Catholic Central earns another home game, Friday evening at Congress at 5 p.m.

Catholic Central sophomore Christina Paleka struck out five in the final five innings and surrendered only two hits Wednesday night. (Jake Hill/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk

BURLINGTON – The game of high school softball is about pitching – simple and plain.

The Catholic Central varsity squad, which features only four upperclassmen, has managed to go undefeated in the Metro Classic Conference and obtain a top-10 ranking largely due to the emergence of superstar senior hurler Sydney Robson, the two-time and soon-to-be three-time conference player of the year, and complementary pitching style of sophomore Christina Paleka.

Paleka, or “Nina,” as her teammates call her, took the lead Wednesday night in a WIAA Division 5 regional semifinal at Congress Diamond in Burlington, following Robson’s two-inning, six-strikeout dominance with five more scoreless innings in a 9-0 bashing of No. 7 Sheboygan Lutheran.

The second-seeded Toppers (19-4) advance to Friday’s regional final, where they will host No. 3 Randolph.

The Toppers busted out with four runs in the first inning, led 7-0 after three, and were never really challenged.

While Robson tends to get the notoriety and attention, the school’s Valedictorian has quite the predecessor.

Paleka brought straight gas Wednesday, and often the Lutheran batters couldn’t catch up. She allowed only two hits and struck out five, and there was rarely solid contact.

“There is nobody in this world that will work harder than Christina to be the next ace,” head coach Bill Greskiw said after Wednesday’s game. “She works so hard, all the time. Everything she does, she probably picks up a bat or a ball every day. She’s going to hitting and pitching instructors, and she goes to a conditioning place in Milwaukee.”

“And Sydney can absolutely control the game. Our pitching is the reason we’ve been so successful.”

For Paleka, it’s about team chemistry.

She said the girls get along on and off the field.

Laine Dirksmeyer drove in a key insurance run with a sharp grounder up the middle in the sixth inning. (Jake Hill/SLN)

A club softball player in McHenry County in Illinois, Paleka’s movement meshes with Robson’s rise ball.

“I tend to go with curves and side to side more,” said Paleka, who went 2-for-4 Wednesday with a double and triple. “My drop-curve is probably my best pitch. Robson is dominant with her rise ball. She’s our top dog. It’s definitely good to play with Sydney, because we have each other’s back.”

“I’m ready to work hard and play the next game. I want to definitely win regionals and do better than last year. I think we’re going to do well. It’s a different mindset.”

Laine Dirksmeyer added an RBI single in the sixth inning to extend the lead to 9-0 after a swinging bunt scored Robson, who led off the frame with a nice piece of hitting to the opposite field.

Morgan Dietzel knocked a two-run single in the contest, and Katie Goethal added a hit.

Overall, the game was a breeze for the high-powered two-headed monster of Robson and Paleka, but Greskiw said a misfortune of having dominant pitching is inexperienced defense.

He said a big challenge this postseason will come when a formidable opponent starts to spray the ball to all fields.

How will his team respond?

“We’re lucky they gave us as many runs as they did tonight, with passed balls and wild pitches,” Greskiw said. “I don’t know many of the teams in western Wisconsin, and our conference was a little weak this year.”

“It’s a really good thing, and we do a lot of things well, but if we have a weakness, it’s defense. It could be because we’re striking out 10-12 kids a game, and there aren’t many balls hit. It may be a problem, we’ll find out.”

Greskiw said Robson is “on another level” with her game this year, hitting .600 and not allowing one, that’s right, not one run in conference play for the entire season.

Greskiw said top-seeded Oakfield would be a severe challenge.

The Oaks are ranked sixth in the state in Division 5, while the Toppers are third.

No. 1 McConnell Central out of the Eau Claire area is 14-1.