Eagles fall to Giants in 11 innings
NORTH MANKATO — Top-seeded New Ulm had an uphill battle this week after falling into the elimination bracket last Saturday.
The Eagles answered that challenge with a win over St. James Area and Belle Plaine on Tuesday to make it to Thursday’s Section 2AA softball finals with second-seeded Le Sueur-Henderson.
While the Eagles didn’t make things easy on LSH on Thursday, the Giants were able to pull out a 7-6 marathon win in 11 innings.
Trailing 4-3 in the top of the sixth, Maddi O’Connor unloaded the bases with a three-run double to put New Ulm ahead 6-4. The Giants got those two runs back with a run in the sixth and one in the seventh to force extra innings.
After several scoreless innings and a few missed opportunities on both ends, the Giants got a two-out single from Samantha Wilbright before Chloe Brandt was walked intentionally. Morgan Gregersen then had a sharp single to right to bring home Wilbright and send the Giants on to state next week.
Despite the tough extra-inning loss to end the season, Eagles head coach Kristi Andersen Loose was proud of how hard the team battled all season.
“They’ve just had that never-give-up mentality all season,” Andersen Loose said. “To be better than yesterday was always what they pushed for, whether it was yesterday or the last at bat or the last inning. There was always a chance to make something better or make it right, whether it was practice or in games. And they just put their heart into this game, which is exactly what I want them to do, but, gosh, it’s hard when you get your heart crushed like that.”
The Eagles started the game with a quick 3-0 lead, taking a 1-0 run in the first after an error and a 3-0 lead in the second after an RBI double from Anna Lee and another LSH error.
LSH got two runs back in the bottom of the second and tied it in the fourth before taking a 4-3 lead in the fifth on an error.
Ramsey Hopp took the loss in all 11 innings, collecting eight strikeouts and giving up 11 hits.
Hopp just finished her freshman year, however, and Andersen Loose said that she was proud of how Hopp played all year.
“Ramsey just has a great head on her shoulders,” Andersen Loose said. “She gets this game incredibly well and plays under pressure incredibly well. Everyone knows that it’s always a team effort and the game is so long, especially when you go 11. Now all the sudden you have so many outs and so many opportunities that it never comes down to just one moment, it’s a combination of everything, and that’s why it’s such a beautiful sport. It’s that team-sport mentality and you’ve got to have everybody with you clicking on all cylinders, it just wasn’t our day today.”
Lee led the Eagles at the plate on Thursday, going 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
The Eagles graduate four key starters from the team this year in shortstop O’Connor, second baseman Lee, catcher Emma Brudelie and first baseman/pitcher Miranda Suess. Andersen Loose called them the heartbeat of the team and said that the group made it easy to play for them.