MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – As state softball returned to a familiar place at Goodman Diamond, so, too, did several tournament mainstays – returning finalists Kaukauna and Sun Prairie led a loaded field of teams from Divisions 1 and 4.

However, Thursday’s opening day included some new blood with it. Iola-Scandinavia made its first state tournament appearance in school history after a dramatic run through sectionals.

At the end of the day, though, experience proved to be a distinct advantage amid the intimidating atmosphere of the Badgers’ home ballpark.

In Division 1, top-seeded Kaukauna took the first step to defending its 2021 state title with a 7-1 win over conference foe Oshkosh West.

The Ghosts improved to 29-0 on the season and won their 49th straight game.

After opening the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, Kaukauna found itself in a dog fight early in the second.

The Wildcats loaded the bases with no outs, putting the pressure on the Ghosts’ defense and pitcher Skylar Calmes.

From there, the top seed showed championship-like efficiency, not allowing a hit the rest of the inning and holding Oshkosh West to just one run on a sacrifice fly.

In the bottom half, Kaukauna took advantage of its opportunity to strike back. The Ghosts put up three runs in the frame, led by Karly Meredith and Lily Roehrig coming up with big hits to extend the lead to 4-1.

Meredith replaced Calmes on the mound early and didn’t skip a beat, carrying a no-hit relief appearance into the seventh before West roped a two-out triple.

Two batters later, the comeback was over, with Meredith striking out the final batter to secure a 7-1 victory in the D1 quarterfinal.

In Division 4, Iola-Scandinavia faced tournament mainstay Horicon and showed solid discipline early as the Marshladies tried to jump on their newcomer opponents.

In the key moment of the game, the Thunderbirds loaded the bases in the second inning on three straight singles – but a strikeout and a 1-2-3 double play ended the inning without Iola-Scandinavia getting on the board.

Horicon chipped away at the Thunderbirds before exploding in the sixth inning, tacking on the final five runs of the game to come away with the 10-0 run rule victory.

Iola-Scandinavia finished the season with a 19-7 record.

Kaukauna continues its bid for a second straight championship Friday at 9:00 against Superior.

The semifinal schedule is loaded up in the early parts of the day as well.

In Division 3, New Holstein will take on Baldwin-Woodville and Wautoma will face Poynette.

Division 2 features an all-local battle with Freedom taking on New London, which means Northeast Wisconsin will have at least one representative on championship Saturday, with the potential for as many as four.

Friday’s action begins at 8 a.m. in Madison.