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Softball: Cougars look for an extended state trip

Three lineup cards will be in Kevin Nelson’s pocket for Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s trip to state.

It started as a perceived slight after the Cougars took a Section 1AA playoff loss from Rochester Lourdes, when one of the coaches asked Nelson for another card.

“She comes over to me after the first game and says, ‘Do you have an extra lineup card? I only brought one with me,’” Nelson said. “I couldn’t believe that.”

Z-M got a measure of revenge with a pair of wins in the Section 1AA championship to reach state for the second year in a row. And now, Nelson and the second-seeded Cougars aim to make it three games in defense of its state championship, which will take place Thursday and Friday at Caswell Park in North Mankato.

“The girls will continue to carry the momentum we carried (into the section finals). How can we not if you look at the quality of the section,” Nelson said. “We played extremely well and we expect that this week. They practiced hard Saturday and practiced hard (Monday).”

The Cougars will hand in their first lineup card at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Class 2A quarterfinals versus unseeded St. Agnes. The winner of the game will play in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday.

The Section 4AA champion Aggies come in as one of the top offenses in the tournament at 9.0 runs per game. But with pitchers Tara Matuska and Lyndsey Quam and a quality defense behind the two, it’ll be strength vs. strength between Z-M and St. Agnes.

“We feel comfortable with our pitching. Our pitchers are giving up one-and-a-half or less runs a game,” Nelson said. “Hopefully the pitching strength will be on our side. Good pitching can limit good hitting. You saw that with Chatfield. They had good hitters and Lyndsey did a good job of shutting them down. And when they did make contact, we made fantastic plays behind her.”

While only three starters are back from last year’s state champion team, all but one of this year’s starters got some playing time at state last year.

“They were in the dugout and gained some experience. They got at least one at-bat or one inning in the field,” Nelson said. “They understand the game is still played the same.”

The Cougars faced top competition throughout the year with 12 games against ranked opponents, including three straight wins against Chatfield and Lourdes, which combined for a 44-5 record.

Along with defending a state title, Nelson will have three lineup cards. The hope is the last card will be handed in at another championship game.

“This year is much more of a surprise that we actually came through. Not in thinking we couldn’t do it, but to have to beat Lourdes twice and Chatfield. … That’s quite an accomplishment,” Nelson said. “Maple Lake is probably the best team in the state. We’d sure like to have the opportunity to face them.”

Class 2A: At A Glance

1-Maple Lake Irish

Record: 24-0

Runs/game: 11.0

Runs allowed/game: 1.2

Top hitters:

Katie Goelz (.500 average, 37 RBI, 6 home runs)

Mollie Scheiber (.547 average, 38 RBI, 4 home runs)

Amber Klug (.513 average, 23 RBI, 5 home runs)

Top pitcher:

Calli Maki (21-0, 125.0 IP, 1.12 ERA, 168 strikeouts)

2-Zumbrota-Mazeppa Cougars

Record: 21-6

Runs/game: 5.4

Runs allowed/game: 2.0

Top hitters:

Tara Matuska (.444 average, 25 RBI, 2 home runs)

Brianna Albers (.388 average, 21 RBI)

Lyndsey Quam (.322 average, 9 RBI)

Top pitcher:

Tara Matuska (10-3, 93.2 IP, 1.42 ERA, 113 strikeouts)

3-Pipestone Area Arrows

Record: 24-1

Runs/game: 9.2

Runs allowed/game: 1.1

Top hitters:

Taylor Nesvold (.412 average, 19 RBI)

Shelby Bloemendaal (.470 average, 23 RBI, 2 home runs)

Mandi Miller (.476 average, 34 RBI, 8 home runs)

Top pitcher:

Shelby Bloemendaal (15-1, 99.0 IP, 0.78 ERA, 121 strikeouts)

4-Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Rebels

Record: 24-3

Runs/game: 9.4

Runs allowed/game: 2.4

Top hitters:

Megan Meyers (.576 average, 34 RBI, 6 home runs)

Maria Pake (.454 average, 32 RBI, 2 home runs)

Mattie Fischer (.494 average, 21 RBI, 1 home run)

Top pitcher:

Jasmine Hanson (22-3, 114.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 82 strikeouts)

5-St. Peter Saints

Record: 20-4

Runs/game: 7.6

Runs allowed/game: 2.8

Top hitters:

No statistics available

Top pitcher:

No statistics available

Esko Eskomos

Record: 21-3

Runs/game: 9.7

Runs allowed/game: 3.6

Top hitters:

Mackenzie Holland (.494 average, 27 RBI, 3 home runs)

Ashley Pollema (.493 average, 26 RBI, 3 home runs)

Emilee Wilson (.455 average, 19 RBI, 2 home runs)

Top pitcher:

Emilee Wilson (18-1, 118.0 IP, 1.13 ERA, 169 strikeouts)

St. Agnes Aggies

Record: 16-10

Runs/game: 9.0

Runs allowed/game: 6.9

Top hitters:

Maria Gutzmann (.522 average, 25 RBI, 4 home runs)

Bailey Larkin (.407 average, 16 RBI)

Lily Hafner (.362 average, 26 RBI, 1 home run)

Top pitcher:

Gemma Rossini (10-6, 100.2 IP, 5.15 ERA, 69 strikeouts)

Albany Huskies

Record: 19-3

Runs/game: 9.4

Runs allowed/game: 2.4

Top hitters:

No statistics available

Top pitcher:

No statistics available

Schedule

Thursday

(All games at Caswell Park, North Mankato)

Quarterfinals

Albany vs. Maple Lake, 9 a.m.

St. Peter vs. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, 9 a.m.

St. Agnes vs. Zumbrota-Mazeppa, 11 a.m.

Esko vs. Pipestone Area, 11 a.m.

Semifinals

Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 5 p.m.

Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 5 p.m.

Consolation semifinals

Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 7 p.m.

Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 7 p.m.

Friday

Consolation finals

Top consolation semifinal winner vs. bottom consolation semifinal winner, 9 a.m.

Third-place game

Top semifinal loser vs. bottom semifinal loser, 11 a.m.

Championship finals

Top semifinal winner vs. bottom semifinal winner, 2 p.m.

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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