FRAZEE -- The Hawley softball team is back in the Minnesota state softball tournament for the first time in seven years, and the accomplishment isn't lost on the team.

"It's amazing. It's a dream come true," said Hawley junior infielder Elle Hastings.

The last time Hastings went to the state tournament, it was to watch the Nuggets.

"I was a little fourth-grader," she said. "So that happening, first time in Hawley history in over seven years it blows my mind."

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

This year's Hawley team is special. Many of them, playing together since before high school.

"We have that connection, since we've been playing together since we could walk, since t-ball and for us to finalIy come and put It together and have a good season, It just feels amazing," said Hawley senior catcher Addison Dauner.

More so, this team is playing for more than each other.

"We have been grinding in her name," said Hastings.

Katie Bjorndahl coached many of the Hawley players on their 12U travel team. She was also a former Nugget softball player herself. To some, she WAS Hawley softball.

"She built our program," said Dauner. "Our past coaches have been great, but she Is the one that started it and she has helped us a ton."

In late September 2018, though, something happened. Bjorndahl was found inside her home. She'd overdosed on a mixture of prescription and over-the-counter medication. She was taken to Sanford Hospital where she was placed on life support and remained for four days. On the fourth day, she was pronounced dead, just a week before her 21st birthday.

According to Katie's parents, Bjorndahl suffered from depression.

"We definitely keep her in mind," said Dauner.

"I give a lot of credit to these girls. In all the things they battle through, in their lives with sports, school, friends, social groups - they play through a lot," said Hawley head softball coach Jackson Lyngaas.

For Hastings, Bjorndahl is the reason she plays the game of softball with so much passion and energy. It stems back from her time with Bjorndahl on their 12U team.

"We won state with her and ever since then, ever since I won that championship with her, my love just grew for It. That's one of my main, my main motivators," said Hastings.

Before Hawley's Section 8AA championship game, Hastings made a promise to her old coach.

"I said, 'This game is for you and we're not coming back without anything today," Hastings recalled.

Hawley defeated Pequot Lakes 8-7. Hastings hit a game-tying home run and Dauner came up with game-winning hit in the bottom of the 7th inning. Two of Bjorndahl's 12U players, wearing the jersey she wore, and in her shoes.

"It felt amazing," said Hastings. "The minute it came off the bat I knew, and it just...a big breath that I could release."

"I was having a rough past two days when it came to hitting and then....got it done when it mattered," said Dauner.

Now the Nuggets look to take another step in the direction their role model did - the state tournament.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.