On Thursday the softball season ended with a 20-6 record and a Section 6A runner-up finish for the West Central Area Knights.
“Going into today there were only three teams left,” reported Head coach Vanessa McNamara. “Knowing we had to come out and bring our game against Wheaton to get a second chance at the defending state champs New York Mills, was the motivation we needed.”
In game one, WCA beat Wheaton 22-1 in a six inning ballgame. Lexi Bright started strong at the top of the lineup going 4-6. Brianna Kreft had a huge batting day starting off with a home run, followed by a double that hit the top of the fence, but bounced in play and an extremely deep single. Brianna finished the game going 4-6 as well, with five runs batted in. Hannah Anderson went 2-3 and Izzy Wittbrodt went 2-2.
“In the field, the crew was moving,” noted McNamara. “Hailey Hansen made a few spectacular plays at 3rd base to take away hits and our infielders were able to turn a double play, while our outfield didn't let the ball drop. This was a team win from top to bottom.”
Brianna Kreft and Hailey Bennett split the game at three innings a piece. Brianna gave up no hits and struck out two. Hailey Bennett through the last three innings giving up one hit and struck out four.
“Despite the extremely warm temperatures, these kids came out and fought every single pitch of the game,” added Coach McNamara. “From getting dirty in the infield, to covering tons of ground in the outfield, we were solid. I am so proud of how the girls worked together.”
Game two ended in 5 innings with a score of 15-0 in favor of New York Mills. WCA had an extremely rough first inning and allowed 10 runs to come in against them. “After that inning, we settled down and worked ourselves into a ballgame,” said McNamara. “Unfortunately, the hole we dug was too deep and it cut our game short. New York Mills is an impressive team from the beginning to the end of their lineup. They got 12 hits during the game and six of them were in the first inning. Our outfield did a phenomenal job getting the ball back into the infield as fast as they could. We faced a pitcher that has thrown in four state tournaments, two of which they have walked out as state champions, and were able to give up only 3 strike outs. I think that's powerful and says a lot about the discipline our kids showed in the box. They put the ball in play and worked hard to get themselves into scoring position.”
Winning pitcher Rhiana Roberts struck out four batters, walked one and allowed just one hit in the game. She also collected 3 hits in four at bats, knocked in a pair of runs and scored twice. Tiffany Thompson delivered a 2-run double, Annika Frost had a single, 2 doubles and two runs batted in and Anna Carlson contributed a double and two RBI.
“While it was hard to have our season end, we take great pride in knowing we had a fantastic season, and took home a runner-up plaque to display in the school,” concluded Coach McNamara. “The last time WCA took home this award was in 2007. Our team tipped our hats to New York Mills tonight. We shook their hands and wished them well as we hope they take home another state championship. If someone is going to end your season, it's pretty easy to respect the situation, when they are the best in the state, for the 3rd year in a row.”
New York Mills will play their first game in the Class A State Tournament on Thursday at 1:00pm. Their opponent will be decided when seedings are determined this weekend. Currently they are ranked number one in the coaches poll and they have the top QRF rating in Class A. This is the sixth consecutive Section 6A title for the Eagles.