Tigers topple Raiders, return to state tournament
NORTH MANKATO — For the first time since 2006, the Springfield Tigers are headed to the Class A State Softball Tournament.
The fourth-seeded Tigers punched their ticket to state this year after a 6-4 win over third-seeded Nicollet on Thursday at Caswell Park in the Section 2A finals.
The Tigers were led at the plate by sophomore Lexie Groebner, who was 3 for 3 with an RBI.
Groebner said that making state was something nobody really expected.
“I think no one saw it coming,” Groebner said. “We haven’t been to state for  years. So it’s really different and it’s super exciting because we’re a young team. No one saw it coming really.”
The Raiders had the Tigers on the ropes early on after a three-run top of the first. Marah Hulke walked and Brooklyn Bode reached on an error. After a strikeout and a wild pitch moved Nicollet’s runners up a base, another error brought in two Nicollet runs for a 2-0 lead.
Brooklyn Gohr then singled to center before an RBI single from Sam Kettner scored Gohr for a 3-0 Nicollet lead. The Tigers added a run back in the bottom of the inning on a sac fly from Brooklyn Sturm to trail 3-1.
The Tigers got another run in the bottom of the second on an RBI single from Groebner and tied it in the fourth on an errant throw to third that scored Megan Ploeger after a sac bunt by Courtney Wendt.
An RBI single by Jalivia Richert scored Sturm for a 4-3 Springfield lead in the bottom of the fifth. Springfield added its final two runs in the sixth after a throwing error to first allowed Astrid Ramirez to score and a sac fly off the bat of Jaeli Richert scored Groebner.
Nicollet got a run back in the bottom of the seventh after Hayley Selby doubled and scored on an error with two outs, but the Tigers got a strikeout to end the game and begin their celebration.
Jalivia Richert got the complete-game win for the Tigers in the circle, striking out six. Hulke took the loss in six innings of work for Nicollet, striking out six.
Gohr led the Raiders at the plate with a pair of hits.
The Tigers now await to see who they will take on first at state on Tuesday at Caswell Park.
Sturm, a freshman, said that despite being one of the team’s youngest players, she’s happy to be a part of the team’s success.
“It just feels good,” Sturm said. “Being so young, nobody really expects much yet, but I’m just glad I can help this team get this far.”