominant stretch of softball that any team in the state has played this season.

Since that loss against Ellsworth, the Prescott Cardinals have played five games, all Middle Border Conference games, are 5 0, and have outscored opposing teams 58 1 in those games. Prescott head coach Nick Johnson spoke about what he has seen from his team during this five game heater.

“I’m so proud of our girls, they’re on a 58 1 run in these games,” Johnson said. “(The loss to Ellsworth) was definitely a wake up call. You look back and think what can you learn from that game? We’ve learned a lot.”

The winning streak includes victories against Amery, Saint Croix Central, Somerset, Osceola and the Railroaders of Altoona, which completed Prescott’s five game winning streak on Friday, April 29.

Perhaps even more important to Prescott’s season – outside of the impressive play as of late – was Baldwin Woodville’s loss to Saint Croix Central on Thursday, April 28. The loss dropped the Blackhawks out of first place in the standings and opened the door for Prescott’s ascension to first place in the standings.

“It was kind of a shock (to see Baldwin lose),” Johnson said. “You know what, it’s a credit to our conference. Credit to Ellsworth for beating us, Saint Croix Central for beating Baldwin, we’ve got some strong teams and if you don’t bring it, you’re going to get upset. We got upset at Ellsworth and they got upset.”

After all of the fireworks throughout the rest of the Middle Border Conference, Prescott was tied with Baldwin Woodville (5 1) going into the home game against Altoona on Friday night. The Cardinals’ 6 1 victory moved Prescott into first place in the standings with less than a month left in the regular season.

Prescott held a 1 0 lead going into the bottom of the second inning. That’s when junior Izzy Matzek singled to shallow right

See CARDINALS, Page B-5

Prescott junior utility playerAddie Raebel scores a run as she crosses home plate during Prescott’s home game against Al

toona on Friday afternoon. Photo by Reagan Hoverman

Prescott junior ace pitcher Taylor Graf delivers a pitch dur ing the Cardinals’ home game against Altoona on Friday, April 29. Graf pitched all seven innings, giving up only one run while striking out eight Railroaders batters. Photo by Reagan Hoverman CARDINALS

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field. Freshman catcher Leah French reached second base on an errant throw over the first baseman’s head.

With runners on second and third, junior Maddie Reiter hit a two RBI single to right field to take a 3 0 lead. As Prescott con tinued to add on runs methodically throughout the second, fifth and sixth innings of the game, junior star pitcher Taylor Graf con tinued to produce a gem from the circle.

Graf, who pitched the Cardinals to a state championship game appearance last season, has found her groove in the last 7 10 days of action. She gave up one run against Altoona and pitched the complete game while striking out eight batters in the victory.

“Taylor (Graf) is lights out right now,” Johnson said. “That would have been her fifth straight shutout. She had 28 consecu tive – it’s not just Taylor (Graf), in 28 straight innings we haven’t given up an earned run.”

Prescott has played ten games so far this season, has won eight of them, and in seven of those wins, Graf was in the circle for the Cardinals. Of course, there are other capable pitchers on the ros ter, but Johnson has shown that in the biggest games of the year, Graf is the go to ace.

While Graf is outstanding on her own, it helps to have a high softball IQ catcher behind the plate. That’s exactly what Johnson and Graf have when French puts on the gear and gets behind the dish. Johnson spoke about how French changes the game.

“For a freshman, she’s solid,” Johnson said. “Leah’s arm strength is, she can shut down teams just because of how strong of an arm she has. She’s doing it and it’s been awesome. Our other catcher Addie Raebel, she’s solid too. We have two solid catchers.”

It seems that with less than a month left in the regular season, Prescott is hitting its stride and playing its best softball of the sea son. The roster has bounced back after the Ellsworth loss and Johnson said the team’s energy is electric.

“They’re one motivated group right now,” Johnson said. “They’re such a great group to be around and they’re so fun to be around. They work so hard and I don’t have to ask them to do something, they just do it. It’s a special group to be around and they’ve got some big goals. It’s fun, especially when we’re play

ing this well. How they responded after a tough loss, we can’t re spond any better than this.”

Prescott has had so many things go right for them as of late; one exception is the health of junior Finley Magee, who has pulled her hamstring twice in less than a month. She is one of Prescott’s best hitters and needs to be healthy entering the play offs. Because of that, she is batting only and has yet to return to her semi regular position of first base. Johnson provided an up date regarding Magee’s status.

“She will tell you she’s healthy, but we’re trying to take it slow because she has pulled her hamstring twice,” Johnson said. “She is such a good hitter so we’re trying to take it easy with her and just let her bat right now. She’s a DH and first baseman anyway, so we’re trying to ease her into it. We need her for the stretch run more importantly.”

Prescott, now 8 2 overall and 6 1 in Middle Border Confer ence games, is in first place in the conference standings. The biggest game of the season thus far will be on Thursday, May 5, when the Cardinals travel to Baldwin Woodville for a game that will significantly alter the conference standings. That game is slated to begin at 5 p.m.

May 3, 2022