Softball: Errors force Wingers to bow out of 1AAA playoffs
HASTINGS - All the work on defense looked to be paying off for Red Wing.
As the No. 11 seed in the Section 1AAA tournament, the Wingers were error-free through the first four innings and were tied 1-1 with sixth-seeded Northfield on Thursday.
Then the first fielding error came in the fifth inning, allowing the Raiders to tack on two runs with two outs. The next inning, a pair of fielding gaffes allowed an insurance run to score as Northfield knocked Red Wing out of the playoffs in a 4-1 win at Hastings High School.
"It's tough; we worked so hard on 'D,'" said Wingers' head coach Jon Bohmbach. "(The errors) just came at the wrong time and they just crept up on us."
Losing its last 10 games, Red Wing ends the season with a 2-17 record.
After going down in order in the first inning, Northfield struck first in the bottom of the second. Angela McBeain, Elizabeth Lloyd and Jacqueline Chlan had consecutive singles. Then, with runners on second and third, Lloyd put the Raiders up 1-0 on a groundout by Kami Bakken. Chlan was left at third as Quinn Hanzlik popped up for the final out.
Held to just one hit over the first three innings, the Wingers finally tallied a run in the top of the fourth. Makaela Egan led the inning off with a double but things looked dire as Laura Chalmers and Hailee Johnson struck out. With two outs, Red Wing sent freshman Rebecca Swenning to the batter's box and she came up with the big hit, a bloop single into right field that tied the game at 1-1.
"I just got some momentum behind the swing," said Swenning, who went 1-for-2. "It felt really good to get that hit. (Back in the dugout) there was a lot of cheering. Everyone was getting excited."
McKenzie Cota followed Swenning with a single, and Mary Bender forced a walk to load the bases. But the trio of Red Wing runners were stranded as Emily Boxrud was forced into a groundout.
"We got a lot of confidence in the middle part of our lineup," Bohmbach said. "Rebecca's hit was huge, and Cota came up with a big hit tonight."
The Wingers put runners on second and third in the top of the fifth with singles by Hailey Kuhl and Chalmers, but they were unable to bring in the go-ahead run.
Red Wing's momentum seemed to carry into the bottom of the fifth as Chalmers struck out Bakken for the first out. Then after a single by Hanzlik, Anna Dols reached first on a fielding error by Swenning. Dols reached home when Elizabeth Pritchard drew a two-out bases-loaded walk. The next batter, McBeain, put Northfield up 3-1 with an RBI single.
Trying to catch up, the Wingers couldn't generate any offense in the sixth as McBeain and the Raiders' defense put Red Wing down in order.
"Give her credit," Bohmbach said of McBeain, "she threw key strikes in critical situations."
Northfield made it a three-run game when Chlan scored on a throwing error by Chalmers. Red Wing committed two errors in the inning.
In a 4-1 deficit, Red Wing got a boost when Boxrud led off the top of the seventh with a walk. After Kuhl struck out, Hannah Walch put another runner on base after getting hit by a pitch. But with the game-tying run at the plate, McBeain locked down, forcing Egan into a pop fly and striking out Chalmers to seal the victory.
"We're still working on getting over that peak," Bohmbach said. "It's sad that our season's over with because we're still improving. ... We just weren't able to get the big hits at the end; we have to work on being mentally strong."
Kuhl was 2-for-4 with two stolen bases for the Wingers, and Chalmers struck out three and limited Northfield to seven hits in her final high-school start. McBeain was the Raiders' top hitter, going 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
In the next game, Northfield fell to third-seeded Hastings, 7-5.
Losing just one player to graduation (Chalmers), the hope for Red Wing is that Thursday's solid outing can serve as a building block for the 2014 season.
"We had a good season; I think we're going to beat a lot of the teams that we played this year," Swenning said.
Bohmbach added, "(Northfield's) a good ball club. ... We're happy to see it, but we don't want to keep claiming moral victories. Coming up with a victory would have been a huge building block."