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State softball: E/SWC, Pipestone Area get ready for the big tournament

It would have been a surprise to nearly everyone last week had the Wabasso Rabbits defeated Edgerton/Southwest Christian in the Section 3A high school fast-pitch softball championship. And it might have happened, too, had Flying Dutchmen catcher Jasmine Jensen not gotten the game-winning hit in the sixth inning of a 4-3 win.

E/SWC head coach Andrew Fleischman, however, preaches the one-game-at-a-time philosophy. And his players have learned never to assume anything.

“We knew that we had to fight for it,” Jensen said afterward. “It wasn’t going to be just handed to us like it was in the past.”

With the victory, Edgerton/Southwest Christian qualified for this week’s Minnesota state Class A tournament for the fifth year in a row. The Dutch will join a second area team in the state tournament, Pipestone Area, another top sectional seed slated to perform in Class AA.

Action begins Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato, with PA opening at 9 a.m. against Esko and E/SWC starting at 1 p.m. against Sebeka. The Arrows (22-2) are seeded fourth in the tournament and the Dutchmen (18-3) are seeded second.

The state tournament experience has almost become commonplace for the Dutchmen and the Arrows. Not only have the Dutchmen made it to state repeatedly in recent years, but they’ve also played well at the North Mankato complex, winning the championship in 2016 and placing second in 2017. The Arrows have won consolation championships the past two seasons.

In 2018, the assigned favorites are New York Mills in Class A and Maple Lake in Class AA.

Both teams have impressive records. New York Mills (24-1) is the defending Class A champ, coming off an 8-4 victory over Edgerton/Southwest Christian in last year’s title contest. Rhiana Roberts, who helped pitch NYM over the Dutchmen in the 2018 final, is back again.

Maple Lake (25-1) is packed with power. The Irish have slammed 45 home runs this season, and senior infielder Rachel Linsey has hit 14 all by herself.

Pipestone Area might get a shot at Maple Lake in the semifinals, but first it would have to beat Esko, which is making its third consecutive state appearance and ninth overall. The Eskomos sport a 22-4 record and are led by pitcher Emilee Wilson, who has 209 strikeouts this spring. Pipestone Area, however, can counter with its own ace, senior Shelby Bloemendaal, who threw a no-hitter and a perfect game to start the Section 3AA tournament.

Outfielder Mandi Miller leads a solid PA group of hitters with a .576 batting average.

Edgerton/Southwest Christian’s first-round opponent Thursday, Sebeka, is 16-9. The Trojans are making just their second state tournament appearance. After playing in the Section 5A championship for the third year in a row, they finally broke through with a 7-6 triumph over Pine River-Backus after trailing 6-2 in the fourth inning.

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.

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