NORTH MANKATO - After scoring a combined 22 runs in two games at the Class AA State Softball Tournament, it seemed like a second straight state championship trophy was pretty much already engraved with New Ulm's name on it.
The Eagles were playing Kasson-Mantorville for the state title and the KoMets were a team that New Ulm crushed 10-0 earlier in the season.
But things were different on Friday, and the Eagles saw that first hand. Sydney Schuck delivered the game-winning RBI, which co-incidentally was the only run of the entire game, as the Eagles won their second straight Class AA title with a 1-0 win over the Section 1AA champion KoMets.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm infielders Briana Sieve (middle) Brittany Hoffmann, Ellie Schneider and Katie Forst (6) celebrate with starting pitcher Sydney Schuck (left) after the Eagles defeated Kasson-Mantorville for the Class AA state championship Friday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
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Schuck, who allowed only two hits in two games on Thursday, was dominant once again, relying on her change-up to keep the KoMets off-balance. She went all seven innings, allowing five hits. She didn't walk or strike out anyone.
Unlike Thursday, Schuck didn't have the luxury of having a ton of run support on Friday. So she went and took matters into her own hands, and then with her own bat. Her single in the fifth inning scored the only run of the game. But of course, that was all she needed.
"I was more excited [than nervous], my defense played really well, that really helped and I knew that they were backing me up," Schuck said.?
Bergan Forst, who was courtesy running for Kali Denn after Denn doubled, scored with one out in the bottom of the fifth from third after Schuck drilled an offering from Maddie Damon past the glove of Aylisha McClaflin.
"I knew that [coach Kristi Andersen-Loose] was thinking about suicide squeezing and I was ready,"?Schuck said. "When I saw the pitch I was ready and it got through."
Damon took the loss for the KoMets. She allowed five hits and one run while striking out nine. At one point early in the game, she struck out seven of eight batters as she was rolling along.
The Eagles probably helped Damon too. The last time they played, New Ulm had a more patient approach at the plate. This time, the Eagles were swinging at pitches they shouldn't have been.
"When we 10-runned them, we didn't swing at the high pitches and today we just kept swinging at them," Ellie Schneider said. "The hits that we did get were on low pitches."
Schneider finished the game with a hit and she had a stolen base. Abby Kamm had two hits in the lead-off spot and Denn had a double in the fifth inning. Schuck had the other hit for New Ulm.
As any team that's won a state championship knows, a little bit of luck is needed along the way. The Eagles got a lucky bounce in the top of the sixth after the KoMets had runners on second and third with two outs. Brooke Paradise hit a hard grounder to short, but K-M baserunner Cori Kennedy was unable to avoid contact with the ball, resulting in the third out. The play potentially would've scored two, giving the KoMets the lead at that point.
The Eagles would have been happy just getting back to the state tournament after facing a tough Pipestone team in the Section 3AA finals.
"It's pretty special, I just wanted to get back here, this was one of my main goals," Schneider said. "Once we got here, we were gunning for this championship game and we got it."
"It's great, being able to have a team with enough spirit to make it back to state," Kamm said. "We've had our ups and downs, but in the end we come together and it's just a phenomenal team atmosphere. We don't give up even when we're down."