After falling short in two consecutive trips to Madison, the Blair-Taylor softball team is hoping to come through in visit No. 3.
And for the first time, the Wildcats look to be the favorites headed into the weekend.
The undefeated Wildcats are the top seed in the Division 5 state tournament and face fourth-seeded Gilman in tonight’s state semifinals. Blair-Taylor finished as state runner-up in 2017 and was knocked out in the semifinals last season.
This year, Blair-Taylor (27-0) is looked at as the team to beat. Led by an offense that collectively hit .444 entering the sectional finals, Blair-Taylor can hit the ball with the best of them. The Wildcats have scored 10-plus runs in 17 of their 27 games this spring.
The high-powered lineup is led by Cierra Curran, who was hitting .547 with nine doubles, five triples and five home runs entering the sectional finals. She had 42 RBIs up to that point. Ari Charles brought a .506 batting average into the sectional championship, and Danyelle Waldera hit an even .500.
Overall, eight of the team’s starters hit over .400, and all hit over .300. Three players have driven in over 30 runs.
Blair-Taylor is also a threat on the base paths. Charles has stolen nearly 50 bases this year, and Waldera and Marlee Nehring have both swiped bags in double figures.
Meanwhile, Lauren Steien sports a 26-0 record in the circle. The junior pitcher has an ERA right around 1 this season and has been lights-out all spring.
“She’s unbelievable with what she can do,” Blair-Taylor coach Greg Bratina said of Steien during last year’s state tournament.
Most of the team’s wins this year have been via the 10-run rule, with only 10 wins coming by fewer than 10 runs.
Blair-Taylor’s first trip to state ended with the Wildcats bringing home the silver trophy after a loss to McDonell in the title game. Most of this year’s team was around back then, playing as freshmen and sophomores.
They fell to Oakfield 2-0 in last season’s semifinals.
The winner of the Blair-Taylor vs. Gilman game plays either Belmont or Tri-County in the state championship game on Saturday at 8 a.m.