Hopp fans 14, Eagles hold off Tigers

New Ulm moves on to Section 2AAA finals

Staff photo by Ari Selvey New Ulm’s Ramsey Hopp is embraced by teammate Berkley Wilfahrt after her 14-strikeout game against Marshall in a Section 2AAA Softball Tournament game on Tuesday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

NORTH MANKATO — In the bottom of the first inning, No. 1 New Ulm’s Ramsey Hopp grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Maddie Backer to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead over No. 4 Marshall in the Section 2AAA Softball Tournament elimination bracket finals at Caswell Park.

That ended up being the only run the Eagles needed Tuesday as they took that 1-0 lead seven innings to defeat the Tigers and move on to the Section 2AAA Softball Tournament finals against No. 2 Mankato East on Thursday.

“One run is kind of a big deal with these guys,” New Ulm head coach Kristi Andersen Loose said. “Any runner we get on is absolutely gold. Statistically if we get a leadoff runner on these guys, we’ve scored every single time, so I knew we had to get the run in.”

The win marks the fourth time this year that New Ulm has defeated Marshall, though none of the meetings were decided by more than three runs, and both of their matches in the playoffs were 1-0 games.

Andersen Loose complemented the Marshall pitcher, Morgan Bjella, saying that she was a tough matchup for the Eagles’ hitters and always made them hit worse than they were capable of.

“She does a phenomenal job of keeping us challenged at the plate,” she said. “The girls have continued to work and work to try and figure out how to become themselves at the plate again, because they’re certainly better hitters than [Bjella] allows them to be. But she’s just a good pitcher, and sometimes you just have to eke a run across the board in any way that you can.”

Schaefer had a no-hitter in the loss, walking two and allowing one earned run.

But Marshall had an equally tough time getting on base, as Hopp had one of her best appearances of the season in the circle. Hopp struck out 14 and allowed only one hit and two walks, never allowing a runner past first base.

“Ramsey really got completely refocused,” Andersen Loose said. “She didn’t have her best outing on [a 10-0 loss to Mankato East] Saturday, and she felt it and knew it. We were very transparent, we talked about it, and Ramsey knew that she could come back. I said she’d come back, she said she’d come back, and we just knew that she’d come back a different kid today and she did. She really did a fantastic job of keeping those Marshall hitters at bay.”

Halla Casavan picked up the Tigers’ lone hit of the game in the fourth.

Hopp was especially dominant early on, striking out eight of the first nine batters she faced. After Backer scored in the first, Schaefer and the Marshall defense locked down the New Ulm offense as well, retiring nine straight Eagles, five by strikeout.

As the game neared its conclusion, Hopp had some help from her defense, such as a snag by shortstop Lauren Schmiesing in the sixth, where she backhanded a quick grounder from Brielle Riess before throwing her out at first. Berkeley Wilfahrt also had a good play at third in the seventh, grabbing a hard-hit ball down the foul line before getting the out at first as well. Hopp got a strikeout for the final out of the seventh inning, an appropriate end to a ballgame headlined by the pitching.

New Ulm now heads for a rematch against Mankato East. The Eagles defeated the Cougars 4-2 on April 15, but fell 10-0 in five innings to them on Saturday. New Ulm is now faced with the challenge of winning twice against the Cougars, who are ranked seventh statewide in Class AAA by the Minnesota High School Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association.

The Eagles will need to defeat Mankato East in the 5 p.m. game to trigger a final deciding game that night with a trip to state on the line. Mankato East needs just one win to go back to state after winning the Class AAA state title last year.

“The last time that we played them, it was an emotional week,” Anderson Loose said. “It was graduation, the first game we played against Marshall was mentally exhausting. It was a real tough game. It takes a bunch out of the girls when you’re in it all the way to the last play. Then you roll into the next game, and we didn’t bring our best stuff that game. We’ll be OK, we just have to come back bigger, better and rechannel what we’ve been doing all season.”


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