Eagles down Cardinals in Big South title game

Staff photo by Travis Rosenau New Ulm senior Amber Lee claps at second base after a double in New Ulm’s Big South Conference title game with Luverne on Saturday at New Ulm High School.

NEW ULM — The Big South Conference belongs to the New Ulm Eagles.

Despite a Luverne comeback bid in the middle innings on Saturday afternoon, the Eagles answered back with five runs to fly away from the Cardinals with a 10-4 win in the Big South Conference Softball Championship at New Ulm High School.

Despite allowing four runs, three in the fourth and one in the fifth, Eagles pitcher Ramsey Hopp was picked up by her teammates on offense, allowing her to settle in.

She ended up retiring the last seven Luverne batters all on strikeouts and finished the complete-game win allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out 14.

Eagles head coach Kristie Andersen Loose celebrated her four seniors during their final home game of the season with a meeting at second base before subbing them out with two outs in the top of the seventh. The seniors, catcher Natalie Bianchi, left fielder Amber Lee, pitcher/first baseman Abby Rathmann and right fielder Gracie Linbo, played a key role in leading New Ulm, No. 2 in the state at Class AAA, to the conference title.

The Eagles will begin Section 2AAA playoffs with a bye as the No. 1 seed and will first play the play-in tournament winner at 10 a.m. Saturday at Caswell Park in North Mankato. The play-in tournament features No. 4 Marshall, No. 7 Worthington, No. 5 St. Peter and No. 6 Albert Lea. Mankato East got the No. 2 seed in the tournament and will play No. 3 Mankato West at 10 a.m. Saturday morning at Caswell Park.

Lee led the Eagles at the plate in the win, going 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs.

“I think a lot of it comes down to having my teammates behind me and knowing that they are going to cheer for me no matter what,” Lee said. “They give me the confidence to go out there and believe I’m going to get a hit every time.”

The only time Lee didn’t get a hit Saturday was when she hit the ball to deep right for a sacrifice fly in the fifth that scored pinch runner Addison Hage from third for a 6-4 lead.

Sophomore Lauren Schmiesing also had three hits on the day for New Ulm, finishing 3 for 4 with three RBIs. The Eagles got a hit from eight different players in the win.

New Ulm took an early 4-0 lead in the first on four hits and an error that led to four unearned runs off starting pitcher Gracie Nath, who finished the loss allowing five earned runs in six innings on 12 hits and three walks. She struck out one.

In that first inning, Maddie Backer doubled off the fence in center field before a groundout brought Hopp to the plate. After Backer swiped third, Hopp reached on a throwing error that also scored Backer for a 1-0 lead.

A pop out was followed by a walk to Bianchi, who was ran for by Hage, before Schmiesing singled in another two runs. Lee reached on an infield single and Rathmann singled up the middle to drive in Schmiesing for a 4-0 lead.

The Eagles added another run in the third after Lee doubled home Schmiesing. Luverne put three runs on the board to trail 5-3 in the fourth after an RBI single from Torie Serie and a two-run double from Amira Cowell.

The Cardinals then got one more run in the fifth on an RBI single up the middle by Ella Reisdorfer.

After Lee’s sac fly got a run back in the bottom of the fifth, the Eagles offense came to life in a six-hit sixth inning. Berkley Wilfahrt led off with a single and stole second and third. Backer was called out for the first out after her attempted bunted saw the ball hitting her leg out of the box.

Kenzie Enter then singled in Wilfahrt before Hopp reached on an infield single. A groundout had Luverne one out away from escaping the inning, but Bianchi’s two-run single to right-center kept it going and gave New Ulm a 9-5 lead.

“It’s really big for us,” Bianchi said of the conference title win. “We knew we had to get a job done, we weren’t just going to be able to slide by these guys.”

Schmiesing singled in pinch runner Hage before Lee collected another hit on a single for the sixth hit of the inning.

While Lee bats from the No. 7 spot, the Eagles’ lineup isn’t short on quality hitters.

“I’m good with where I’m at because I know the hitters ahead of me can all get hits just as well as the hitters below me,” Lee said. “I think the lineup is super, super even and has a lot of balance. Each person in the lineup can get a hit.”

New Ulm is now 17-3 on the year, while Luverne fell to 16-5.

Editor’s note: An extended story will be published in Tuesday’s issue of The Journal and updated online Tuesday.


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