NORTH MANKATO, Minn. – The path isn’t completely clear for the New Life Academy of Woodbury softball team, but what the Eagles thought was their biggest hurdle is out of the way. The Eagles upset defending Class 1A champion Cherry of Iron Junction 6-3 in the quarterfinals on Thursday at Caswell Park.
After clearing that road block, the Eagles took care of Eden Valley-Watkins 6-4 in the semifinals.
“We can’t get cocky. But if we play the way we did in [the quarterfinals against Cherry], then I think we’ll be fine,” New Life Academy sophomore Valerie Hohol said.
A year ago, Cherry nearly no-hit the Eagles on its way to the championship. Valerie Hohol, Malorie Giere and Nicole Johnson remembered that and made sure to make up for it on Thursday with a combined four hits and three RBI in the first-round game.
Giere said the offensive success against the defending champ helped build the team up for their semifinal matchup. New Life Academy and Eden Valley-Watkins entered the fifth inning tied 2-2 before the Eagles scored four runs on three hits and an error to pull ahead 6-2. Eden Valley-Watkins scored two in the seventh, but Hohol struck out the last two batters to end the game and finish the day with 17 strikeouts.
Blooming Prairie stands in the way of New Life Academy’s attempt to return to the top.
The Awesome Blossoms are back in the final for the second straight year after winning a pair of one-run victories against New Ulm Cathedral and Kerkhoeven-Murdock-Sunburg.
Shelbi Swenson will do everything she can to make sure the Eagles don’t get the bat on top. She struck out 26 batters over two games on Thursday.
“I had nerves the whole game,” Swenson said about the close contests. “But I know if something happens my teammates will help me out.”
That’s if she ever needs it.
Dominating Class 2A
New Ulm made earning a spot in the state championship game look easy. The Eagles beat Maple River in five innings 12-0 in the quarterfinals and then handily beat Rockford 10-4 in the semifinals.
Kasson-Mantorville will attempt to dethrone the lone remaining defending champ in all the classes. The Komets showed power throughout the first two rounds and gave up just one run on Thursday.