FRAZEE, Minn. — The Hawley softball team refused to give up.
Morgan Eckes hit a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning to give Pequot Lakes a two-run lead going into the final half-inning. The Nuggets had one final chance. They needed two runs to stay alive. They got down to their final strike, but Kaylie Crabtree came up with a game-tying two-run single, then scored the game-winning run on a walk-off single by Addi Dauner.
"She hit a bomb on that one," Kaylie Crabtree said. "We weren’t going to give up. That’s what we did last game. We kind of gave up on ourselves. We tried to battle through that, push all that away, and we knew we had last up. We battled through and came out on top."
Hawley defeated Pequot Lakes 8-7 to win the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 softball championship on Friday in Frazee, Minn. The Patriots defeated Hawley on Thursday in the first championship game in the double-elimination tournament to force Friday’s game.
The Nuggets advanced to next week’s MSHSL Class 2A state softball tournament beginning Tuesday in North Mankato.
"It doesn’t get any better than this," Hawley coach Jackson Lyngaas said. "The way it went down, getting a walk-off in the seventh inning after giving up the lead in the top of the seventh. Our girls have shown a great response to adversity all year. They’ve really stuck together and it’s fun."
Crabtree came up to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs. The Pequot Lakes pitcher got ahead of her and got two strikes. But she fought through it and poked a bloop single down the right-field line to drive in Paige Blakeway and Madilyn Halvorson. Crabtree took second on the throw home.
Dauner then came up and knocked a single into center field to plate Crabtree and win the game.
“She was due,” Crabtree said. “It felt really good for her to hit the ball hard and get that confidence back. I knew as soon as she hit it, I had to sprint my butt off to get home. That’s exactly what I did.”
For the second day in a row, Elle Hastings came in to pitch in relief and put forth a stellar performance. The Nuggets starter struggled in the first inning and only faced four batters before being pulled. She walked the first three batters she faced and gave up a two-run single to Eckes.
Hastings came in and hit the first batter she faced to load the bases. She struck out the next three in a row to limit the damage. She finished the game with 13 strikeouts and struck out five batters in a row from the second through fourth innings.
“It’s not easy at all for Elle to come into that situation with runners on,” Lyngaas said. “She stepped up big-time. She was huge for us in this game. And yesterday, too, with the home run late in the game. She’s always ready to go. She’s got a high motor and is always ready to attack.”
The Nuggets answered every time the Patriots scored. Hawley put up three runs as Kaylie Crabtree, Abby Rux and Kylie Crabtree scored to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
The Patriots answered with two runs to take a 4-3 lead in the top of the fifth and Hastings wasted no time getting them back. She smashed a no-doubter over the left-field fence on the first pitch of the bottom of the inning to tie it at 4.
Grace Fleming then pushed the Nuggets ahead with some heads-up baserunning later in the fifth. She scored from third as Halvorson drew a walk and took off running for second. The pitcher threw the ball to try to get Halvorson and Fleming ran home as soon as the ball left her hand.
“Elle was fired up and got us going this game,” Lyngaas said. “She’s like an Energizer bunny for us. It’s fun to have her out there."
Hawley had to bounce back a day removed from just its second loss of the season to win the section championship. The Patriots beat Hawley 6-3 on Thursday to force a second championship game in the double-elimination tournament. The Nuggets had already beaten Pequot Lakes 11-1 earlier in the section tournament.
“It’s a short turnover,” Lyngaas said. “We said right after you leave the field, the game is behind you. You’ve just got to go get a good night's rest. We came back and hit in the cages this morning at the field house at the school, and the girls attacked it and had a good focus and approach. It was a lot of fun to see them have success after doing all that day.”
PL 200 020 3 — 7 5 1
H 300 020 3 — 8 8 2