May 23, 2003 at 10:34 a.m.

'Cats take title outright

'Cats take title outright
'Cats take title outright

The similarities to last season were eerie. Chisago Lakes and North Branch battling it out for the conference title in the last game of the year. Last season, the Wildcats and Vikings settled on a tie for the title. This season would be different, Chisago Lakes head softball coach Steve Fisher was going to make sure of that.

“Absolutely not,” commented Fisher when asked about sharing the trophy for a second consecutive year. “There wasn’t a question about it. The kids wanted it outright. We stressed that to them before the game and everybody was on the same page.”

That one statement is a prime example of the emotion that both sides displayed when they took the field last Thursday. Leading the charge and setting the tone were Becca Ploog and Brooke Beaver, the starting pitchers for both teams, who quickly turned the game into a pitchers duel.

Ploog blew through the first three innings, allowing two hits and striking out three; two to end the second and third innings. Meanwhile on the other side, Beaver started off the bottom of the first with a strikeout of her own, allowing just one hit through three.

It became very obvious that the team who made the least amount of mistakes would win the game, and in the bottom of the fourth, the Vikings machine broke down. With one out, Chelsea Stimson knocked a double to left and moved to third on an error. Two pitches later, another North Branch error allowed Stimson to score on a Koryn Cook ground ball. Rachel Nelson later pushed the ‘Cat lead to two with an RBI single, making it 2-0 after four. Both runs in the inning were unearned.

Becca Ploog made it last. The senior got stronger as the game went on, retiring the final nine batters she faced to preserve the 2-0 win. Three went down on strikes.

“Becca was pretty top-notch,” smiled Fisher. “One of the best games she’s pitched all year. She was in control, kept them off balance and didn’t waste any pitches. She came through when we needed her the most.”

The win not only gave the Wildcats their second conference title in as many years, their first outright, but it capped off a 16-4 season. After starting the year 1-2, the ‘Cats went 15-2 the rest of the way.

“Losing four seniors last year, when the season started I was thinking about 10-10 or 12-8. We didn’t start off that well. but once we hit that long winning streak everything turned around,” remarked Fisher. “We broke everything down to sections. Starting the year, getting better in the middle and winning the conference. Winning conference was always our main focus.”

Chisago Lakes finished two games ahead of North Branch for the top spot as the Vikings finished the season 10-10 overall. However, only three of those setbacks came in conference play.

“We gave it our best shot,” remarked Larry Brodin, head North Branch girls softball head coach. “It was a great game but we couldn’t come up with the hit we needed to get it going. Brooke pitched an excellent game.”

Next up for both, the second season. Chisago Lakes is seeded number eight in Section 4AAA and a match-up with number nine seed Champlin Park. North Branch got the number four seed in the Section 7AA sub-section. The Vikings will host Monticello in the first round. The state girls softball tournament will start on June 6 in Mankato, MN.

Chisago Lakes 2, North Branch 0

R H E

North Branch 000 000 0 0 3 4

Chisago Lakes 000 200 X 2 5 0

Scaramell 1-3

Peterson 0-3

Reimann 0-3

Rauen 2-3

Sampson 0-2

O’Hern 0-3

Paulson 0-2

Cardelli 0-2

Larson 0-2

LP: Beaver (6-6)

6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 K

Reed 0-2

Sarah Ploog 0-3

Walbridge 0-3

Stimson 2-3, R

Cook 1-3, R

Cunningham 0-3

Nelson 1-3, RBI

Jokinen 1-3

Becca Ploog 0-1

WP: Becca Ploog (15-4)

7 IP, 3 H, 5 K


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