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Section 2AAA softball: Trojans come up short in Mankato

The Worthington Trojans take to the field late in the game with Mankato West in Section 2AAA softball action Thursday in Mankato. Players are (from left) Christina Shorter, Payton Sauerbrei, Aracely Vasquez, Stephanie Bauman and Haley Grimmius. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)1 / 2
Trojan Haley Grimmius (in black and gray) waits for the ball as Mankato West Scarlet Briggs Carlson (1) takes first base. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)2 / 2

MANKATO -- Vanquished, but maybe not fully defeated.

When the Worthington Trojans fast-pitch softball team prepared to leave Caswell Park in Mankato Thursday night, it had just lost its second game of the Section 2AAA tournament. Gone in just two games.

But the Trojans, this spring season, were a team that you could never fully dismiss. They reminded their fans why in their second game Thursday, against the Hutchinson Tigers.

Trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, they fought and clawed until their fans turned from resignation to optimism. After one quick out, Payton Sauerbrei was plunked on her batting helmet and the Trojans had a base runner. Haley Grimmius bounced to pitcher for a forceout at second base and WHS was down to its last out. But Sophie Wietzema, who homered over the centerfield fence in the fourth inning, drilled a ground rule double to put runners on second and third. Suddenly, the Trojans had the tying run at the plate in Sydney Ponto, who worked ball four on a wild pitch that forced the runner in from third. Next, Brittin Fauskee was nicked on her knee with a pitch, loading the bases for Christina Shorter, who grounded out to end the game.

Worthington, the No. 6 seed of the tournament, lost its opener 3-0 to third-seeded Mankato West. Though their comeback against No. 7 Hutchinson didn’t make it all the way, it didn’t take long for head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka to credit a hard-working and talented bunch of girls for an improved season.

The team, said the coach, seemed to improve noticeably not only from last year, but weekly during the 2018 campaign.

“I think our confidence grew and they realized they could play with anybody,” Hayenga-Hostikka said shortly after Thursday’s last out was made. “That says a lot for these kids. They’re not afraid to play anybody. We played some of the best teams in the state, and played them well. I told them I don’t want this program to be happy with moral victories anymore.”

And so, there were no moral victories on Thursday. Two tough losses, but that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes.

Worthington’s bats weren’t hot in Thursday’s 5 p.m. opener against Mankato West. The team collected just two hits off Scarlets pitcher Briggs Carlson, who struck out 13.

Meanwhile, West scored a single run in the fourth inning and two more in the fifth to account for the scoring.

WHS pitcher Sydney Ponto threw a good game, a smart game. She doesn’t throw as hard as many pitchers, but she throws an assortment of spins and speeds that can throw off a hitter’s timing. When she does throw it fast, she can sneak it by some batters.

In the game against Hutchinson, the Tigers struck for two runs in each of the second and third innings to take a 4-0 lead off Grimmius who, like Ponto, also went the distance in her pitching appearance. But just when you thought the Trojans might go away quietly, they came back with three runs in the bottom of the fourth -- on a one-out solo blast over the centerfield fence by Wietzema and a high two-out two-run homer by Ashlyn Rosenberg over the leftfield fence.

Hutchinson scored twice more in the fifth to take a 6-3 lead. It proved just a little bit too much for the Trojans to finish their comeback effort.

They had their chances, and prior to the seventh inning, too. In the fifth, WHS loaded the bases with one out, but a vicious line drive straight at Hutchinson relief pitcher Grace Penke was caught by her -- as a reflex -- and a Trojan runner was doubled off first base to end the threat.

Worthington also showed some defensive wizardry. In the Tigers’ half of the fifth, after having already scored twice on a two-out two-run single by Paige Telecky, they loaded the bases and threatened for more. But WHS leftfielder Aracely Vasquez made an outstanding running catch of a long fly ball in foul territory for the third out.

Quarterfinals

Worthington 000 000 0 -- 0 2 2

Mankato West 000 120 x -- 3 6 0

Loser’s bracket game

Hutchinson 022 020 0 -- 6 10 1

Worthington 4 8 4

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.

(507) 376-7328
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