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Z-M takes loss, stays alive against GMLOK

Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Natalie Majerus runs through third during the Cougars' 4-0 Sub-section 1AA West loss to Rochester Lourdes on Friday in Cannon Falls. Z-M came back to beat GMLOK to advance to Tuesday's sub-section semifinals. Kyle Stevens / Rivertowns Multimedia1 / 2
Pine Island's Katelyn Kennedy picks up a bunt attempt during the Panthers' 6-4 Sub-section 1AA West loss to GMLOK on Friday in Cannon Falls. The loss ends Pine Island's season. Kyle Stevens / Rivertowns Multimedia2 / 2

CANNON FALLS — Even after taking a 4-0 loss to Rochester Lourdes in the Section 1AA-West championship game, Zumbrota-Mazeppa wasn't about to go into the off-season quietly.

In an elimination game against Grand Meadow/LeRoy-Ostrander/Kingsland, the mood was high. The Cougars weren't ready to hand in their uniforms quite yet. Neither was GMLOK, which eliminated Pine Island with a 6-4 victory earlier in the day.

"The whole team had a positive attitude, knowing we could beat GMLOK," said senior shortstop/pitcher Tara Matuska. "When we were taking the field (for practice), everyone was pumped up and happy, and that helped us carry a positive attitude into the game."

The bats also came around for Z-M in the elimination game as the team advanced with a 7-5 victory.

"The good things is we're still alive," said Cougars head coach Kevin Nelson. "We told them, 'Hey, we don't have to be the best team in the section until Tuesday and Wednesday. To peak a week early doesn't do you any good."

Well, peaking early helped against the Bulldogs, as a Matuska RBI single and a groundout produced two runs for Z-M in the first inning. In the next frame, Matuska drove in another run, and Lyndsey Quam crossed home during a rundown.

Things got dicey when Matuska started to walk GMLOK players in the fourth, letting three runs in. But the Cougars responded with a two-run single by Brianna Albers that brought Natalye Quam and Natalie Majerus home. Although the Bulldogs scored two more runs in the fifth, Mikayla Arendt added an insurance run for Z-M in the bottom half, driving home Hannah Mensink on a grounder.

"Everyone had a more positive attitude and we were hitting more gaps than hitting it right to players like against Lourdes," said Matuska, who was 2-for-4 at the plate while also striking out eight over five innings for the win.

On 5 p.m. Tuesday at Todd Park in Austin, the Cougars will try to stave off elimination again when they take on Plainview-Elgin-Millville.

The elimination bracket this early is foreign territory as of late for Z-M. The hope is that their best softball comes on Tuesday, and hopefully Thursday in the section finals.

"It's a different team (than in years past). This is probably the weakest team we've put on the field when you look at hitting and defensively in many, many years. And yet they're pretty damn good," Nelson said. "We just need to clean up a couple things defensively and have some luck. We haven't had a lot of luck all year. Hopefully it'll be with us on Tuesday."

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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