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College softball: Kazemba helps Minnesota West to split

TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West’s Tanner Gunnink (34) takes off for first base after bunting during the Lady Jays’ home split with M State-Fergus Falls Saturday.1 / 2
TIM MIDDAGH/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West pitcher Tayler Wasmund winds into her pitch during the first game of the Lady Jays' doubleheader against M State Saturday.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Rebecca Kazemba was a tough out on Saturday.

In fact, it was nearly impossible to keep the sophomore on Minnesota West’s softball team off the bases.

Kazemba was 6-for-7 at the plate as the Lady Jays earned a split with M State-Fergus Falls. If that wasn’t enough, Kazemba was also the winning pitcher in Game 2.

“I thought we did pretty good today,” Kazemba said. “It was a good way to start our home games.”

The Spartans won the first game Saturday 5-2, but the Lady Jays rallied for an 8-7 win in the nightcap.

“I think we just stayed up and had a positive attitude,” Kazemba said. “We didn’t let that first loss get us down.”

The weather wasn’t ideal for a softball game, with the temperatures in the mid-30s and a howling wind that made it feel even colder.

“I think the weather played a big factor,” West head coach Jeff Linder said. “I think mentally, the cold temperatures got to both teams. It improved quite a bit later, but it was still a factor. After you get chilled, you’re chilled. When you hit the bat on the ball, it just rattles your hands and it hurts. Then you have to keep going back out in the wind, especially the outfielders were really exposed.”

Game 1

Through four scoreless innings, both pitchers were cruising along in the first game.

Minnesota West’s Tayler Wasmud had struck out four and allowed only three hits through the first four innings. Her counterpart, Kayla Pring, had notched five strikeouts and surrendered four hits.

However, the later innings made all the difference.

Jordan Hill led off the fifth with a walk for the Spartans, and with two outs, she was knocked home by Amber Boese’s double. Boese scored on a single by Ally Jensen as Fergus Falls led 2-0. The visiting team added one more in the sixth as Pring doubled and later scored on Kaci Walvatne’s sacrifice fly.

The Lady Jays finally got on the board in the sixth. Kazemba led off with a single and, after a sacrifice by Breanna Nelson, Rebecca Linder drove her home with an RBI triple. She scored on Tanner Gunnink’s single to get West within a run, 3-2.

But Fergus Falls added two more in the seventh on a two-run home run by Pring as the Spartans took the first game.

“We needed to put more runs together and we needed to put more hits together,” coach Linder said. “We just couldn’t do that. Taylor pitched an outstanding game, we just couldn’t get the timely hitting.”

Game 2

The Lady Jays’ bats came alive in the second game.

“The batters in the lower end needed to come through a little bit and they did at the right time,” coach Linder said. “There were timely hits when we needed them. We ended up tying them and going ahead and keeping it there a little bit. But then we gave it up and went back ahead. It was key for us. They put a little pressure on us at the end of the game, but Rebecca pitched well and the defense finished strong.”

West managed 13 hits in the second game, and eight of the nine starters had at least one hit.

“Our bats were alive (in Game 1), but they just hit to the wrong spots. In the second game, we just poked some through,” Kazemba said.

Fergus Falls put two on the board right away in the top of the first inning, but it didn’t take the home team long to respond. Nelson started the rally with a double and Olivia Hopwood followed with a single. They were both plated on Rebecca Linder’s double.

The Lady Jays added another run in the third following the same blueprint. Kazemba led off the inning with a single and Rebecca Linder knocked her home, giving them a 3-2 lead.

In the fourth, Rachael Evans led off with a single, and after Taylor Noid reached on a single, Kazemaba drove them both home with a double. That gave West a 5-2 advantage. However, the Spartans plated four runs in the fifth to take the lead back, 6-5.

Not to be denied, Minnesota West scored two in the bottom of the fifth. Rebecca Linder reached on a strikeout and scored on Wasmund’s double. Wasmund scored on Maer Abella’s single as West led 7-6.

Hopwood led off the sixth with a walk and scored on an error to give the home team an insurance run.

Amy Benson led off FF’s seventh with a double and later scored, bringing the teams within a run. Nicole Anderson singled and with two outs, represented the tying run on third base.

“I knew we were good,” Kazemba said. “I knew we had it. I had confidence in us. I was just throwing a strike and getting it done.”

Kazemba struck out the final batter of the game, preserving the victory.

“I really needed that after our last game in the dome,” Kazemba said. “I couldn’t pitch at all, so I really needed this to boost me. It was interesting working against the wind.”

Kazemba finished the day with six hits, two runs scored and two RBI. Rebecca Linder had four hits and drove in four runs in the doubleheader.

“Those two sophomores did a great job for us and they are great leaders,” coach Linder said. “They’ve had their ups and down. But we need those two to lead by example like they did today. They hit the ball well and we needed them bad today, both Rebecca pitching and Becca catching. We needed their sticks today.”

The Lady Jays are 3-4 overall and 2-2 in division play. They will be home Tuesday against Ridgewater.

“We needed this,” Kazemba said. “I think it gives us more confidence going into the season.”

R H E

Fergus Falls 000 021 2 — 5 9 1

Minnesota West 000 002 0 — 2 7 1

R H E

Fergus Falls 200 040 1 — 7 11 2

Minnesota West 201 221 x — 8 13 3