June 14, 2024 at 1:47 p.m.

Magical run fizzles at state for Vikings softball



By JEFF NORTON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
Sports Editor

Mankato East 16, North Branch 2

The postseason magic that carried the North Branch softball team through an unblemished section run came to an abrupt and powerful end at the hands of the Mankato East Tigers in the first round of the state softball tournament on Wednesday, June 5 at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

East, who was the third seed in the state tournament, scored a whopping 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning, added one in the second and then tacked on another crooked number with a five in the bottom of the third en route to a 16-2 victory over the Vikings.

Senior pitcher Hannah Bernier had a good chance to get out of that fateful first inning with just a slight 2-0 deficit, but the defense behind her booted a few balls and the inning quickly ballooned.

Bernier got the first out relatively easily, coaxing weak contact from the Tiger leadoff hitter and senior catcher Peyton Verdon threw down to first for the opening out.

But, Bernier plunked the next batter followed by the three hole hitter, Hailey Petzel, blasting a two run homer over the left field fence at Caswell for the quick 2-0 lead.

Bernier walked the next batter, but then an error by the second baseman put two runners on with one out. The senior pitcher fought back to strike out East’s Carlie Wendinger, but the third strike was nasty enough to bounce in the dirt. Catcher Verdon couldn’t deliver the throw down to first and was charged with an error and Wendinger was able to reach base anyway to load them up. Two more walks stretched the lead to 4-0 for Mankato, and another error proved to be the costly one as another run scored and East kept rolling. 

By the time the first inning was done, Mankato East had scored 10 runs on only three hits. But, their patience was key – they drew four walks and a hit batter – and three errors by NB’s defense only compounded the issues.

Another error in the second inning caused another run to score for the Tigers. Bernier allowed a hit sandwiched between two strikeouts. 



NB SOFTBALL/15


A stolen base moved the East runner into scoring position. Kenley Staunton then got a two out hit, but an error by the outfield allowed pinch runner Ella Fugazzi to come all the way home and score on the hit.

East’s bats then started making hard contact in the third inning as they scored five more times without much help of walks or errors, and the game stood at 16-0 in favor of the Section 1AAA champions.

Meanwhile, Kylinn Stangl was effective on the mound for Mankato, tossing three perfect frames to open the game, including five strikeouts. In the fourth inning, the North Branch offense was able to muster their only runs of the day. Verdon led off the inning with a single and Abigail Pfeifer followed with a double to the gap. Aubrey Charpentier backed those two hits up with a single to right field, scoring both Verdon and Pfeifer. But, three straight comebackers to the pitcher ended the offensive rally quickly after NB scored.

Tori Thurmer did add a hit and stolen base in the top of the fifth inning, but the Vikings couldn’t score any more runs to avoid the mercy rule, ending their championship bid after just four and a half innings.

Petzel was the one-woman wrecking crew for the East offense, going three-for-three with five RBIs and two runs. 


Simley 7, North Branch 5

The Vikings flipped the script a bit in their first game in the consolation bracket, but they couldn’t quite put up double digits in the first inning and eventually Simley fought their way back and eliminated North Branch from the state tourney with a 7-5 win over the Vikes.

North Branch got a good crooked number in the top of the first inning on miscues by the Simley defense. After a Verdon walk started the game, a sacrifice bunt and a Charpentier single and stolen base, there were runners on second and third with one out for NB. Bernier drew a walk to load the bases and really get the threat cooking but Morgan Mann got the second out on a foul pop up. Alexis Mathison then stepped up and hit a ball to the shortstop. Her speed getting down the line rushed the throw a bit and the first baseman couldn't handle it and was charged with an error, allowing both Verdon and Charpentier to score. The shortstop then booted another ball from the bat of Thurmer, and that scored Bernier’s pinch runner Jocelyn Meyer, giving the Vikings an early 3-0 lead.

Simley answered back with one run in the bottom of the first, and then tied it up with two more in the second inning. There was a spectacular throw in the inning to save another run, though, as Charpentier delivered a dart home from centerfield after a Simley hit and Verdon got the tag down and swiped the runner. 

After North Branch’s offense went down quietly in the top of the third inning, Simley took the lead for good in the bottom half of the frame. Three hits, one error and one walk led to the Spartans scoring three runs to go up 6-3 over the Vikes.

Thurmer quickly sent a jolt through the North Branch dugout in the fourth inning, though, when she belted a one-out homerun to trim the deficit to 6-4. Makayla Mihajlovich followed with a walk and Kaytlin Hammond hit a single through the left side to put two on. After a Verdon strike out, Pfeifer came up with a big hit, singling up the middle, but much like Charpentier’s strike from two innings prior, Simley’s centerfielder Alyssa Downhour cut pinch runner Sophia Petersen down at home plate with a perfect throw, ending the inning and the rally for NB.

Simley got that homerun tally right back in the bottom of the fourth when Downhour, fresh off of her magnificent defensive play, belted a one out homerun over the Caswell barriers.

North Branch had their chances over the last few innings though. They had a leadoff double by Charpentier in the fifth inning that went nowhere, and a one out double in the sixth inning by Mihajlovich, who was also stranded at second.

In the top of the seventh inning, the Vikings were staring at a three run deficit at 7-4, but they got the start they needed. Pfeifer drew a lead off walk, but Charpentier followed with a pop out. Bernier then hit a seeing eye single up the middle and Mann found a hole on the left side for a single of her own, scoring Pfeifer. At that point, North Branch was just down two and had runners on first and second with one out, but a strike out and infield pop fly ended the game and NB’s season.

Charpentier was two-for-four with one run, Pfeifer was one-for-two with a walk and a run and Mann and Thurrmer picked up the two RBI’s NB was credited with. Bernier had a decent bounce back game, throwing all six innings and allowing five earned runs on the day. But, she was also two-of-three with a walk on offense and was in the middle of most of NB’s rallies.

The losses ended North Branch’s season at 9-15, and they’ll lose some key players this year in Bernier, Verdon and Erin Pederson, but they’ll still have the experience and the heart that brought them this far, and that’s something that can’t be measured in a scorebook or box score.



Comments:

Commenting has been disabled for this item.

Events

July

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
30
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.

Events

July

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
30
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.