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Eagles recover, stay alive in 2AA elimination bracket

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau New Ulm High School’s Kenzie Enter rounds the bases after hitting her first career homer on Saturday in a Section 2AA softball playoff game with Belle Plaine at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

NORTH MANKATO — While walks and errors ended up hurting top-seeded New Ulm in a Section 2AA softball quarterfinals game with Belle Plaine on Saturday, the Eagles cleaned things up in a win-or-go-home game with Fairmont later in the day to stay alive in the tournament.

After fifth-seeded Belle Plaine dropped the Eagles into the elimination bracket with a 7-4 win at Caswell Park, the Eagles stayed alive with an 8-0 shutout win over the seventh-seeded Cardinals.

The Eagles next play at 5 p.m. on Tuesday at Caswell Park in an elimination bracket semifinals game against fourth-seeded St. James Area.

SJA defeated New Ulm on May 21 to become the overall Big South Conference champions at New Ulm High School. In that win, Addie Bowers racked up 19 strikeouts for the Saints.

The Eagles will look to get payback when the stakes are higher on Tuesday.

“The girls are in a really great headspace right now,” New Ulm head coach Kristi Andersen Loose said. “Truly, they wanted to play St. James. They were hoping that St. James would win against Belle Plaine because they wanted it back, they knew that [May 21 loss] wasn’t their best effort, they knew they can be better than that. They’re just simply ready for that. So I don’t have any concerns, even though one might look at it and say, ‘Oh, are we going to be able to hit this girl?’ Truth be told, I don’t know why we didn’t hit that girl [Bowers].

“Eagles hitting was great today. Belle Plaine was a great pitcher who mixed spots and I just think the girls are going with pitches well. I think offensively they’re in a great spot.”

The winner of the SJA-New Ulm game will play Belle Plaine at approximately 7 p.m. that Tuesday night. Belle Plaine dropped to the elimination bracket with a 17-7 loss to Le Sueur-Henderson on Saturday in the winner’s bracket semifinals.

Ramsey Hopp took the loss against the Tigers. She issued leadoff walks in the first two innings but got out of trouble both times. She ended up walking 10 total batters, one intentionally, and gave up five hits while striking out six.

Sienna Bemmels got the win for Belle Plaine in all seven innings, giving up nine hits for four runs while striking out five.

New Ulm took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single from Hopp and made it 2-0 in the third on Kenzie Enter’s first career varsity homer, which was a no-doubter to left-center. The Tigers tied it in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Abby Dalchow and a walk by Josie Schmidt with the bases full.

The Eagles got a single by Gracie Linbo in the bottom of the fourth that was followed by a double from Calyn Glaser and a wild pitch to score Linbo for a 3-2 New Ulm lead. The Eagles led 4-2 after a sac fly by Miranda Suess in the fifth.

The Tigers batted around in the sixth, though, scoring five runs on two hits, four walks and two errors.

New Ulm got one runner on base in the sixth after that on an error but couldn’t respond with any more runs as it fell into the elimination bracket.

Maddi O’Connor and Hopp each led New Ulm at the plate against the Tigers with two hits apiece.

Defeated but not undetermined, the Eagles powered back with a win over Fairmont.

Hopp had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning Fairmont got a leadoff single. Other than that one hit, Hopp walked three and struck out seven.

The Eagles scored two runs in the first, one in the second, three in the fourth and two more in the fifth for an 8-0 lead after five.

O’Connor led the New Ulm bats by going 3 for 3 with a triple, an RBI, two runs scored and two stolen bases. Suess had two RBIs and a hit also, while Maddie Backer pinch hit and had a two-run single.

“Once you get into the elimination bracket, it certainly is not comfortable, you get out of your comfort zone,” Andersen Loose said. “But I think that’s when you see the true grit. It was a hot, hot day and no doubt there was a lot of energy exerted into that first game, so I knew our second game — it’s not going to be physically as easy to put that energy into the second game.

“But they were just cool, calm and collected the second game. They were patient at the plate, they cleaned everything up and Ramsey and Emma [Brudelie] did a fantastic job coming back. [Ramsey] was throwing a no-hitter until the last inning. She really threw a gem of a game considering she came off of such a tough game with Belle Plaine.”

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