Softball: Kasson-Mantorville gets the best of Z-M again
AUSTIN, Minn. - Zumbrota-Mazeppa only lost to one opponent this season.
The problem is that the opponent, Kasson-Mantorville, is in the Cougars' section and took down top-ranked Z-M twice in the regular season.
On Thursday, the Cougars' had a chance for redemption, but an offensive onslaught by the KoMets ended Z-M's season with a 16-6 five-inning loss in the Section 1AA finals at Todd Park.
In two regular-season meetings prior to Thursday, Z-M and K-M combined to score a total of four runs. Maddie Damon shut out the Cougars in the first game between the two teams and allowed one run in the second game. In the section final on Thursday, 11 runs were on the board in the first two innings.
"They were the better team, that's the way it is," Z-M head coach Kevin Nelson said. "If you tell me we're going to score six runs off of (Damon) in five innings and leave how many runners on base and I run us out of an inning, I would take it a hundred times against them. But today, their bats were there, too. Both teams rose to the occasion."
The KoMets (22-2) piled up 20 hits, including three home runs in the third inning. Cori Kennedy finished 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI, Aylisha McClaflin was 3-for-4 with a home run and a double, and Kaylea Schorr went 3-for-3 with three runs scored and an RBI.
"As soon as they scored runs we realized we needed to go," Damon said. "We just saw the ball and did our best to hit it hard."
Damon pitched all five innings to pick up the win and was 2-for-3 with a home run at the plate.
Lydia Wagner was 2-for-3 with two RBI, Carley Henning was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and Amber Jentsch finished 1-for-2 with a home run and two RBI to lead Z-M (23-3).
"We just had to come out with more confidence and we all definitely did," Cougars' ninth-grader Morgan Olson said. "We scored six runs off a great pitcher and that's something to be proud of."
K-M took a 1-0 lead after the first inning and Z-M responded with four runs against Damon in the top of the second inning. The Cougars took advantage of two errors by the KoMets and a little wildness from Damon in a short period of hard rainfall. Damon hit two batters and walked in a run before Wagner singled home two runs for a 4-1 lead.
But in the next half inning, the game got away from Z-M. K-M pulled within 4-3 as Olson was hit back a comebacker, and with the bases loaded, Kennedy hit a single and came all the way home on a three-base error for a 7-4 lead. Henning came in to pitch and got the final out.
The Cougars had runners on second and third base with no outs in the third inning but Damon got a strikeout and two pop ups to end the threat.
Then, the KoMets put the game out of reach with three home runs to go up 16-4 in the bottom of the third inning.
"At that point, they had a lot of confidence, you could see what happens when you go to the plate with confidence and they were teeing off on both of them," Nelson said.
Rachel Mensink led off the fourth inning with a double for Z-M but was forced out after running on a pop up to second base by Olson.
Jentsch tallied the Cougars' final two runs, blasting a home run far beyond the center field fence.
"That was good for her to know that she's leaving hitting a home run off one of the best pitchers in southeastern Minnesota," Nelson said of Jentsch, a former All-State player. "And to walk away with that in a loss, she comes away with something positive; kind of a little feather in her cap."
Z-M will lose Jentsch and Wagner to graduation, but the team is still stocked for multiple years. But so are the KoMets, Nelson said.
"I think the next three years, the team that comes out of this section is going to be pretty dang good," he said. "If they don't win a state championship, I'll be surprised."