State softball preview: Pipestone Area, E/SWC poised to pounce

Aaron HagenDaily Globe NORTH MANKATO -- A mere 17 miles separates Pipestone Area and Edgerton/Southwest Christian. But on Thursday, both will be much closer. Both the Arrows and the Flying Dutchmen qualified for the state softball tournament, whi...

Aaron Hagen
Daily Globe

NORTH MANKATO - A mere 17 miles separates Pipestone Area and Edgerton/Southwest Christian.
But on Thursday, both will be much closer.
Both the Arrows and the Flying Dutchmen qualified for the state softball tournament, which begins today at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
“(E/SWC head coach) Andrew (Fleischman) and I have been good friends for many, many years and we played some baseball together,” PA head coach Troy Bouman said. “We’ve always scrimmaged at the beginning of every season and try to make each other better. We just want each other to get better and find ways to get to the state tournament. We swept them this year but when we were done, I told him, ‘You guys have a very good chance of going on again.’ To see them there is awesome. To have two teams that close together, the girls all know each other and it should make the state tournament a lot of fun.”
PA, which brings a 24-0 record into the Class AA tournament, will face Pequot Lakes (23-2) at 11 a.m. today. Edgerton/Southwest Christian, which is 17-7, will play Pine River-Backus (21-6) at 1 p.m. today in the Class A tournament.
PA vs Pequot Lakes
It has been five years since PA has made it to the state tournament, but this is its eighth overall appearance.
“Anytime you get to go it’s special, especially for the kids,” Bouman said. “None of these kids have ever experienced a state tournament. Back when we went on that run for a while, I think people kind of started taking it for granted. It’s hard to get there and people don’t realize that.”
The Arrows are led by Shelby Bloemendaal, who has a perfect 16-0 record to go with 121 strikeouts in 93 and one-third innings. She has a .375 ERA and allowed five earned runs this season. Tiffany Evans earned the other eight victories. She has 61 strikeouts in 47 innings to go with an ERA of 1.63. As a team, PA has an ERA of .798.
“Those two have worked extremely hard at it and spent a lot of time throwing,” Bouman said. “I think the other thing, too, is that we don’t strike out a lot of people, the defense has to make plays behind them.”
Offensively, Abby Hollingsworth has a .571 average. She leads the team with six home runs and has 32 RBI. Taylor Nesvold has a .507 average. Evans hits .500 to go with three home runs and 22 RBI, while Kirsten Houg had a .432 average, five home runs and 34 RBI. In all, eight players hit at least .400 for the Arrows, who have outscored their opponents 293-30 this season.
“Our girls have worked extremely hard on what we want them to work on,” Bouman said. “Even in the games when we get a big lead or something, they stay focused on the plate. They’ve really concentrated on doing the little things right.”
The winner of the PA/Pequot Lakes game will play the winner of Rockford (21-3) and Concordia Academy-Roseville (13-11) at 5 p.m. today. On the other side of the bracket, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (22-3) plays the state’s top-ranked team, Zumbrota-Mazeppa (23-1), while LeSueur-Henderson (21-3) squares off against Esko (16-5).
“When you get there, it’s not really about what the other teams do, it’s about what you do,” Bouman said. “We have to go up there, we have to pitch well and we have to not commit errors and we have to find ways to get on base. If we can get on base, we can create a lot of havoc.”
The Flying Dutchmen are back at state for the third straight season. A year ago, they finished fifth, but had to reload after graduation took a toll on E/SWC.
“We grew a lot throughout the course of the year,” Fleischman said. “It sounds cliché, but it was really was never something that we talked about. We just really focused on getting better and we lost to Pipestone and Mountain Lake on back to back days, we really focused on the things we need to improve on. That was going to be our goal, we wanted to be a team you didn’t want to play in the playoffs. Lucky for us we accomplished that and we got hot at the right time.”
E/SWC was hot at the right time as it came out of a section with two of the top five-ranked teams in the state. In the final section game, E/SWC bead BOLD by 10 runs.
“We had a lot of girls who didn’t have a lot of playoff experience,” Fleischman said. “What’s been really exciting to see is our girls with playoff experience have carried us, especially right away. And now these other girls are getting more and more comfortable and more and more confident.”
Liz Buckridge leads the Dutchmen in the circle. She has a 2.28 ERA in 144 innings and has recorded 127 strikeouts.
Offensively, Jaidyn Henstra hits .427, Jenny Nelson (four home runs, 34 RBI) has a .420 average and Hope Veldkamp and Jordyn Smidt (35 RBI) each have a .410 batting average. Chynna Berning (.380) leads the team with five home runs.
The winner of the E/SWC and PR-B game will face the winner of Hayfield (18-7) and Cherry (20-4). On the other side of the bracket, New York Mills (24-0) plays Badger/Greenbush-Middle River (20-4) and Mankato Loyola (18-5) plays Kimball Area (21-1).
“We’re going to go up there with the attitude that no matter what, we want to go out and represent ourselves well and play as hard as we can and have as much fun as we can,” Fleischman said. “This an awesome opportunity and an awesome experience. We told them today, when we step on the field we’re going to play to win and we expect to win, but we also have to enjoy it and have fun and be grateful for the awesome opportunity that it is.”


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