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COLLEGE SOFTBALL: MW softball team competes in Irish Dome tourney

ROSEMOUNT -- G.P. Vaske is off to a great start for the Minnesota West softball team.

Vaske had six hits -- including a grand slam -- to lead the Lady Jays Friday at the Irish Dome Tournament.

MW finished 1-2, with a victory against Hibbing and losses to Central Lakes and Rainy River.

This was all coming off a trip to Florida where the Lady Jays played eight games in a six-day span against high-quality opponents.

"We told them in Florida that we're never going to see pitchers this tough, and we're never going to see batters who, one through nine, can hit the ball like these guys do down here," MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka said. "I think that showed (Friday). Against Hibbing we got out right away and eight-run ruled someone, so it was kind of good to be on the flip side of that.

"I think they saw that now we're playing in our league, we can compete with all these teams here."

Despite a tough trip to Cocoa Beach, Fla., the Lady Jays had an opportunity to get some on-field experience which helped them Friday.

"We had a couple of chances to get on the field and practice as well, so it was the first time we're even touching dirt," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "Instead of taking a grounder off the hard gym floor, it's a good chance to get down there and get in live situations and catch a fly ball off the blue sky instead of between light fixtures and batting cages."

Even though the games didn't turn out the way Hayenga-Hostikka hoped, the team still had a good experience.

"It's a good team thing where we could go down and spend those days together and work on a lot of things," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "It was kind of cool this year because we had six kids who had never even flown before. To get to do something like that as a team is a pretty neat thing."

In their first game of the day Friday -- at 7 a.m. -- the Lady Jays were trailing 6-4 heading into the fifth inning against Hibbing.

From there, MW exploded for 10 runs -- aided by Vaske's grand slam -- en route to a 14-6 victory.

Melanie Anderson earned the victory in the circle for the Lady Jays. She threw all five innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out two.

Ashley Kirk had three hits, including a triple, scored three times and had two stolen bases.

Vaske scored twice and drove in five, while Rachel Pavelko walked three times, scored four runs and stole three bases.

While the Lady Jays had a big inning that gave them the victory against Hibbing, Central Lakes did the exact same thing to MW in the second game of the day.

The Raiders scored 11 runs in the seventh inning en route to a 19-2 victory.

"Central Lakes has been in the national tournament the last three or four years, so they are a perennial powerhouse as well," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "We played right with them, we just had a disaster inning in the seventh where the wheels kind of fell off."

Vaske had two doubles to lead the way for MW, while Amanda Meyer scored a run off Lydia Mick's RBI double.

In a close game the entire way, MW had an early lead, but couldn't hold off a Rainy River charge in a 4-2 loss.

Anderson took the loss, allowing four earned runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out four.

Pavelko had two hits for the Lady Jays, who struck out 12 times as a team.

Vaske added two doubles and an RBI in the loss.

MW travels to Rochester March 30.

Game 1 R H E

Hibbing 0 1 2 3 0 -- 6 8 5

MW 1 1 2 0 (10) -- 14 9 5

Game 2 R H E

CL 2 4 0 0 0 2 (11) -- 19 21 0

MW 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 -- 2 8 7

Game 3 R H E

MW 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 -- 2 6 2

RR 0 0 0 2 2 0 X -- 4 8 2