Nicole Newman didn’t have to be perfect Tuesday afternoon.

But the Madison La Follette junior ace struck out the first 10 batters she faced to get the Lancers off to a rousing start in their WIAA Division 1 regional opener.

Newman tossed a three-hitter and tied her career-best with 20 strikeouts, while Anna Seelow and Ariana Sweeney combined for seven hits to help host La Follette defeat Madison West 7-1 and advance to the regional championship game.

Sophomore catcher Amy Lanzendorf also drove in four runs, including a two-out, two-run double to right field in the first inning to propel the Lancers to a 2-0 lead.

“My catcher does a great job calling (pitches) for me and I try to hit my spots the best I can for her and not make her work too hard back there,” Newman said of Lanzendorf.

The Lancers (18-4) will host Baraboo for the regional championship at 5 p.m. Thursday at Jefferson Middle School.

“It feels like a sense of accomplishment,” said Sweeney, a member of the Lancers’ 2011 state tournament team. “Last year we were out of the tournament pretty fast, but as a senior, I want to take us back to state.”

Lanzendorf increased the Lancers’ lead to 3-0 in the third when her ground ball to shortstop scored Sweeney, who had singled and moved to third on a walk to Newman and a wild pitch.

“That’s how we’ve operated all season,” La Follette coach Bob Stalker said after Newman improved her record to 17-3 with 296 strikeouts in 136 innings. “We get a couple of runs right away and let Nicole do the work.”

Newman needed just 40 pitches to strike out the first 10 West batters in order before Isabelle Tigges-Green was retired on a stellar defensive play by Lancers shortstop Haley Coulthart.

Newman’s bid for her second perfect game of the season ended when the next batter, Brooke Varian, reached base on an infield error.

Tigges-Green broke up the no-hitter with one out in the sixth inning.

“Overall, our pitch selection was excellent,” West coach Jocelyn Lepinski said. “(Nicole) ended up only walking two, but we were up there swinging the bat hard.”

Lanzendorf walked with the bases loaded in the fourth inning to stake the Lancers to a 4-0 lead and La Follette added another run in the fifth when Seelow blasted an RBI double to left field.

West (0-20) ruined Newman’s bid for a shutout with an unearned run in the sixth before Seelow’s fourth hit of the game — a two-run double to left-center field — capped the scoring.

“We really wanted to win this one,” Seelow said. “There were some nerves out there but we’re ready to move on.”

Madison West 000 001 0 — 1 3 2

Madison La Follette 201 112 x — 7 10 3

Pitchers — (ip-h-er-bb-so) — Freyberg (L; 3.1-7-4-7-2), Statz (2.2-3-3-2-4); Newman (W; 7-3-0-2-20).

Leading hitters — Madison La Follette — Seelow (4x5), Sweeney (3x4).

2B — Seelow (2), Lanzendorf.

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High School sportswriter and columnist for Wisconsin State Journal and

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