Windschill’s blast leads Eagles to rematch with Faribault

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau New Ulm’s Nora Windschill rounds second base after hitting a solo home run against Worthington on Saturday at Caswell Park in North Mankato. She ended the day with two home runs, one against Worthington and one against Mankato East.

NORTH MANKATO — After getting past fifth-seeded Worthington with a 6-2 win to start the day on Saturday, New Ulm had a tougher time getting ahead and staying ahead of fourth-seeded Mankato East at Caswell Park in its second elimination game on Saturday in Section 2AAA softball playoff action.

Trailing the Cougars 3-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, the Eagles needed something big to happen fast.

They got what they needed.

With a two-run home run to left field off the bat of Nora Windschill, the Eagles went ahead 4-3 and ended up topping East by that score to move on to a second meeting with Faribault at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Caswell Park.

Faribault defeated New Ulm 1-0 this past Thursday and fell to Mankato West on Saturday, dropping the Falcons to the elimination bracket and a rematch with New Ulm on Tuesday.

With two outs and Madeline Gag on after reaching base earlier on a double to right-center, Windschill got a pitch in her sweet spot and sent it deep to left to bring the New Ulm fans to their feet.

“It felt really good to be able to do that for my team,” Windschill said. “I had a lot of confidence in Ashlyn and a lot of confidence in my team, so I wasn’t really worried. But it felt really good, it was really exciting and they were really happy for me.”

The home run was also Windschill’s second of the day after she homered against Worthington just hours before.

Ashlyn Donner still struck out 12 in the complete-game win against East and allowed two earned runs on just two hits. Earlier in the day against Worthington, Donner fanned 17 and gave up five hits and two earned runs in the complete-game win.

“I’m happy with my team’s performance, not really mine, but they helped me out when I wasn’t doing the best,” Donner said. “That’s all I can ask for.”

In the win over East, both Donner and East pitcher Madison Mangulis were cruising until the fifth inning saw Windschill get a hold of a pitch for a one-out single. A sacrifice bunt by Maddi O’Connor moved Windschill over to third before Ellie Bute drove a pitch deep to left-center for a two-out RBI double and a 2-1 New Ulm lead.

New Ulm scored in the first after Carli Botten got an infield single and later scored after Gag, who reached on a walk, got caught in a run down, allowing Botten to come home before Gag was tagged out for the final out of the inning.

East scored its first run in the fifth after a pair of wild pitches scored Madisyn Kozitza, who was hit by a pitch earlier. Down 2-1 in the top of the sixth, Haley Stockman put the Cougars ahead 3-2 with a two-run homer.

In the bottom of the sixth, though, Windschill came through in a big way, allowing Donner to shut the door on the Cougars in the top of the seventh with a 1-2-3 inning that was capped off with a strikeout.

Earlier against Worthington, Haley Grimmius gave Donner a hard time throughout the game, going 3 for 3 with a pair of home runs. She put her team ahead 1-0 after a leadoff homer in the top of the first on just the second pitch of the game.

Joey Batt then calmly opened the bottom half of the first with a leadoff triple, leading to Botten driving her in on a bunt single. Windschill hit her first homer of the day in the second inning to put New Ulm ahead 2-1 before Grimmius hit her second homer of the game to tie it again in the third.

New Ulm then got a big three-run fourth after a leadoff solo homer from Noelle Forstner and a pinch-hit two-run double from Emma Brudelie. The Eagles added an insurance run in the sixth on a two-out RBI double off the bat of Botten.

After getting just one hit off of McKayla Armbruster this past Thursday in the 1-0 loss to Faribault, New Ulm will have to bring bigger bats this time around on Tuesday in the rematch when it matters most.

“I think it’ll definitely be easier because the first time we hadn’t seen her since last year, so we didn’t really know what she had,” Windschill said of getting on base against Armbruster on Tuesday. “But now we’ve seen her, and I think we were able to hit it, but I think we were just more nervous. There’s really no pressure on us because we’re the underdogs coming in, so I think we’ll be okay and I have a lot of confidence in our hitters and Ashlyn.”