State Class A softball: E/SWC to play for third place
NORTH MANKATO — Errors can make all the difference.
That tough loss came after they defeated Kenyon-Wanamingo 4-0 in the quarterfinals to begin the day.
Aside from those two innings, E/SWC was as strong as ever defensively.
“I think we bounced back well,” Flying Dutchmen coach Andrew Fleischman said. “I think we came out ready and weren’t intimidated or anything like that. We came out and, for the most part, played well. When you get to this stage in the game, every team’s good so you can play a great game but a mistake or a missed opportunity can come back to bite you.”
NLA — which was making its ninth consecutive appearance at state while E/SWC was on the big stage for the first time ever — took advantage of some uncharacteristic Flying Dutchmen struggles to take the lead in the top of the first. Chloe Westlund worked a leadoff walk and, after an infield single, gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead on a trio of E/SWC errors — two physical, one mental.
Another Flying Dutchmen miscue gave the Tigers a baserunner in the second, but after that pitcher Tianna Top and the E/SWC defense went to work. They retired 11 straight batters — not allowing a runner between the second and sixth innings — to stay within striking distance.
Unfortunately for E/SWC, NLA pitcher Valerie Holol was dealing as well.
The Flying Dutchmen had just one hit through the first four innings before stringing together their first threat in the fifth. Kameron Kroh reached on a one-out single and, with two outs, Courtney Jouwstra snuck one through the right side. Kroh showed some smart baserunning and took third, with Jouwstra moving up on the throw to give E/SWC runners on second and third with two outs.
Holol picked up her third strikeout of the inning, however, and the opportunity ended without issue.
“We had opportunities and we didn’t capitalize,” Fleischman said. “They came through. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the other team. They’re a great team but I thought our girls represented themselves really well also.”
The Tigers strung together three hits in the sixth to plate their second run of the night before two more of E/SWC’s five errors in the game resulted in another unearned run in the seventh.
Top took the loss, finishing the second game of the day with one earned run allowed on five hits and three strikeouts over seven innings of work. Holol surrendered only four hits while fanning 10 for the win.
Kroh finished the nightcap 2-for-3 while Breanna Nelson and Jouwstra all had a single each for the Flying Dutchmen.
The fifth inning of the quarterfinal belonged to E/SWC.
Top and Kailee Berquam of K-W were locked in an intense pitcher’s duel throughout. That is, until the bottom of the fifth. That’s when the E/SWC bats finally broke free to plate four runs on their way to a 4-0 victory.
“Once we get one hit it kind of gets everyone excited,” Flying Dutchmen freshman Jenny Nelson said. “That’s when everyone else just kind of thinks they can hit it, too.”
Threats were far and few between early on. When E/SWC came to bat in the fifth, it had just one hit and had put just two runners on through the first three innings. But, back-to-back walks to Jordyn Smidt and Jouwstra with one out seemed to breathe new life into the lineup.
As rain began to fall harder, the Flying Dutchmen started to provide some lightning at the plate. Hope Veldkamp drove in the first run of the ballgame when she snuck a single up the middle to send Smidt home from second. Savanah Tinklenburg followed her with another single and, after Jouwstra had crossed home a passed ball, Veldkamp made it 3-0 with a run on Tinklenburg’s single.
That’s when Jenny Nelson came through with the big hit of the inning. With Tinklenburg still on first, she cracked a double to deep right-center, plating the fourth and final run of the ballgame.
“When I first stepped up I was pretty nervous,” Nelson said. “I just tried to calm myself down. I got a pitch I liked and once it hit the bat it just felt really good.”
K-W put two runners on in the top of the seventh to threaten just one last time, ending a stretch of eight straight batters retired by Top. The junior hurler was able to induce a lazy flyball to second, however, to end the threat and the ballgame.
Top picked up the win, going all seven innings and allowing no runs on six hits while striking out four and walking two. Berquam took the loss, surrendering four earned runs on four hits, striking out six and walking five.
“Our defense was phenomenal and that really kept us in the game,” Fleischman said. “Tianna seemed to get stronger as the game went on.”
Tinklenburg led the E/SWC effort at the plate, going 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Jenny Nelson was 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI while Veldkamp was 1-for-3 with an RBI.
The Flying Dutchmen still have a chance to take third place in their first trip to the state tournament. They’ll play Cherry for that distinction at 11 a.m. today at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of our girls,” Fleischman said. “At this stage, you’re down to the final four in the state and everybody’s very, very good. We just want to capitalize on our opportunities and make plays. But really, it’s just one more day for us to play in front of these great fans that came here to support us and play at this beautiful facility.”
R H E
K-W 000 000 0 – 0 6 0
E/SWC 000 040 x – 4 4 1
R H E
NLA 100 001 1 – 3 5 0
E/SWC 000 000 0 – 0 4 5