May 28, 2009 at 8:27 a.m.
SHOCKER IN ST. FRANCIS
The top-seeded Wildcats were upset by the fifth and sixth seeds in section play
Chisago Lakes 2, Cambridge-Isanti 1
Amanda Houle scored both runs as the Wildcats used excellent defense and pitching to eke out a 2-1 win over the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets in the opening round of last Saturday's section tournament.
Houle led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. Rachel Nelson's single to left was misplayed by the left fielder. Houle scored all the way from first base, but Nelson was thrown out trying to get to third.
In the top of the third, all three Cambridge batters grounded out to Ashley Oehme at third base. Oehme had to charge hard to get to the ball for the second out, with first baseman Lisa Schommer making a nice scoop to complete the bang-bang play. Houle led off the bottom of the third by smashing a double to the wall in center field. Nelson sacrificed her to third, and Schommer hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Houle to put the Wildcats up 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, a single and a walk put runners on first and second for the Bluejackets with no outs. A single through the left side of the infield scored one run, and the other two runners moved up to second and third when the ball got away from the Wildcat left fielder. Nelson got the Wildcats out of trouble by striking out the next batter and getting the final batter of the inning to ground out.
Cambridge threatened to score again in the fifth. After a one-out single, the runner tried to steal second. Catcher Mackenzie Turk's throw was right on the money, but the Wildcat middle infielders were late in covering second and the ball bounded into center field, allowing the runner to reach third. The next batter popped out. With two outs, the next batter lined a 1-2 pitch straight back at Nelson. She knocked it down and fired it to first for the third out.
In the Cambridge sixth, the first batter reached on an error and she was sacrificed to second. The next batter hit a fly ball into foul territory down the left field line. Left-fielder Taylor Russell, third baseman Oehme and shortstop Houle all raced toward the ball. Russell made a great running catch. The runner from second, seeing third base open, tried to tag up and get to third. But an alert Nelson was already on her way to cover third, yelling for the ball. Russell fired a strike to Nelson, who laid on the tag to complete the double play and preserve the Wildcats' one-run lead.
Going into the top of the seventh, Wildcat fan Jeff Checkalski remarked that the Wildcats needed to finish the game off with three pitches. And Checkalski got his wish. The first pitch was hit for a hard one-hop grounder toward third. The ball hit Oehme's glove and popped up into the air. She caught it bare-handed, whirled around 360 degrees and fired to first to nip the runner for the first out of the inning. The next batter also swung at the first pitch, flying out to right. And the game's final batter hit a grounder to Oehme at third. Oehme's more conventional throw to Schommer at first ended the game and sent the Wildcats on to a matchup with rival Forest Lake.
Oehme ended up with six assists and one putout for the day and had two singles. Nelson allowed five hits, walked one and struck out two for the complete game win.
Forest Lake 3, Chisago Lakes 0
Wildcat pitcher Rachel Nelson threw a one-hitter, but the Forest Lake Rangers took advantage of some Wildcat defensive mistakes to score all three of their runs to win 3-0 and send the Wildcats to the losers' bracket of the section tournament. The punchless Wildcats managed just four scattered singles for the game.
With one out in the top of the first, a Ranger batter was hit by a pitch. The next batter hit a high fly ball to center field that drifted over the head of the Wildcat center fielder and dropped in for a double, moving the lead runner to third base. The next batter scored on a groundout to short to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers added to their lead in the third inning without the benefit of a hit. The first batter reached on an error. The next batter sacrificed her to second, but confusion among the Wildcat infielders resulted in another error that left both runners safe. A rare walk by Nelson loaded the bases. The Wildcat catcher then tried to pick off the runner at third, but the low throw bounced away from third base into foul territory. The runner from third scored and the other two runners moved up. The next batter grounded to short to drive in another run, and the Rangers led 3-0.
The Wildcats' best chances to score came in the third and fourth innings. In the third, Mackenzie Turk singled to left and Shannon Monson walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. Courtesy runner Jill Sontag was forced at third on an attempted sacrifice. With two outs, Lisa Schommer walked to load the bases. But the next batter grounded back to the pitcher to end the inning and keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard.
Danielle Tossey walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth for the Wildcats. Mallory Schneider then hit a 1-2 pitch into the gap in right center. The Ranger right fielder made a great running catch to rob Schneider of extra bases and keep Tossey at first. Kasey Eichten grounded into a fielder's choice and Turk singled to put runners at first and second with two outs. Shannon Monson attempted to bunt for a hit and looked like she beat the throw to first, but the umpire ruled her out, ending the Wildcat scoring opportunity. The Wildcats went down 1-2-3 in the fifth sixth and seventh innings, giving the Rangers a 3-0 win.
Nelson pitched a strong game, retiring the last 15 batters she faced, allowing just one hit, walking one and striking out four. Turk had two of the Wildcats' four hits for the game.
Anoka 12, Chisago Lakes 2
The Wildcats were down by just one run after three innings, but Anoka exploded for six runs in the fourth on their way to a 12-2 win over the Wildcats.
The Tornadoes scored a run in the top of the first, and the Wildcats answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. Amanda Houle again led the way for the Wildcats, leading off with a single ad stealing second. She moved to third on Rachel Nelson's groundout and scored on Lisa Schommer's single to center.
With the Wildcats trailing 3-1, Nelson walked to lead off the bottom of the third. With one out, she moved to second on Ashley Oehme's Texas League single. Danielle Tossey's ground ball to second forced Oehme, with Tossey reaching first. Tossey took off to try to steal second on the next pitch. The catcher's throw ended up in centerfield and Nelson scored to pull the Wildcats within one.
But the roof caved in in the top of the fourth as the Tornadoes scored their six runs on six hits and two Wildcat errors. Anoka added three more runs later in the game to make the final score Anoka 12, Chisago Lakes 2.
"We never really go the hitting going all day," said Wildcat head coach Herb Jangor. "And we made some errors and mental mistakes that hurt us. Rachel pitched strong in the games against Cambridge and Forest Lake. Kasey Eichten had showed in the last St. Francis game that she was ready to pitch. She pitched well against Anoka, and after three innings we were only down 3-1. I looked at Rachel ad asked her if she was ready to go in and she said 'yes.' Rachel had that look in her eye that told me she was ready. But when you get a team on a roll like Anoka was that day, the momentum and confidence carries over. They came in hot and we couldn't shut 'em down. We did the same thing in the playoffs last year and made it to the section championship game. I'd probably make the same switch again; you need to go with the ace who's gotten you there before."
Jangor continued, "Our kids went out and had a heck of a season this year. Sixteen wins in a short season is pretty darn good. This was a tough way to end the season for such an outstanding group of young ladies, but you don't always get what you want to in sports."
"I can't say enough about the three seniors we're losing," said Jangor. "Schommer was our anchor at first base for three years and all-conference for three years. She was a big part of our success. Ashley Oehme worked hard in the weight room, got to the varsity level and had an outstanding year. Jill Sontag is one of the hardest-working, most coachable kids you'll ever want to meet. It will be tough to replace them, but we're surrounded by a team of kids with great character. That's what made it so special to coach them. We've got a good group coming back next year."
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