MARSHALL - The New Ulm softball team took care of business Tuesday in the Section 3AA playoffs with a 10-4 victory over South Central Conference opponent Fairmont.
Now the Eagles have to focus on the real task at hand - the Pipestone Arrows, a team that the Eagles need to beat twice on Thursday in order to get back to the state tournament.
The defending state champions rode the arm of Sydney Schuck and the bat of Brittany Hoffmann to eliminate Fairmont (11-11), a team that had its best season ever.
Schuck went five innings and allowed two hits. She walked three and struck out seven. Tori Botton pitched the last two innings and gave up four runs on six hits.
Hoffmann, meanwhile, led the way at the plate, going 3-for-5 with four RBIs and a two-run home run in the fourth.
The Eagles scored four runs in the third and three more in the fourth to break the game wide open (8-0 at that point).
Hoffmann said it was important that they scored some early runs against the Cardinals, a team that just came off of an emotional 9-4 victory over Morris Area to advance to play New Ulm.
"It's pretty important, they came off a big win and this is the farthest they've gotten in a very long time," Hoffmann said. "They were on a pretty big high so we just wanted to come in and shut them down and show them who's boss."
Taylor Schultze took the loss for the Cardinals. She went 3 1/3 innings, allowing 12 hits and eight runs. Alyson Eversman went the final 3 2/3 innings and allowed six hits and two runs.
New Ulm struck first in the top of the first. Rachel Strandmark reached on an infield single and Ellie Schneider singled to score Strandmark.
Strandmark finished the game with three hits and three runs scored.
While Schuck was shutting down the Cardinals, New Ulm added to the lead in the third inning by stringing together six hits that led to four runs.
Hoffmann, Kali Denn, Schuck and Sarah Nelsen keyed the attack with RBIs and the Eagles were suddenly up 5-0 after three innings.
New Ulm added three more in the top of fourth, the big blast coming from Hoffmann when she delivered a two-run shot to left to put her team up 8-0. At that point, the damage was more than done.
"We're not feeling too bad after Saturday [in a loss to Pipestone], it's a tough team but we know we can come back, we're a great team and we all pick each other up and we play great together," Hoffmann said.
Fairmont scored its first run in the top of the sixth after Courtney Whitmore singled and eventually scored on a grounder to second base off the bat of Mariah Thate to make it 8-1.
Madison Kral and Hope Capp each scored a run in the seventh before the Cardinals answered with three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Nelsen ended the game with two hits for New Ulm and the Eagles finished with 18 hits.
Now the Eagles meet their familiar section foe Pipestone, a team that has clashed with the Eagles many times in the 3AA title game. Last year, the Eagles got their turn to represent the section and took home the championship hardware. This year, they'll have to beat the Arrows twice for another chance to compete at Caswell Park.
"We're going to have to beat them twice, it doesn't matter when it happens, we know we can hit their pitcher, we struggled a little on Saturday but we're ready for them," Hoffmann said.