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Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Jackie Matuska singles during the third inning of the Cougars' 2-0 win over Caledonia/Spring Grove during Tuesday's Section 1AA playoffs in Austin. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Softball: Cotter bounces Z-M from playoffs

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Softball: Cotter bounces Z-M from playoffs
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AUSTIN – In the moment after contact, one voice could be heard over all others. Hannah Kosel had just sent a ball toward the empty space behind the left-center field fence, a towering shot that, when it landed, would propel Cotter into Thursday’s Section 1AA championship.


Before the ball reached its peak, a Ramblers coach repeatedly screamed, “Get out of here!”

In the Zumbrota-Mazeppa dugout, there were no screams. The Cougars greeted Kosel’s two-run homerun with silence. One of the area’s best rivalries had gone nine innings, ending in a 4-2 Ramblers victory that will give Cotter a chance to knock off top-ranked Kasson-Mantorville on Thursday.

“You knew it would end on some crazy play,” said Z-M head coach Kevin Nelson before trailing off and shaking his head.

As tough as the ending was for Z-M, the preceding eight innings would prove to be the Cougars’ undoing.

Morgan Olson singled and scored in the first and fifth innings on RBI singles from Amber Gehrke and Carley Henning. But Olson was stranded in the third, one of 10 base runners that were left on base, and thrown out at home on a controversial play in the top of the ninth when an errant pickoff throw from Kosel went into left field. Nelson argued that Kosel blocked the plate before the ball reached her glove. The umpires concluded that Olson was tagged out legally, ending a threat that had two Cougars in scoring position with two outs.

“The throw was high to home, and if she throws it low, it probably hits (Olson),” Nelson said. “Instead, the throw goes over our head and we get tagged out. It’s unfortunate. If you slide, maybe you get under the (tag). Who knows?”

Olson, who ran into Kosel, came to the dugout expressing discomfort near her left ribs. She stayed in the game, giving up Kosel’s home run after Kelly Vaselaar’s one-out single.

Olson, who threw all seven innings of the Cougars’ 2-0 victory over Caledonia/Spring Grove earlier on Tuesday, struck out six Ramblers, allowing two earned runs on nine hits and two walks.

“Morgan pitched a great game,” Nelson said. “I’m sure she’d like to have one pitch back, but at the same time, she can only pitch so long, and your offense has to score.”

Z-M left the bases loaded in the fifth, and left two runners on in the fourth and eighth.

“We had golden opportunities,” Nelson said.

In the first game on Tuesday, Olson and Gehrke made the most of limited opportunities, as Gehrke drove in Olson in the third and fifth innings, while Olson held off a late CSG rally by striking out Marie Doering with two runners in scoring position.

Tayler Mort and Jackie Matuska each had a hit against CSG, while Hailey Dykes finished 2-for-3.

Against Cotter, Olson went 4-for-5 with a triple, Mort added two hits and two walks, and Dykes ripped two more singles. Gehrke and Mensink each had base hits in the Cougars’ final game of the season.

Henning, Gehrke, Kaitlen Buck and Ali Frederixon will graduate this year. Who replaces what ended up being four starters after Buck broke her leg will be determined at a much later date. Right now, Nelson hopes there is a lesson to be learned for what will be a senior-dominated Z-M roster in 2015.

“We lost to some good teams,” Nelson said of Z-M's 19-4 record. “That’s what you play for all year, to get in that position. Cotter’s not the team they’ve been in past years, but they’ve certainly had a good end to the season. They have six seniors and they’ve really put it together for them. Next year, we’ll have a ton of seniors and hopefully they’ll have learned a lesson from Cotter and they put something together.”

Kyle Stevens
Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
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