NORTH MANKATO, Minn.-To be the best, you have to beat the best and on Friday at Caswell Park, the New York Mills softball team toppled the defending champion Edgerton/Southwest Christian squad that dominated the polls all season, and claimed its first Minnesota Class A softball crown in its fifth tournament appearance.
Behind a total team effort that saw seven players record RBIs and six players score, the Eagles brought home the trophy with an 8-4 victory. Rhiana Roberts, Kenna Salo, Allie Stafki, Annika Frost, Anna Carlson Sierra Gerber and Karli Kawlewski all drove in runs as the entire lineup thrived.
"We talked about yesterday that we could win with a total team effort," New York Mills head coach Bryan Dunrud said. "At the plate, I thought everybody contributed. We have some girls that have some really solid averages, but it wasn't always them that got on base. We had solid at-bats and made the pitcher work."
New York Mills broke the game open with a four-run, four-hit fourth inning. With the game knotted at 1 and nobody out, Gerber drove in Annika Frost with a liner down the third-base line. Kaslewski followed that up with a single that scored Alexa Leiran. Roberts reached on an infield single that drove in Haley Wurst. And Kaslewski came in on a Salo groundout to first to make it 5-1.
The Eagles pitcher, Roberts, took care of the Dutch by herself in the bottom half of the frame and spoiled any attempt by the defending champs to find momentum. She struck out the first two batters she saw and fielded a grounder for the third out.
The Eagles came back in the fifth with three more runs to go out in front 7-1. Tiffany Thompson, Frost and Carlson all crossed the plate in the inning that saw the Dutchmen commit three errors.
"It was a couple tough innings and you don't always know why that happens, but it happened," Edgerton-Southwest Christian head coach Andrew Fleischman said. "We responded, we battled back and gave ourselves some opportunities and unfortunately, we just weren't able to finish innings-either offensively or defensively."
The Flying Dutchmen fought back in the late innings with a run in the fifth and a last-ditch rally in the bottom of the seventh. Four of the first five batters of the final inning reached for the Edgerton-Southwest Christian, as it scored a pair of runs.
Jaidyn Henstra and Liz Buckridge walked, Jenny Nelson doubled in Henstra, and Jordyn Smit reach on an error. But the Eagles buckled down and stopped the damage before it cost them the game and the title. Buckridge scored on a Chynna Berning groundout, but Liz Prins hit a grounder right to New York Mills third baseman Stafki who recorded the final out and sealed the game.
Salo was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI for the Eagles, while Gerber was 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs and a run, and Roberts was 1-for-2 with 2 RBIs.
"I'm helping out the team in any way I can," Salo said. "We've been working so hard. Coming back-we got fifth last year-and to get first this year, it's special. We got a really good first draw and we kept pushing from there."
For Edgerton-Southwest Christian, a second-place finish may not have been the ending they wanted, but Fleischman was quick to compliment his class of seniors who made it to the state tournament every year of their high school careers.
"They're a great group of girls, they were great leaders," he said. "There's nothing to hang your head about. To have a career where you're consolation champions, second place, first place and third place year after year."
The Eagles have had their own run of success in the last several years with five-straight state tournament appearances and a state championship of their own.
"The first year we were participants and then fifth place to fourth to fifth," Dunrud said. "Our goal was to take a step forward this year-not only to get back, but to make some noise. Even to just get to the championship game and then to see kids execute and make plays today."
NYM 001 430 0--8 11 2
ESW 001 010 2--4 9 5
NYM: Roberts and Thompson. ESW: L. Buckridge and Nelson. W--Roberts. L--Buckridge.