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Indians knock out Tigers in 18-8, 5-inning slugfest in Section 2A

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello Sleepy Eye’s Mariah Miller (3) tags out Casandra Graff of Springfield as she slides into third during a Section 2A playoff game Wednesday in Sleepy Eye. For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com

SLEEPY EYE — Both Sleepy Eye and Springfield made the most of their at-bats considering the playoffs have finally arrived.

But overall, No. 8-seeded Sleepy Eye got bigger, more-meaningful hits in beating No. 9-seeded Springfield 18-8 in five innings in the first round of the Section 2A softball playoffs on Wednesday.

The Indians (9-11) avenged a pair of regular-season losses to the Tigers with a performance in which eight different players scored and everyone got on base.

“Offensively, that’s exactly what we wanted,” Sleepy Eye coach Amber Waibel said. “We hit the ball in the right spot. This season, we struggled a lot with scoring runners in scoring position, so that was one of our goals and we executed that today.”

The Tigers (7-14) coaxed five walks from freshman pitcher Kathryn Schroepfer in the first inning, tallying two runs in the process.

However, a three-run home run by junior Mariah Miller set the tone for Sleepy Eye, as it went on to score seven runs in the bottom of the first inning.

“I knew that I needed to do something for my team to help bring up the energy,” Miller said. “No matter what it was — if it was a home run or a base hit — that would help our team.”

Miller’s three-run home run knocked in the first three of a game-high six RBIs for her on the day. Sophomore Leslie Flores had five RBIs on two doubles, including a bases-clearing double in the second inning that gave the Indians a 10-2 lead.

Springfield did not quit, however. As Sleepy Eye extended its lead to 11-3 after three complete innings, Springfield scored five runs off Schroepfer to close the gap and keep a realistic chance of completing the comeback. A big two-run single by junior Cheyenne Hammerschmidt capped off the inning’s scoring.

But with those five runs by Springfield, Sleepy Eye outdid its rival by putting up six in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Freshman Martina Nienhaus got the scoring started by driving in Flores from third with a single before junior Lauren Klein batted in pinch-runner Brittney Dittbenner to extend the lead to 13-8. Miller then belted a two-run single to make it 15-8 before an RBI single from freshman Alexa Steffl and an RBI walk from senior M’Kayla Mike made it 17-8.

Miller batted in Nienhaus with a failed 5-2 fielder’s choice in the bottom of the fifth to end the game.

Senior Kate Quesenberry got the loss for the Tigers in 1 1/3 innings, having given up 10 runs, four earned on eight hits. Quesenberry got yanked for sophomore Sarah Dunn, who gave up seven earned runs on seven hits in two full innings of work.

Casandra Graff pitched the final full inning for the Tigers, while Schroepfer got the win for the Indians.

Sleepy Eye now enters double-elimination play in Section 2A as it advances to face top-seeded New Ulm Cathedral. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. Thursday at Harman Park, Field No. 3.

“Tomorrow we’re just gonna come out and play some solid defense and try to do our best,” Miller said.

Springfield 201 50 — 8 6 3

Sleepy Eye 731 61 — 18 16 2

Quesenberry, Dunn (2), Graff (4) and Schwanke; K Schroepfer and H Schroepfer.

W – K Schroepfer (SE) 5 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 7 ER, 10 BB, 2 K

L – Quesenberry (Sp) 1 1/3 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Leading hitters – Springfield: Schmidt 1-2 2 R 1 BB, Schwanke 1-2 2 BB 2B, Krueger 1-2 3 RBI 1 R, Ch Hammerschmidt 1-3 2 RBI 1 K, Graff 1-2 1 R 1 BB 2B; Sleepy Eye: L Klein 4-5 1 RBI 3 R, H Schroepfer 2-3 1 BB, Miller 2-4 6 RBI 3 R 1 BB 1 K HR, Steffl 1-4 1 RBI 2 R, Mike 1-3 1 RBI 2 R 1 BB, L Flores 2-3 5 RBI 1 R 1 BB 2-2B, Nienhaus 2-3 1 RBI 3 R 1 BB.

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