M-C girls finish as section runners-up to state-ranked W-E-M

LEE EPPS/NEWS LEADER Lexi Thorson snares high throw to first base, but Blooming Prairie’s Bobbie Bruns is safe with an infield single.

EPPS/NEWS LEADER Payton Danielson makes contact at the plate against Blooming Prairie. She batted 2 for 4 while scoring three runs and driving in another run during this elimination game victory at then section tournament.

EPPS/NEWS LEADER Maddy Michels makes diving tag attempt, but Blooming Prairie’s Emily Miller was ruled safe during 15-5 Cougar win at section tournament at Austin.

EPPS/NEWS LEADER Lauren Wyffels defends second base against sliding Lindsay Condon of Water-Elysian-Morristown during section champions
Chad Smith

Mabel-Canton closed the softball season as runner-up in the Section 1A Tournament with two losses to state-ranked No. 2 and undefeated Waterville-Elysian-Morristown before and after a win against Blooming Prairie.

The four-team, double-elimination event at Todd Park in Austin began with a May 28 game between the two sub-section champions, Mabel-Canton and W-E-M, played at the same time as an elimination game between sub-section runners-up Wabasha-Kellogg and Blooming Prairie. The Cougars fell to W-E-M 7-0 and dropped into the losers’ bracket for an elimination game against Blooming Prairie. After sending the Blossoms home, 15-5, M-C came back two days later for another shot against W-E-M.

The Cougars (with one playoff loss) would have to defeat the Buccaneers (no playoff losses) twice to advance to state. The Buccaneers (22-0) would remain undefeated with another shutout, 10-0, to earn their first-ever trip to the softball state tournament. The Cougars closed an exciting championship season with a record of 15-8.

Section semi-final

WEM junior Trista Hering pitched a three-hit shutout, walking no one and striking out five. The three Cougar hits – a double by Kenidi McCabe plus singles from Jordyn Newgard and Payton Danielson – all came in different innings. The Bucs didn’t commit a single error, so those were the only three base runners for Mabel-Canton. No one advanced past second base.

At the plate, Hering went 3 for 3 as part of a 10-hit attack that featured a triple and two doubles. A big four-run third inning put W-E-M ahead 5-0.

Cougar pitcher Emily Carolan issued only two walks, and M-C had only one error. But the Bucs had base hits in every inning except the first.

On the other diamond, Blooming Prairie came from behind to eliminate Wabasha-Kellogg, 8-5.

Elimination game

M-C 15, BP 5

Eight Mabel-Canton Cougars had base hits in an 11-hit outing that included four extra-base knocks. The Blossoms (11-12) scored in the top of the first inning, but the Cougars answered with four quick runs in the bottom of the inning and would lead 7-2 before Blooming Prairie would score again.

It was still a competitive 7-5 game in the middle of the fourth inning before the Cougars scored the final eight runs to end the game early by the 10-run rule in the fifth.

Newgard (triple, double, three RBIs), Lexi Thorson (RBI) and Danielson (RBI) each had two hits. The other base hits came from Carolan (double, three RBIs), Maddy Michels (RBI double), McCabe (RBI), Hannah Snell and Molly Lee (two RBIs, sacrifice, two stolen bases).

With the win, the Cougars thus earned another shot at W-E-M.

Championship game

W-E-M 10, M-C 0

M-C would have to defeat the Bucs twice, but W-E-M again proved to be worthy of their lofty state ranking with excellent pitching, a team batting average of .395, athleticism in the field and 62 stolen bases in 21 games.

The Buccaneers remained undefeated at 22-0 with a five-inning, run-rule shutout, their 10th shutout in 22 games.

Hering came into the game with an amazing 0.42 earned run average and tossed a one-hitter. Hering got nine of the 15 outs with strikeouts, and for second straight game against M-C, walked no one. And again, the Bucs committed no errors, while the Cougars had five miscues in the field.

How dominant was she? Hering was one hit away from pitching a perfect game. Newgard prevented the perfect game and no hitter with a single in the second inning.

M-C coach Katie Bergey said Hering was even tougher to hit on Thursday than she had been on Tuesday.

W-E-M had eight hits, including the ninth home run of the season and five doubles, making 69 extra-base hits in 22 games.

The Kylie Pittmann home run came despite a valiant effort in left field by Newgard, who got a glove on the ball before she tumbled into and over the collapsible outfield fence.

The Bucs returned seven of last year's 11-player rotation and are going to state for the first time in softball – only the second girls’ team from W-E-M to go to state in any sport.