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home : sports : sports
July 6, 2022

6/17/2022 12:35:00 PM
Chisago Lakes storms state tournament for third place

State Tournament
In their first state tournament appearance in school history, the Wildcat softball team came in third place.  They opened with a 6-1 win over the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights, lost 4-0 to the Winona WInhawks in the semifinals and finished with an 8-2 win over the Simley Spartans in the third-place game.  The games were played at the impressive Caswell Park softball complex in North Mankato last Thursday and Friday.

Chisago Lakes 6, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 1
In the Wildcats’ first-ever state tournament appearance, they broke open a close game with a four-run third inning and went on to beat the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights 6-1 to advance to the semifinal matchup later in the day.  Pitcher Ashley Mandell allowed one unearned run on six hits, walked none, and struck out seven.  The game was played Thursday, June 9.

In the top of the second, a Red Knights batter singled up the middle with one out.  The next batter grounded to first, moving the runner to second.  A grounder to second looked like it would end the inning, but Leah Zaruba bobbled it and all hands were safe.  The next batter squared to bunt and, with Melana Larson charging from third, the batter popped the ball over Larson’s head.  The ball dropped in, scoring the first run of the game.  Mandell struck out the next batter to end the inning.

In the bottom of the third, Greta Gillach reached on an error and stole second.    Leah Zaruba bunted and beat it out.  She noticed no one was covering second, so she kept going and made it to second without a throw.  Mandell popped up a bunt, so Gillach had to hold at third.  The bunt dropped in, and Mandell easily beat the throw to first, loading the bases.  Anna Zaruba walked to drive in the first run of the inning, tying the game at 1-1.  Melanie Anderson struck out.  Sam Johnson popped a ball into short left.  The runners held up as the left fielder dove for it.  The ball went off the tip of her glove as a run scored and every other runner moved up a base.  Brooklyn Nelson struck out for the second out.  Larson hit a grounder wide of first.  The first baseman fielded it and flipped to the pitcher covering.  But the pitcher somehow dropped the easy throw and kick it toward the dugout.  Two runs scored on the play to make it 4-1.

In the bottom of the fourth, Leah Zaruba led off with a hit to left center.  She noticed the left fielder wasn’t hurrying to get the ball in, so she kept going and slid into second for a hustle double.  One out later, Anna Zaruba hit a hard grounder up the middle.  The pitcher deflected it through the shortstop hole and Leah Zaruba easily scored from second to make it 5-1.  And in the sixth, Greta Gillach led off with a bunt single and went to second as the throw got past the first baseman.  Leah Zaruba grounded to second, moving Gillach to third.  Mandell popped a single to center to score Gillach, making the score 6-1.  In the top of the seventh, the leadoff batter tried to bunt her way on, but Mandell pounced on it and threw her out at first.  The next batter struck out, and the final batter of the game grounded out to Leah Zaruba at second.  The celebration began as the Wildcats had won their first ever state tournament game.

Wildcat head coach Brenda Carlson said, “The biggest thing is everybody is relying on everybody else, and we didn’t do that earlier when we had our losses.”  Carlson talked about Mandell’s growth as a pitcher.  She said “You can tell the improvement n maturity from last year to this year.  Last year, she would have come into this game and probably walked two because of her adrenaline.  She’s learned how to control that, and that is huge right now.”

Winona 4, Chisago Lakes 0
In the semifinal game, the Wildcats fell behind 2-0 in the first inning, and it was all the Winona WInhawks needed.  The Wildcats managed just four baserunners all game off Winona pitcher Ava Hamsund – on two hits, a walk, and an error.  The WInhawks added two more runs along the way and shut out the Wildcats 4-0.  The WInhawks advanced to the championship game, and the Wildcats headed to the third-place game.  The game was played Thursday, June 9.

Weak defense put the Wildcats in the hole in the top of the first inning.   The first Winona batter singled, stole second and went to third on a Wild pitch.  She was still on third two outs later.  The next batter hit a ball to deep center field.  Center fielder Allison Gregory took a couple of steps in and didn’t have time to recover as the ball landed behind her and bounced of the wall for a double, and the Winhawks led 1-0.  The next batter hit a high popup behind first base that should have ended the inning.  Second baseman Leah Zaruba camped under it but dropped it and a second run scored.  Ashley Mandell struck out the next batter to finally end the first inning.

In the top of the third, the leadoff hitter reached on an error by third baseman Melana Larson.  She stole second and went to third as the throw hit something and trickled into left center field.  One out later, the batter hit a grounder to Mandell.  She threw to third to try to cut down the runner who had taken a few steps off the base, but the runner barely managed to get back in safely.  The runner on first stole second.  The next batter hit a ground ball to Leah Zaruba at second.  The runner at third had taken off, so Zaruba’s only play was to first base as the run scored to make it 3-0.  The Winhawks added another run on back-to-back one-out doubles in the fifth to make the final score 4-0.

“They’re number one in the state for a reason,” said Wildcat head coach Brenda Carlson.  “We played with them, and the kids know they can play with them.  The whole thing, the adrenaline and everything, those first two innings got to us.  But we calmed down and came back and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.  It’s our first time I the state tournament and Winona has been here a lot.  Now, if we come again, we’ll know what to expect.  We just wanted to be respected, and I think we have gained people’s respect in the state.”

Mandell allowed four runs – two earned – on five hits, walked two and struck out ten.

Chisago Lakes 8,  Simley 2
Starting her third game in two days, Ashley Mandell struck out 16 Simley Spartans.  Melanie Anderson drove in three runs, and Mandell and Anna Zaruba drove in two runs each as the Wildcats beat the Simley Spartans 8-2 to claim third place at the state tournament.  The game was played Friday, June 10.

The Wildcats wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard.  Greta Gillach led off the bottom of the first with a single and stole second.  Leah Zaruba was hit by a pitch.  Mandell’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners up, and Anna Zaruba followed with a double to drive in Gillach with the first run of the game.  Melanie Anderson singled to drive in two more, and the Wildcats led 3-0 after one.  In the top of the third, with runners on second and third and two outs, a Wildcat error resulted in two unearned runs to cut the Wildcat lead to 3-2.  But Mandell struck out the next batter to end the rally.

The Wildcats got a bit more breathing room in the fourth.  Sam Johnson singled with one out, moved to second on a passed ball and, one out later, scored on Melana Larson’s single to make the score 4-2.  The Wildcats put the game out of reach in the sixth.  For the final time in her Wildcat career, Gillach sparked a Wildcat rally, as she had done so many times.  Gillach singled with one out and stole second.  Leah Zaruba was hit by a pitch – just like she was in the first inning.  Mandell doubled in two runs, and Anna Zaruba followed with a run-scoring double to make the score 7-2.  Anderson’s single drove in Anna Zaruba, and the Wildcat led 8-2.  In the top of the seventh, Mandell struck out the first two batters.  She then allowed a walk but struck out the next batter to seal the Wildcats’ third place finish.

Mandell struck out at least two batters every inning and struck out three batters in the fourth and seventh innings.  She allowed just two hits and walked four.  And she ended all but one inning with a strikeout.  A truly remarkable performance by Mandell.



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