MADISON (WLUK_) -- Appleton North scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to grab a 4-2 lead against Sun Prairie and all of a sudden the Lightning had a skip in its step, it was confident and nine more outs away from advancing in the state softball tournament.
However, Sun Prairie showed why it hasn't lost all season. The Cardinals scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings and then plated four runs in the seventh inning to end North's season, beating the Lightning 8-4 in a Division 1 state softball quarterfinal at Goodman Diamond on Thursday.
"We have strong hitters one through nine and we were confident in our bats," North senior pitcher Marissa Mullen said about making a late comeback. "Sun Prairie has a great pitcher, a great defense; they're a solid team and deserve everything they are getting, but we thought we were going to string some together at the end and it hurts that we didn't."
The No. 1-seeded Cardinals (27-0) entered the game averaging 9.9 runs per game but Mullen held the Cardinals bats down early, for the most, part, allowing two runs in four innings. However, with Sun Prairie's offense you had to figure it had a rally left, and did it ever.
The Cardinals recorded four of its 10 hits in the seventh inning.
"You know in state softball, especially the further you go along, you got to play seven great innings and you nobody at this stage is going to say, 'Oh, shucks we're losing,' and then give up in that situation,," North coach Mike Mullen said. "I actually just talked to their coach, that was the first time they were behind all year. So one of those things is, how are they going to handle it?
"To their credit they handled it very well. We knew the last nine outs were not going to be easy and it turned out that way."
After Mullen led off the seventh with her second hit of the game, the Lightning went quietly to finish the game.
Afterwards, North players were crying and hugging one another as a great run for the team had been completed. It had been 11 seasons since North (20-8) reached the state tournament, and while the players know they accomplished a lot, the loss hurt.
"Losing isn't that fun, obviously," Marissa Mullen said. "But to do it at the state tournament's an opportunity not many players get to have, so I'm happy I was able to experience this with my teammates and we ended our season here."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay