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The Medford Raiders celebrated two major softball career milestones on back-to-back days to start this week and, as a team, kept rolling through the early portion of their 2023 schedule.

The home opener Tuesday was unique as the Raiders shut out Tomahawk 16-0 in five innings in the first high school softball game ever played on the football field turf. It featured the 500th career strikeout for pitcher Martha Miller, who also recorded her first perfect game while setting down all 15 Hatchets she faced.

“That’s really cool,” Miller said of the perfect game. “It’s not something I’ve ever thought that needed to happen. I know I usually ruin it with like a walk or two. But it was pretty cool to be able to do that tonight.”

Catcher Eryka Seidl hit a two-run homer and went two for three, number-nine hitter Finley Arndt went three for three, Miller was three for four, including a three-run triple and Zayleah Leonhardt had two hits to pace a 14-hit attack as Medford improved to 7-0 heading into a key GNC clash tonight, Thursday, with Antigo in a game that has been moved to Medford and is planned to be played on the MAES diamond at 5 p.m.

“We’re feeling pretty good,” Miller said. “We have a good group of girls to work with. Everyone has been moving around a lot, which is hard at times, but we’re a good group. We get along pretty well. We like to be out there having fun and that’s kinda what I’ve been hoping this season will be all about, just getting out there and having fun.”

Miller entered the game with 497 career strikeouts and the top three hitters for Tomahawk, who had not been on a field yet this spring before Tuesday, had no chance in their first at-bats as Miller got Sophie Olsen, Sara Gebauer and Scout Stromberg swinging to hit the milestone.

Miller finished with 11 strikeouts Tuesday to push her school record to 508, an impressive mark considering her freshman season was wiped out due to Covid.

“I guess it’s kinda what I’ve been pushing for especially since I didn’t get my freshman season,” Miller said. “These past three years that’s the big number I’ve been working toward. I wasn’t really thinking about it tonight. Probably last week my dad brought up that I was pretty close to it, like within 20, so I knew I was close.”

Leonhardt’s RBI single put Medford up 1-0 in the first, though the inning ended with Leonhardt getting thrown out at home plate by Hatchet rightfielder Emerson Lange while trying to score from second on Madisyn Pilgrim’s single.

A 10-run second inning blew the game wide open.

Ava Hartl was hit by a Kayleigh Haring pitch, Tori Konieczny singled and Arndt bunted for a hit to load the bases for Miller, who lined a shot to the gap in left-center to clear the bases. Seidl’s long homer well over the fence in left-center made it 8-0 later and Arndt smacked an RBI double before the inning ended.

Leonhardt led off the bottom of the third with a double to right-center and pinch runner Toryn Rau eventually scored on Chelsea Gebauer’s single. Arndt hit an RBI single and Jada Surek drew a bases-loaded walk by inning’s end to make it 14-0.

The Raiders tacked on two more in the fourth. Rylee Hraby led off with a walk and eventually scored on a Hatchet error on a grounder hit by Gebauer and Konieczny added a sacrifice fly.

Tonight’s game features two of the three teams that shared last spring’s Great Northern Conference title and also marks a rematch of a thrilling regional final from last May, won by Medford 2-1. The Raiders should see some good competition Saturday at the Shawano Quad before returning home to face Northland Pines Tuesday and Rhinelander on April 20 in GNC play.

“There’s a lot of things to improve,” Medford head coach Virgil Berndt said. “That will be a big one with Antigo. They’re going to be better. If we can get that one, then we’ll see what happens later with teams like Mosinee and Lakeland.”

400 for Berndt

The Raiders didn’t do a whole lot offensively Monday, but they did enough to get a 5-0 win over Rhinelander at the Hodag Dome, which marked the 400th career coaching win for Berndt.

Medford had just two hits off Rhinelander pitcher Addi DeMeyer but one of them was a two-run, first-inning homer by Leonhardt that put the Raiders up 3-0. Miller struck out 12 Hodags and allowed just three hits and one walk to make sure that lead stood until the Raiders tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh.

“It’s a lot of good kids and a lot of good coaches too. A lot of people,” Berndt said about the number 400. “I keep picturing and remembering back to the 100th and I thought that was crazy unreal, from starting the program to winning one game a year. I remember we beat Rib Lake in the Gilman tournament (in 2001) for the 100th.”

The program has certainly seen more highs than lows since Berndt started building the program from the ground up in the early 1990s, including eight conference championships, six WIAA regional titles and two Division 2 sectional championships and state appearances.

“I was floored by how many people knew it,” Berndt said of Monday’s milestone win. “Rhinelander announcers are announcing it, Rhinelander was taking pictures, our fans did all of the balloon things. I would take 150 less wins if we can win the one at the end of the year. I would trade those for a win down at the state tournament, which we haven’t gotten yet. I would like to get back there obviously. With this group it’d be nice to get them there.”

“That’s pretty cool. It’s pretty amazing that coach Berndt has 400 wins already,” Miller said. “That’s a lot of wins for a high school coach to have. Then to be able to get this back-to-back, it’s just pretty cool.

The three-run first-inning rally started with Miller getting hit by a pitch and Morgan Huegli dropping down a sacrifice bunt. After a passed ball and a walk to Allie Paulson, Seidl drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Leonhardt pounded her second Hodag Dome homer of the spring. Medford stranded two base runners in the third, one in the fourth and one in the sixth before cashing in during the seventh. Hartl drew a leadoff walk and Miller reached on an error. Both scored on Paulson’s two-out single.

The Hodags’ only serious threat came in the bottom of the third. Kelsi Beran singled with one out and Willow Mutter reached on an error, but Miller struck out Rhinelander’s leadoff hitter Abigale Johnson and a runner interference call on a grounder hit by Lily Treder toward Paulson at short ended the inning.

Medford’s Martha Miller releases the pitch that strikes out Tomahawk’s Scout Stromberg Tuesday for the 500th punchout of her career with the Raiders.MATT FREY/THE STAR NEWS

Medford catcher Eryka Seidl quickly gets under a short pop-up hit by Tomahawk’s Bryn Baalke and makes the catch during the third inning of Tuesday’s 16-0 win.MATT FREY/THE STAR NEWS