West rallies to eliminate New Ulm

NORTH MANKATO — Despite New Ulm striking early and often against Mankato West for five runs, the Scarlets found a way to claw back and pick up an 8-5 win in the Section 2AAA softball finals at Caswell Park on Thursday.

The win brings the Scarlets (23-1) back to the state tournament for the first time since 2017 after being eliminated in last year’s section finals by Faribault. The Eagles end their season at 22-3 overall.

With the Eagles owning a 5-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, the Scarlets added their first run of the game on an RBI single by Lauryn Douglas, who ended the night 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs. Douglas’ hit scored Kenzie Grunst, who reached earlier on an error.

West then tied it in the fifth inning after a four-hit, four-run inning, led by Bri Stoltzman’s RBI double and an RBI single by Douglas that tied it at 5-all.

Then in the sixth inning after back-to-back strikeouts by Ashlyn Donner, West loaded the bases after an infield single by Abby Stierlen, a throwing error by Carli Botten that pulled Nora Windschill off of first base and an intentional walk to Grunst. Stoltzman then grounded to Madeline Gag, who fired a throw to first past Windschill, sending all three West runners around to score.

Noelle Forstner led off the seventh with a base hit, but the Eagles were unable to get any further than that.

“It’s a team game, there’s a heck of a lot of outs and a heck of a lot of opportunities for people to score and for people to put the ball in play and make things happen,” New Ulm head coach Kristi Andersen Loose said. “There’s thousands of balls in the game, so it never comes down to one play or one moment. It’s a team effort when you win, it’s a team effort when you lose. They pulled it off on us today.”

Donner took the loss in six innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and four walks, two intentional. She struck out eight.

Douglas got the win in relief for the Scarlets, pitching six innings and allowing two earned runs.

The Eagles struck early in the second inning for a 4-0 lead after Maddi O’Connor’s two-run single, an RBI single by Erin Gleisner and an RBI double by Botten to left field. Gag then hit a solo homer to center in the third inning for a 5-0 New Ulm lead before the Scarlets battled back.

Despite the tough loss, Andersen Loose was proud of how her team played all season and said how the seniors will definitely be missed next year.

“The seniors that we have are fantastic and will be deeply missed next year,” Andersen Loose said. “They’ve been excellent examples of what our program is and what it needs to be in the future, and they’ve paved a wonderful path for our future.”

Botten was 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, while Forstner was 2 for 4.