Arrows downed in softball semis; will play for third place
NORTH MANKATO -- The Maple Lake Irish came into the 2018 Minnesota state Class AA softball tournament with a reputation for power hitting.
The Irish demonstrated why Thursday in their semifinal game against Pipestone Area, banging a two-run home run in the second inning at Caswell Park in North Mankato and adding a grand slam in a seven-run third inning.
The Arrows didn’t quit, answering with two runs in the bottom of the third inning after falling behind 9-0. But they were unable to come back all the way. It’s not easy to do that against the No. 1 seed, and PA finished on the wrong end of a 12-3 score.
The Section 3AA champs will play for third place today (Friday) at 11 a.m. against Annandale.
Already, the Arrows will achieve better than they did in their last two state tournaments, where they won consolation titles in both 2016 and 2017. They wanted more than that after winning their first-round game 4-1 over Esko earlier on Thursday. But head coach Troy Bouman said the team will be ready this morning.
“I’m glad we didn’t die. And we didn’t want to do that,” Bouman said after the Maple Lake loss. “We didn’t want to go out there and die. … Everybody comes up here wanting to win a tournament. Now it’s to finish the season on a win. And try to figure out a way to get the win.”
The hard-hitting Irish did something very few opponents are able to do against PA starting pitcher Shelby Bloemendaal, who checked Esko on two hits while striking out 12 earlier Thursday. The Irish scored -- and in bunches. Olivia Paumen belted a two-run homer over the left-centerfield fence in the second inning, and Calli Maki slammed a grand slam over the same part of the field in the third.
Pipestone Area, rather than wilting, got mad in the bottom of the third. It was Bloemendaal who answered with a two-run homer of her own.
The Arrows scored a single run in the fifth to make the score 9-3. That was as close as they got. They left the bases loaded in the fifth, and loaded them again in the sixth. But in the sixth they stranded those three runners without getting any of them home.
Maple Lake, on the other hand, collected 22 hits for the game off Bloemendaal and reliever Adrianna Johnson, who came on to start the fourth inning.
“We had our opportunities to get ourselves out of innings, and we didn’t do that,” said Bouman, recalling a couple of times PA didn’t make the plays in the field. “And they had opportunities to get out of innings, and they got out of those innings.”
Pipestone Area’s outstanding junior hitter, Mandi Miller, gave credit to Maple Lake.
“They just hit the ball good. We just gotta do better in the field, do things right,” she said. “It’s time to go. It’s time to get ourselves together. Keep fighting.”
Maple Lake 027 002 1 -- 12 22 3
Pipestone Area 002 010 0 -- 3 6 1