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Softball: Big inning ends Wingers' season

Red Wing's Hailee Johnson takes a swing during Wednesday's Section 1AAA first-round game against Owatonna at Lakeville South High School. Johnson had a two-run single in the Wingers' 15-7 loss. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 3
Red Wing's Hailey Kuhl crosses home plate for a run during Wednesday's Section 1AAA first-round game against Owatonna in Lakeville. Kuhl went 3-for-3 with three runs in the game. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 3
Red Wing pitcher Emily Boxrud winds up for a pitch during Wednesday's Section 1AAA game against Owatonna. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)3 / 3

LAKEVILLE, Minn. – Red Wing lived life on a razor’s edge for three innings.

With the bats going early, the eight-seeded Wingers seemed to be in cruise control early in Wednesday’s opening-round game of the Section 1AAA playoffs against ninth-seeded Owatonna. Red Wing scored four times off four hits in the first inning, and added another run for good measure in the second to go up 5-0.

Even while committing errors in the second and third innings, and even allowing a Huskies run to come in, everything looked calm on the surface. But Wingers head Jon Bohmbach could sense a shift after Owatonna got on the board.

“I was at third base … and there wasn’t anything going on, but I could feel that momentum changing,” Bohmbach said. “We just couldn’t get back to do some of the stuff we were doing.”

Then the fourth inning came, and a momentum swing would be a vast understatement.

In a seismic momentum shift, the Huskies capitalized on three Red Wing errors while stringing together an eight-hit, 11-run inning, effectively ending the Wingers’ season en route to a 15-7 victory at Lakeville South High School.

“We kind of reverted and played like it was the first game of the year,” Bohmbach said. “We didn’t have that many errors all year. We had mental errors and that didn’t help things. And it’s too bad because we worked so hard and had such a great season.”

The 12 Owatonna hits certainly stung, but not as bad as the mistakes on the field. All season, Red Wing had preached error-free softball as the key to success, and in Wednesday’s loss, the team finished with six errors.

It was a jarring end after such a strong start. Hailey Kuhl led off the bottom of the first with a double off the left-field fence and would come around on an RBI single by Hannah Walch. Maria Furlong and Mary Bender followed with back-to-back RBI doubles, and Bender came around after a hit by Rebecca Swenning resulted in an Owatonna error.

Add an RBI single by McKenzie Cota in the second, and the Wingers looked in command on the surface.

Held without a runner on base in the first and second innings, the Huskies finally got on thanks to a double by Rachel Williamson, who would reach home on a Red Wing fielding error.

With some shaky fielding resulting in two errors over the first three innings, plus a lineup seeing pitcher Emily Boxrud for a second time, the fourth inning became a perfect storm for Owatonna.

Starting with leadoff batter Peyton Mensink reaching base after getting hit by a pitch, five straight Huskies reached base before an out was recorded. Down 5-4 at this point, Owatonna took the lead after a two-run single by Kayla Johnson. The lead increased to three after consecutive RBI doubles by Jamie Davison and Jessica Cole, and Kirsten Pumper brought in another run on a two-out RBI single.

Then the spark plug for the Owatonna comeback, Williamson, stepped up and delivered the final blow: a two-out three-run home run over the center-field fence.

“To call that a bad inning would be the biggest understatement,” Bohmbach said.

Red Wing showed some fight in the bottom half of the fourth, with Molly Goranson and Kuhl scoring on a two-run single by Hailee Johnson. But the Wingers’ hopes were already dashed before Owatonna added three more runs in the seventh.

“Give them credit, they hit the ball and they made plays,” Bohmbach said, “but we beat ourselves. In that inning, we beat ourselves.”

Kuhl went 3-for-3 with a walk, a stolen base and three runs scored. Cota, Bender and Furlong each finished with two hits.

Williamson finished 3-for-3 with four RBI and three runs.

The season came to a screeching halt, but 2014 proved to be a pivotal year for Red Wing, as the team’s 8-11 record was a six-game improvement over last season’s 2-17 campaign.

“It’s tough to take right now, but this season has been such a positive thing,” Bohmbach said. “I just can’t say enough about being able to coach them, listen to them and see how they bought in. It just makes it harder because they bought in this season and did an awesome job.”

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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