FRAZEE, Minn. — It’s going to take a second game to decide the champion in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 softball tournament.
Pequot Lakes fought back through the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament to defeat Hawley 6-3 on Thursday in Frazee. The Nuggets were previously unbeaten in the tournament and would have clinched it with a win.
The tournament-deciding finale will be at 2 p.m. Friday back in Frazee.
“The nice thing about a double-elimination tournament and taking care of business early in the tournament is you get a second chance in the final,” Hawley coach Jackson Lyngaas said. “We weren’t our best team, I wasn’t my best coaching today. Thankfully we have another chance to do this. We set ourselves up to come back and have a chance tomorrow.”
The Patriots did most of their damage in a five-run fourth inning. Maya Orvis and Afton Crocker drew back-to-back walks to lead off the inning. Morgan Eckes reached on an error by the right fielder to load the base with nobody out. Taylor Sherack then knocked a two-run single to left to score Orvis and Crocker and tie the game at 2.
Abi Martin came in to pinch hit for the Patriots’ No. 8 hitter and hit a two-run double to center to drive in Eckes and Sherack. Quinn Trottier drew a walk and Kaitlyn Geschwill popped out to first. Orvis came up for her second at-bat of the inning and reached on a bases-loaded infield single to drive in Rita Ganley, extending the Pequot lead to 5-2.
“That happens in playoff softball. With the heat coming into play, too, it can be tough to stay focused,” Lyngaas said. “If you have one inning like that, that’s all it took. They took advantage of it.”
The Nuggets started the game strong, leading 2-0 through the first three. Grace Fleming two-out, two-run single to right to give Hawley a 2-0 lead as Kaylie Crabtree and Abby Rux scored in the first inning.
Rux was dominant in the pitchers’ circle through three innings. She racked up seven strikeouts in that span, including five in a row from the second into the third inning.
Elle Hastings came in to pitch midway through the fourth and got the team out of the jam, allowing just one more run after replacing the starter. Hastings struck out five batters in her 4 2/3 innings.
At the plate, she smashed a solo home run off the scoreboard in left field in the sixth inning. The bomb pulled the Nuggets within two runs at 5-3, but Pequot answered with a run in the top of the seventh.
“(Hastings) has been able to do that all year for us pretty consistently,” Lyngaas said. “It’s too bad we didn’t have a couple runners on base for her before that. Elle is a great hitter. She had a great approach every time she comes up to bat. She’s had a couple tough games hitting and was in a little slump, so it was good for her confidence to get that one.”
Hawley threatened in the bottom of the seventh inning with batters 9, 1 and 2 in the order due up. No. 9 hitter Madilyn Walker led off the inning with a bloop single to right. Leadoff batter Kaylie Crabtree made solid contact on a liner up the middle, but the pitcher stuck her glove out to make a catch. Addii Dauner hit a one-out single up the middle and the next two batters made good contact, but hit them right to Pequot fielders.
"Our 9 hitter did an excellent job of executing and doing her role and getting on base for us,” Lyngaas said. "Our next batter came up and hit a line drive right to the pitcher. We had a couple hits like that, just right at people. Sometimes it gets through and sometimes it doesn’t."
The Nuggets had lost just one game this season before the section championship — the second leg of a doubleheader against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on May 11. They’d won 12 games in a row since then, including an 11-1 victory over Pequot Lakes on Tuesday earlier in the section tournament.
The Patriots had to win back-to-back games on Thursday. They came back to beat Frazee in the loser’s bracket final.
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H 200 001 0 — 3 6 1