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State Class A softball: E/SWC set to open state tourney

EDGERTON — In assessing Edgerton/Southwest Christian’s first-round opponent at the state Class A girls’ fast-pitch softball tournament, head coach Andrew Fleischman dismisses any hint of overconfidence.

“What I tell my girls, at this stage of the game, every team’s gonna have a good pitcher, and every team is gonna be tough,” he said as the Flying Dutchmen prepared to play Kenyon-Wanamingo in the first round today (June 5, 1 p.m.) at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

Numbers don’t always tell the truth in sports. But in today’s matchup, they would appear to favor E/SWC.

The Knights, champions of Section 1, have a 13-12 record. The Dutchmen, champions of Section 3, are 20-4.

The Knights have outscored opponents 108-81 this year. The Dutchmen have outscored opponents 217-64.

The Knights’ top pitcher is senior Kailee Berquam, who is 11-11 with a 1.95 earned run average. The Dutchmen’s top pitcher is Tianna Top, who is 19-3 with a 1.66 earned run average.

Today marks the first state softball tournament appearance in both schools’ history. The Dutchmen, said Fleischman, are pumped.

“We practiced today (Tuesday) in the rain,” he said. “And they were really excited about it.”

Top, a junior, has what Fleischman calls a “perfect disposition for being a pitcher.”

Not only is she very talented, says the coach, she also has her emotions on an even keel.

“I think the most we’ve gotten out of her is a couple of fist pumps,” he said.

In 135 innings, Top has struck out 147 batters. And she has walked only eight. She throws a drop ball, a fastball, a curve and a change-up.

This year, Fleischman said, his ace pitcher has become a much better hitter. Not that the Flying Dutchmen are hurting for hitters, mind you.

Freshman Jenny Nelson is hitting .506. Junior Tanner Gunnink bats .482. Junior Savanah Tinklenberg and sophomore Hope Veldkamp are also sporting sterling averages.

“I think what makes us a little bit unique is that one through nine we have good hitters,” Fleischman said.

To prove his point, he testified that his No. 9 hitter, Courtney Jouwstra, has driven in nine runs in a game.

The Knights, of course, have good hitters, too. Berquam has a team-high .354 batting average. Junior Ellyn Beulke has three home runs and a team-high 18 RBIs.

The winner of today’s 1 p.m. game will play in the semifinals today at 7 p.m. The loser moves to a 7 p.m. consolation bracket game.

The championship game is 2 p.m. Friday.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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