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High school softball: E/SWC survives scare to advance in 3A tournament

COTTONWOOD -- Softball fans who took it as a given that the Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen are destined this year to play in the Minnesota state tournament might have forgotten that they're not the only powerhouse in Section 3A.The ...

COTTONWOOD -- Softball fans who took it as a given that the Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen are destined this year to play in the Minnesota state tournament might have forgotten that they’re not the only powerhouse in Section 3A.
The Dutchmen, ranked No. 4 in Minnesota Class A and coming off a 2016 state tournament run where they outscored three opponents 35-2 en route to the title, survived a scare Saturday.
In the Section 3A tourney, after clobbering BOLD 20-2 in four innings in the winners bracket semifinals in Cottonwood, the Dutch faced an outstanding Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg squad ranked just one spot below them at No. 5 in the state. The Fighting Saints, top-seeded in the north half of the section, looked like they deserved their ranking.
Edgerton/Southwest Christian, as it turned out, scored the game’s winning run in the top of the seventh inning as Gabby Buckridge singled, pinch runner Jessa Nibbelink stole second base, and Liz Buckridge hit a two-out line drive single between left and center field to plate her.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Saints put runners on second third base with nobody out. One scored, but the tying run was stranded on third.
“We just knew it would be a different type of game,” said E/SWC head coach Andrew Fleischman, who’s used to winning by big margins. “We played very well in the field and limited them.”
E/SWC and K-M-S may have to play each other later for the section championship. Today in Cottonwood at 4 p.m., BOLD and Wabasso contend in the losers bracket, and the winner of that game plays K-M-S at 5:30 for the right to face E/SWC. The championship game is June 1 at 4 p.m. in Cottonwood. A second game will be played at 5:30 p.m. if necessary.
Two outstanding pitchers went head-to-head in the E/SWC/K-M-S clash. The Dutchmen threw Liz Buckridge, who hurled the full seven and struck out five batters. The Saints went with Sam Gjerde, a good strikeout pitcher who allowed nine hits while striking out only one.
“We had a lot of fly-outs. A lot of easy plays for them,” said Fleischman, who in spite of that was pleased that his team played solid defense throughout.
“We haven’t played in a lot of games that came down right to the end. For us to make plays down the stretch, that was awesome. But we know we’ll have to do it again.”
Meanwhile, Pipestone Area had a much easier time than the Dutchmen in the Section 3AA tournament. In their first game on Saturday in Marshall, the Arrows rolled past New London-Spicer 14-4 in six innings to set up a date with Martin County West, which the Arrows won 10-3.
Martin County West, which went eight innings to edge Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta 8-7 in its previous game Saturday, will await the winner of today’s 5 p.m. contest (at Marshall) between Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta and New London-Spicer in a 6:30 p.m. start today at Marshall. The winner of that game will square off with Pipestone Area at 5 p.m. June 1 in Marshall.
If Pipestone Area loses that game, another game will be played at 6:30 p.m. to decide who qualifies for state.
PA is rated No. 3 in Class AA.
Mountain Lake Area/Comfrey’s run in the Section 2A tournament came to an end Saturday. The Wolverines lost 6-0 to Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s at Caswell Park in North Mankato, then lost 5-4 to Nicollet in the losers bracket.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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