Prep softball: Fairmont edges Luverne in slugfest

LUVERNE -- It wasn't the start the Luverne softball team was looking for. Playing against Fairmont in the season opener for both teams Monday, Luverne gave up seven first-inning runs. But the host Cardinals didn't give up, and came within a few f...

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AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Luverne’s Katie Kracht rips a double in the second inning of the Cardinals’ 16-15 Big South Conference loss to Fairmont Monday. Kracht finished the game 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, four RBIs and three runs scored.

LUVERNE - It wasn’t the start the Luverne softball team was looking for.
Playing against Fairmont in the season opener for both teams Monday, Luverne gave up seven first-inning runs.
But the host Cardinals didn’t give up, and came within a few feet of sending the game to extra innings. In the end, it was Fairmont that came away with a 16-15 victory.
“It was our first game, so it’s good to have one under our belt,” Luverne catcher Katie Kracht said. “We just didn’t go soon enough. Other than that, I thought it was a good first game.”
Luverne never led throughout the game, but found itself down two runs heading into the seventh inning. Mariah Aukes led off with a single, and Rylee Olson drove her in with an RBI single to bring LHS within one.
Ariel DeBeer reached on a fielder’s choice, and after a strikeout for the second out of the inning, Makayla Huisman connected on a hard-hit double. DeBeer made the turn toward home, but stumbled midway between third and home and was tagged out in a rundown to end the game.
“We had a lot of hits, hopefully we can clean it up on defense a little bit,” Kracht said. “If we have less errors, then hopefully it can be a good season.”
Offensively, DeBeer and Kracht appeared to be in midseason form. The two combined for six hits, seven runs scored and 10 RBIs.
“Me, Rylee Olson and Ariel in the middle of the lineup, we have big hitters,” Kracht said. “It’s a good start for us.”
Luverne managed a total of 13 hits, led by DeBeer and Kracht with three each and Huisman with two. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit.
“We have a pretty solid lineup right now,” Luverne head coach Kerri Baker said. “I’m pretty pleased with how our girls played tonight.”
Fairmont wasted little time getting its bats going early in the season. The visitors scored seven runs in the first and six more in the second.
“It started off and I was very happy with our bats,” Fairmont head coach Haley Loerts said. “We started off the game in the first inning up 7-0 and felt good. Then we just kind of let them creep back in the game and made it real exciting this last inning. We had a couple innings where our bats didn’t do so hot like our first inning.”
Fairmont managed a total of 21 hits in the game, but only plated three runs in the final five innings.
“I think the offensive side of things is going to be our strong suit,” Loerts said. “They are strong hitters. I want to start bringing in more of the bunting and everything like that too. I think we’re going to see lots of runs on the board.”
Fairmont’s Abby Fitzgerald, Courtney Williams and Tieryn Arens each had four hits. While Mallory Gochanour, who had a first-inning home run, and Sarah Tschumperlin each had three hits.
“They can scrap anything,” Baker said. “No matter where you pitch it, they seem to find it. They are a good hitting team, I will give them that.”
While Luverne saw itself down big after the first half inning, it didn’t give up. Zayna Hustoft reached on an error to start the bottom of the first, while Aukes and Olson each drew walks. With the bases loaded, DeBeer cleared them all with a double. Kracht drove in DeBeer with a single as Luverne was within three.
“We were all defeated,” Kracht said of the first half-inning. “But once we started getting some runs after that we knew we could come back and we did. It was so close.”
Luverne scored four more in the second. Hustoft singled and Aukes drew a walk. With one out, DeBeer drove in Hustoft. Aukes later scored on a wild pitch and Kracht drove in a run with a double. She scored on a wild pitch as LHS kept it close.
“I’ve been working on hitting a lot and really improving from last year,” Kracht said. “Catching, hopefully that will get better. I made a few errors so I’m hoping to get rid of those.”
But Kracht wasn’t done yet. After DeBeer reached on a fielder’s choice in the fourth, Kracht hit a two-run home run as LHS stayed with the visiting squad.
“I thought (the home run) was close, but after I heard my first base coach, I felt pretty good about it,” Kracht said.
Luverne scored twice more in the sixth. Aukes and Olson each reached on an error, and both scored on DeBeer’s single. After Kracht walked, Huisman drove home DeBeer and Kracht scored on Kaitlyn Roberts’ single as Luverne was within two heading into the final inning.
“It was a rough couple of innings,” Baker said. “We came back. We have a very uplifting team. They work really good and they have good team chemistry. They are very encouraging after each other.”
Fairmont (1-0) is at Worthington today, while Luverne (0-1) is at Martin County West.
“I’m definitely still looking forward to this season,” Baker said. “It’s going to be a good one.”
Fairmont 761 011 0 - 16 21 3
Luverne 440 204 1 - 15 13 4

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