NEW ULM - The New Ulm softball team combined for 20 first and second-inning runs in its crushing victories over St. James and Worthington in the opening rounds of the Section 3AA playoffs at Harman Park on Tuesday.
Led by a dominant pitching performance by Sydney Schuck and hot hitting right out of the gate in the first game of the day, New Ulm was able score four runs in each of the first two innings as the Eagles defeated St. James 10-0 in five innings.
Following that game, No. 6 seed Worthington upset No. 3 seed Jackson County Central and earned the right face New Ulm in the nightcap.
New Ulm’s Sarah Nelsen drives a pitch during the Eagles first round playoff win against St. James Tuesday at Harman Park in New Ulm.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
Things did not turn out as well as the Trojans had hoped for. Schuck had another phenomenal pitching performance, Brittany Hoffmann hit a three-run home run in the first inning and the Eagles produced nine runs in the second as they earned their second shutout of the day, 13-0 in five innings.
Schuck was the winning pitcher for both games for the Eagles. In the first game she went three innings and allowed just one hit while striking out three. In the second game, she went 3 2/3 innings and again allowed just one hit, a fourth inning double. Hannah Backer relieved Schuck in the first game and struck out two batters and Tori Botten finished the second game allowing one walk.
"The goal is for the girls to continue to do what they do at the plate," New Ulm coach Kristi Andersen-Loose said. "We are doing a great job with offense, defense and pitching with all of the tools that we have. It was an emotional day because it's the senior's last day and I think they handled themselves very well. I am just really proud."
It didn't take long for the Eagles to score runs against South Central Conference rival St. James. With the bases loaded and just one out, Kali Denn was able to knock in a pair of runs to give her team the lead. Katie Forst reached on an error later in the inning and ended up scoring on a Briana Sieve single.
New Ulm scored another four runs in the second thanks to more key hitting at the top of the order. After leadoff hitter Abby Kamm reached base, Strandmark was able to push her into scoring position on a bunt single. Schneider followed up by picking up an RBI on a groundout, increasing New Ulm's lead.
A few batters later, Denn had an RBI base hit and Forst and Nelsen had back-to-back RBI double's. Hoffmann and Denn each got a hit in the fifth inning and both eventually scored to activate the 10-run rule.
New Ulm's hitting picked up right where it left off in the second game. Kamm used her quickness to beat out a leadoff bunt and went on to steal second base on the next pitch. Strandmark followed suit by beating out a bunt and moved to second base when she caught Worthington's infield sleeping. Schneider grounded out and with one out and two runners in scoring position, Hoffmann came up to the plate.
Hoffmann waited for a pitch down in the zone and crushed it over the left field fence for a three-run blast.
New Ulm tripled its scoring output in the second inning as nine Eagles came around to score. Kamm had a two-run single to center field early in the inning. After five runs already crossed the plate, Nelsen added a few more to the board with one swing of the bat.
With two runners on and two outs, Nelsen got a hold of one and pulled it down the left field line as it easily cleared the fence for New Ulm's second three-run home run of the game. After seeing what Nelsen did, Sieve decided she wanted to get involved with the long ball.
Generally being a ground ball or line drive hitter, Sieve hit one out. She found a pitch that she liked and drove it to straight-away center field for a home run, giving the Eagles a 13-0 lead.
Schuck retired nearly every Worthington hitter she faced after that and Botten didn't have any problems finishing the job.
New Ulm will advance to play in Marshall at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against a team yet to be determined.