Orono defeats Pipestone Area 4-3 in Class AA state softball championship
MANKATO -- The Pipestone Area Arrows knew defending their state championship wasn't going to be easy.
However, through the first two games of the Class AA softball tournament the Arrows handled every challenge that was thrown their way.
But in the championship game, the Orono Spartans jumped out to an early lead and held off a furious Arrow rally to defeat PA 4-3 and capture the state championship.
"When you look at the faces of the girls, it's just so happy with the way that they are feeling," Orono head coach Steve Fedie said. "I think that's really the best thing about the whole tournament. They are just overjoyed, and that makes me as an old man feel pretty good."
After advancing to the championship game with a 2-0 victory over Hermantown early Friday, the Arrows (20-5) weren't able to find enough hits in the championship game.
"There's a lot of people that would like to be in the situation we're in right now," PA head coach Troy Bouman said. "We played well today. A hit here and there makes a big difference in the game."
Chelsey Evans, who was named to the all-tournament team, suffered the loss, allowing one earned run on three while walking one and striking out nine.
"I'd be more satisfied with blue (first place medals), but they were the better team today," Evans said. "They scored the runs when they needed to and made the plays when they needed to. We just didn't get everything that we needed to get done at the right times."
In 21 innings of work, Evans allowed one earned run on 11 hits and struck out 35 hitters.
Offensively, the Arrows managed just five hits in the championship game with Bailey Bouman, who was also named to the all-tournament team, accounting for two of those hits.
"(The bats) kind of hid for a while," Bailey Bouman said. "I wish we could have played our second game yesterday. It's hard to play two games against very, very good opponents."
With Thursday night's game rained out, both teams had an early start to the day and had to win a game before seeing each other in the championship contest.
"(Orono pitcher Chelsey Durland) was a little sore after this morning's game with her legs having to throw into the wind over on the other field," Fedie said. "She's a gamer; she just comes out and does it like she has for four and a half years."
Durland allowed two earned runs while striking out seven in earning the victory.
"She threw very well; I have to give her credit," PA's Kayla Rowden said. "She hit her spots, and she gave us a run for our money."
After a scoreless first inning to start the game, the Spartans (28-1) got on the board in the second.
Durland doubled to start the inning, and Gennie Bunting put down a bunt that the Arrows were unable to field, giving Orono two runners on.
Allison Graf hit a hard ground ball that PA second baseman Nichole Merrill was able to corral and get Graf out at first, but a run scored on the play.
Leading 1-0 after two innings, Orono came back for more in the third.
With two outs, Laura Randall reached on an error, and Megan Matson was hit with a pitch. Durland then walked to load the bases and give Bunting a chance to drive in a run.
The senior outfielder hit a long fly ball to right field to clear the bases and give the Spartans a 4-0 lead.
"That's a big hit," Troy Bouman said. "We walked the other pitcher because we didn't want to let her beat us, and they came up with a big hit. The wind was blowing a little stronger, and the ball just kind of floated. If the wind isn't blowing 150 miles per hour, you never know, it might be 3-1 the other way."
Trailing 4-0 after three and a half innings, the Arrows started to make a comeback in the fourth.
Bouman singled to lead off the inning, and Evans was able to reach on a bunt.
Brooke Henderson singled to right field, and Bouman was able to score on an error by the right fielder.
"We try not to give up," Bailey Bouman said. "If we get down, we don't want to lose; we want to comeback. We never gave up, and we fought to the end, but they played a good game."
The Spartans went down in order in the fifth, and the Arrows continued their comeback. Amanda Monger walked to start the inning, and with two outs, Bouman delivered an RBI-double to score Monger and cut the deficit to 4-2.
"We had pressure every inning, and that's what we talked about," Troy Bouman said. "We had to get people on base, and I thought we hit the ball real hard after that."
Orono went down in order again in the sixth, and the Arrows added another run in the bottom of the inning.
Rowden singled, but her courtesy runner, Brooke Woelber, was forced out on Henderson's fielder's choice. Nicole Buysse walked to give the Arrows a pair of runners on base.
Steph Rudie hit into another fielder's choice, but Buysse was able to steal third later in the inning and score on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 4-3.
"We didn't know in the bottom of the sixth and the seventh if (four runs) were going to be enough or not," Fedie said. "We wished our bats would have kept on going, but their pitcher did a nice job of staying on the outside corner."
For the fourth straight inning, the Spartans went down in order in the seventh, as the Arrows had one last chance.
"It's the Pipestone way to make it kind of difficult, so coming back was kind of our thing, and I knew we didn't want to give up yet; we gave it our all," Megan VanderPoel said.
The Arrows could not get anything going in the bottom of the seventh, and fell, 4-3.
"I was real proud of the girls," Troy Bouman said. "We're down 4-0, and we fought back to 4-3 and had a chance to get a big hit here or there. You have to give them credit; they really came and played well."
With the season ending, the Arrows will lose five players to graduation.
"Most of us had a great career here, and we're lucky enough to experience so much," Rowden said. "Second place isn't bad."
R H E
Orono 013 000 0 -- 4 3 1
PA 000 111 0 -- 3 5 1
PA 2, Hermantown 0
PA's Chelsey Evans might never want to leave Caswell Park in Mankato.
Evans continued her dominance early Friday in the Class AA semifinal game as the Arrows advanced with a two-run victory.
Evans allowed no runs on four hits while walking none and striking out 14.
Her counterpart, Megan Mullen, allowed two first-inning runs and only two hits while striking out eight.
"It was a rough start for us in the first inning, doing exactly what you don't want to do in a game that you know is going to be tight," Hermantown head coach Tom Bang said. "There were good pitchers on both sides."
Julia Gilbert singled to start the game, but was forced out at second on Mullen's fielder's choice. Mullen was stranded on the base paths as the Arrows came to bat in the bottom of the first.
Bailey Bouman singled, and Evans followed with a single to give PA two runners on with no outs.
After Mullen recorded two outs, the Arrows were left with two runners in scoring position.
Nicole Buysse walked on a wild pitch that scored Bouman, and as Buysse was advancing to second, the throw from home to second allowed Brooke Henderson to score and give PA a 2-0 lead.
"I was told to get in a pickle, and we made sure the girl threw," Buysse said. "Pickle is when we stop and get in a hotbox, so that's what (assistant coach Robert Petersen) told me to do, and that's what caused the runs."
The Arrows did not have a hit after the first inning as both pitchers were in control in the final innings.
"When you get up by two runs, especially with the wind blowing in, it was going to be hard enough to score runs as it was," PA head coach Troy Bouman said. "They have a great team and a good hitting team. They out hit us, and their pitcher threw really well."
The first scoring opportunity for Hermantown came in the third inning.
Gilbert singled and later stole second to give the Hawks a runner in scoring position. However, Evans was able to strike out the final batter to end the threat.
"I think we had runners in scoring position twice, and I don't know if they had runners in scoring position after the first inning," Bang said. "It was certainly a battle."
The Hawks had another opportunity in the fourth.
Sarah Edgerton singled to start the inning, and with one out, Courtney Broten singled to give Hermantown two runners on.
However, Evans was able to record two consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.
With the wind howling, the Arrows were able to hold on in the final innings to secure the 2-0 victory.
"The wind is terrible to play in," Buysse said. "It's absolutely horrible. It's just not something that you want to play in because it's hard to judge the ball because you don't know when the big gusts are going to come."
After meeting in 2003, Bang knew the Arrows were going to be a challenge.
"Obviously, they have a good program, and Troy does a good job," Bang said. "He has a good track record as both a coach and player. You just watch Pipestone warm-up, and you know you're not going to get anything for free."
However, the Arrows were unable to carry their momentum into the final game in a second-place finish.
"I'm very proud of my teammates for at least making it back to the state tournament," VanderPoel said following the state championship game. "It's hard to repeat, and just coming together, it was awesome to make it to the state championship."
R H E
Hermantwn 000 000 0 -- 0 4 0
PA 200 000 X -- 2 2 1