|6/4/2021 1:54:00 PM|
'Cats hold off Big Lake for M8C title, earn top seed in sections
Andover 11, Chisago Lakes 4
The Wildcats suffered their first and only blowout loss of the season, falling to the Andover Huskies 11-4 Monday, May 24 at Andover. The game was tied 4-4 going into the bottom of the fifth, when the Huskies scored five times – with a two-run double and a two-run homer being the big hits – to go up 9-4. They added two solo home runs in the sixth to put an exclamation point on their 11-4 win.
Sparkplug Greta Gillach singled twice and scored two runs for the Wildcats, and Ashley Mandell and Haley Sogard each had two-run singles to account for the Wildcat scoring.
Chisago Lakes 10, Cambridge-Isanti 0 (5 innings)
Ashley Mandell threw her first no-hitter of the season as the Wildcats blew open a close game with eight runs in the top of the fifth to beat the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets 10-0 Tuesday, May 25 at Cambridge-Isanti High School. The game was shortened to five innings because of the ten-run rule. Mandell allowed just two baserunners in the game, on walks in the second and third innings. She struck out nine in a truly dominating performance. Greta Gillach went three for three with two doubles and scored three times. The next three batters – Leah Zaruba, Mandell, and Haley Sogard – each had two hits and drove in two runs. Hailey Benjamin, Anna Zaruba and Lea Zaruba each doubled, and Anya Nephew tripled to drive in two runs in the big fifth inning.
Chisago Lakes 6, Big Lake 5
The Big Lake Hornets trailed the Wildcats 3-0 going into the top of the seventh and scored five times to take a 5-3 lead. But the Wildcats scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to steal a 6-5 win back from the Hornets. The game was played Wednesday, May 26 at Chisago Lakes High School.
The way starting pitcher Ashley Mandell was cruising along, it looked the Wildcats wouldn’t need to score many runs to win the game. Mandell allowed just one hit and two walks through the first six innings. In the bottom of the second inning, with runners on first and second and one out, Chloe Zupko bunted the ball out in front of the plate. On the throw to first, the first baseman let the throw get away from her and Haley Sogard scored all the way from second. With two outs, Hailey Benjamin drove a single up the middle to score Anya Nephew and put the Wildcats up 2-0. In the top of the fifth, Big Lake threatened with runners on second and third and one out. The next batter hit a line drive directly to left fielder Allison Gregory. She caught the ball and, after a momentary hesitation, fired to third to double off the runner to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Sogard singled to right to drive in Leah Zaruba and upped the Wildcat lead to 3-0.
But the Hornets got to Mandell in the seventh. After a leadoff homer, Mandell struck out the next batter. A double, a wild pitch and a two-base walk put runners on second and third with one out. The next batter grounded out to second, driving in a run to cut the Wildcat lead to 3-2. With two outs, a swinging bunt, an infield hit and a line drive single each drove in a run and, before Mandell got the next batter to ground out to end the inning, the Wildcats trailed 5-3.
What could have been a disappointing loss turned into an uplifting win. Gillach was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Leah Zaruba hit a grounder to short, but the shortstop booted the ball and both runners were safe. Mandell followed with a slow roller to third. The third baseman threw the ball past the first baseman and two runs scored to tie the game, with Mandell going all the way to third. Sogard reached first on a fielder’s choice, but Mandell was held at third. Nephew hit a grounder to short. The shortstop made another error, Mandell scored and, in a rollercoaster of a game, the Wildcats had a 6-5 win.
Chisago Lakes 4, Princeton 1
On Senior Night, playing their fourth game in five days, the Wildcats scored four runs in the fifth inning and beat the Princeton Tigers 4-1 Friday, May 28 at Chisago Lakes High School. It was the Wildcats’ final regular season game of the year and they finished with a 16-3-1 record. Anna Zaruba started and went three innings. She allowed one earned run on one hit, walked one and struck out three. Ashely Mandell pitched the final four innings, allowed no runs on one hit, and stuck out seven of the last eight batters she faced.
With the Wildcats trailing 1-0 going into the bottom of the fifth, Haley Lewis, Haley Benjamin, and Greta Gillach each singled to load the bases. Leah Zaruba followed with a two-run single and, after the next two batters went out, Anya Nephew hit a two-run double to give the Wildcats a bit more of a cushion at 4-1.
The Wildcats received the number one seed in Section 7AAA, and deservedly so. They were 8-0-1 in section play and ranked fifth in the state in the Class AAA QRF rankings. The North Branch Vikings were seeded second, despite lagging three places behind Cloquet in the final QRF rankings. The Wildcats will go as far as number one pitcher Ashley Mandell can take them.
The Wildcats opened up at home against eighth-seeded Princeton last night, while the Vikings hosted seventh-seeded Duluth Denfeld. Win or lose, the action shifts to Braun Park in Cloquet this Saturday, where all eight section teams will play their second section game at 11 a.m. Teams that survive Saturday will move on to Grand Rapids next Tuesday and Thursday for the final section championship play. You can follow the team’s progress at mshsl.org.