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Prep softball: Pipestone Area sweeps E/SWC in battle of state-ranked teams

PIPESTONE -- It was just another of those regular season showdowns between two of the best prep softball teams in the state.And just like last year, the Pipestone Area Arrows beat the Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen twice on Monday -...

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Edgerton/SW MN Christian catcher Jenny Nelson a bunt bunt by Pipestone Area's Rachel Skyberg and throws to first in the Arrows victory in Pipestone on Monday. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

PIPESTONE -- It was just another of those regular season showdowns between two of the best prep softball teams in the state.
And just like last year, the Pipestone Area Arrows beat the Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen twice on Monday -- the first game easily, 12-3, and the second game in come-from behind fashion, 5-2.
Pipestone Area, the second-ranked team in Minnesota Class AA, improved to 15-0 on the spring season as they sunk E/SWC, the second-ranked team in Class A, to 12-3.
For a while, though, it looked like the Dutchmen were on target for a split. Ace pitcher Liz Buckridge faced the minimum number of Arrow hitters through the first three innings of Game Two. But the Arrows, trailing 2-0 to begin the bottom of the fourth, got a lead-off line drive single to left field from senior third-baseman Taylor Nesvold. When it scooted below the Dutchmen’s left fielder, Nesvold motored into third base standing up.
“I was just focused at starting us off, just doing my job and getting on base,” she recalled of the hit. “Usually when I get on base, everything seems to go OK.”
The hit was indeed an energizer for the Arrows, who scored three times in the inning. Nesvold had to hold third when the next two hitters popped out to shallow centerfield and to shortstop. But the next hitter, Logan Winter, singled past third to plate a run. Shelby Bloemendaal followed with a double to leftfield. The third run came home on a dropped fly ball to right-center field.
Errors and mental mistakes hurt the Dutch in the first game, especially, as the home-town Arrows scored three runs in the first, four in the second and two in the third to take a commanding 9-0 lead. In the two games total, E/SWC committed seven errors -- far too many for the defending Class A state champions who hope to defend their crown later this season.
Edgerton/Southwest Christian was able to rebound in 2016 after dropping a mid-season doubleheader to PA 10-0 and 11-4. So after Monday’s setbacks, head coach Andrew Fleischman said his response will be to make sure his team learns from it.
“We’re just going to let this simmer a while. You gotta give (Pipestone Area) credit, but there were a lot of things we didn’t do our best at today. We’ve got a lot of things we need to improve on,” he said.
“No one likes to make ‘em (the errors),” he continued. “And Pipestone puts pressure on you. And unfortunately, the mistakes were very, very costly. And we don’t need to tell the girls that. They know that.”
In the Game One pitching matchup between Buckridge and Pipestone Area ace Bloemendaal, the Dutch never had a chance. Six hits in the first two innings, and some shaky E/SWC fielding, helped the home team pull away.
But E/SWC managed a couple of highlights. In the fourth inning, following a one-out double by Buckridge, hard-hitting catcher Jenny Nelson belted a two-run home run. In the fifth, teammate Liz Prins slugged a lead-off homer over the left field fence.
PA out-hit E/SWC 12-6 in the opener. Bloemendaal had three hits for herself while Nesvold, Winter and Kirsten Houg each had two.
In Game Two, Edgerton/Southwest Christian broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the third, highlighted by an infield single by Jaidyn Henstra, a single by Buckridge and a double to right-center field by Nelson.
But when the Arrows answered with three in the fourth, they never looked back. Two insurance runs were scored in the fifth, the big hit a double by Mandi Miller.
E/SWC had a mini-rally going in the seventh, putting runners on first and second base with two out. The game ended as Buckridge sent a hard-hit ball to the right of shortstop Skyberg, who dove to catch it and flip it to third for a force.
If Skyberg hadn’t made that play, the Dutchmen would have had a legitimate rally going. But ifs don’t count in softball.
Tiffany Evans was the winning pitcher. Buckridge took the loss.
The two wins, said Nesvold, “kind of proves that we can stick with anyone.”
She was asked to compare this year’s PA team with last year’s team that lost just one game and placed fifth in the state Class AA tourney.
“I’d say it’s pretty even,” she answered. “I’d like to say we’re getting to the point where we need to be, so we can get to the state tournament and, hopefully, do a little better than we did last year.”
Head PA coach Troy Bouman, who recently earned his 400th career victory, said his team is coming along in a comfortable fashion.
“I think we’re starting to hit the ball better than we did all year long,” he maintained, then turning to the same question Nesvold was asked. “We’re getting better. We’re not where we were last year. But we’re getting better.”
E/SWC 000 210 0 -- 3 6 4
Pipestone Area 342 201 x -- 12 12 0
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E/SWC 002 000 0 -- 2 7 3
Pipestone Area 000 320 x -- 5 8 0

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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