State Class A softball: E/SWC dominates state tournament
DOUG WOLTERdwolter@dglobe.com NORTH MANKATO -- If there was a single moment in the state Class A fast-pitch championship that encapsulated the spirit of the Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen, it might have occurred in the very opening ...
NORTH MANKATO - If there was a single moment in the state Class A fast-pitch championship that encapsulated the spirit of the Edgerton/Southwest Christian Flying Dutchmen, it might have occurred in the very opening bell of the title game.
E/SWC’s lead-off hitter, Hope Veldcamp, struck the very first pitch of the game Friday afternoon for a hard line-drive single down the third base line, and the Dutchmen were off and running.
In the 2016 state tourney, the Dutch wasted no time, took no prisoners, and put an exclamation point on their claim as the best Class A softball team in the state of Minnesota.
They won their first game Thursday at Caswell Park in North Mankato by an 11-0 score over Pine River-Backus in five innings. They won their next game later Thursday by a 12-2 six-inning shellacking over Cherry. And in the finals on Friday - sandwiched between a major storm that suspended the game for hours - they rolled past Badger/Greenbush-Middle River 12-0.
In five innings, the third straight game cut short by the 10-run rule.
For a team that struggled noticeably in the middle of the regular season, the Flying Dutchmen dominated at the end. Head coach Andrew Fleischman almost predicted as much, choosing not to worry over his team’s midseason slump. Many players from the 2015 state tournament team graduated in the offseason, he reminded nervous fans, and he said it was probably only a matter of time before the new group mingled with the old to form an excellent team.
He was right, indeed.
“We just peaked at the right time,” Fleischman said. “Just a testament to how hard the girls worked and how much they came around.”
Edgerton/Southwest Christian won its 20th game against seven losses Friday by rapping 14 hits against two Badger/Greenbush-Middle River pitchers. Jenny Nelson, who hit two home runs in the Pine River-Backus game, clubbed a grand slam in the title game, and she finished the tournament with a new state tournament record 10 RBIs.
Nelson, Jaidyn Henstra, Jordyn Smit and Veldkamp combined for 25 hits and 21 RBIs in the tournament.
As a team, Edgerton/Southwest Christian hit .457 against state tournament competition, with 43 hits in three shortened games. The 43 hits is also a new state tournament record.
“We always felt like we had talent. We just needed experience, and the confidence just built and built and built,” Fleischman said. “It was fun to watch them grow and really develop a killer instinct.”
Just as confident as the Flying Dutchmen began the game Friday, the Gators appeared shaky. After Veldkamp led off with her single, she took second base on a passed ball. Henstra then put down a bunt and reached first base as Veldkamp motored to third. A steal put runners on second and third for Liz Buckridge, whose infield bouncer was directed home to catch Veldkamp. But Veldkamp beat the throw. E/SWC scored runs two and three on a wild pitch and a misplayed fly ball to center field.
Quickly in the first inning, the Dutchmen established their ability to take extra bases.
In the bottom of the first inning, Buckridge - twirling expertly within the pitcher’s circle - sent down the Gators 1-2-3.
The stage was set for another one-sided contest.
Nelson and Smit each drove in a run in the Dutchmen’s two-run second.
Barely two innings were in the books, however, when lightning was sited amid a dark and threatening sky. All games at Caswell Park were suspended while players, coaches and fans scattered while a major storm pelted the grounds. Hours later, after the fields were put back in shape, Edgerton/Southwest Christian picked up easily where it left off.
Seven more runs were scored in the fifth, highlighted by Nelson’s clout.
Buckridge allowed just four hits, walked two and struck out one in her five innings of work.
She ran into some trouble in the third inning as the Gators loaded the bases. But with two out, she got a hitter (who was batting over .500) to ground out for the last out.
The 2016 Dutchmen, now with their first state title after appearing in the tournament for a third consecutive year, appear well-positioned for 2017. Only three seniors - Veldkamp, Courtney Jouwstra and Haley Tinklenberg - are on the 2016 roster.
Fleischman is well-known for refusing to look too far ahead on the schedule. He prefers to keep things simple; to manage the pressure.
In 2016, his strategy worked to perfection. But he’ll most likely have more high expectations to master next spring.
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E/SWC 320 07 - 12 14 0
B/G-MR 000 00 - 0 4 0