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Lakeville South's Amnanda Bloomquist no 13 hit a grand slam in the semi final with Anoka .] Class 3A softball state tournament at Caswell Park in North Mankato Richard.Sennott@startribune.com Richard Sennott/Star Tribune Mankato Minn. Thursday 6/06/201
NORTH MANKATO, MINN. – The perfect game would have been special, a no-hitter exciting, and a shutout nice. All Sydney Smith wanted was the win.
The Maple Grove junior pitcher entered the circle in the bottom of the seventh inning of Thursday night’s Class 3A semifinal with all of the above in play and exited with a 4-1 win over North St. Paul. She lost the bid for the rare state-tournament perfect game and a no-hitter before she could record an out, but led the Crimson into Friday’s state title game.
Maple Grove will face Lakeville South at 1:30 p.m. at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
“It was in my head. I tried not to think about it,” Smith said. “The perfect game would have been nice, but as long as we won that’s all that matters to me. … These are all going to be tough games. We have to fight.”
Smith’s fight was rarely tested throughout the long day of softball. She gave up only four hits in 14 innings — two hits in each game — and struck out 17 of the 47 batters she faced. Maple Grove and Smith shut out New Prague 6-0 in the quarterfinals.
Lily Langevin scored North St. Paul’s run in the bottom of the seventh inning when Smith threw to first on a comebacker with bases loaded. Pitcher Haley Schanks kept the Polars close until Crimson pinch hitter Kea Anderson padded the lead.
Anderson hit a two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning in only her third at-bat in two weeks, making the score 3-0. The junior separated her shoulder at the end of the regular season and thought she would miss the rest of the season. Instead, she’s found a way to swing a bat with a brace and assumed pinch-hitting roles in both of Thursday’s games.
“I have to take advantage of every opportunity. I didn’t think I would be able to come back [for the playoffs],” Anderson said.
Jordan Mauch finished with four hits and six RBI, and Samantha Sadler added three hits and three runs scored in the Crimson’s quarterfinal and semifinal victories.
A first for Lakeville South
Lakeville South didn’t have much time to celebrate the program’s first state tournament win. Thirty minutes after the Cougars edged Orono in extra innings, they were back on the field.
The Cougars prefer short breaks. They carried the morning momentum into an 11-0 semifinal pounding of Anoka, earning a spot in the 3A championship game in the program’s state tournament debut.
“I like back-to-back games. When you have a longer break you want to sleep and that brings you down a little bit,” Lakeville South pitcher Kylie Stober said. “We had the momentum with us.”
Stober had no time for naps.
After a 2-1 victory in eight innings over Orono in the morning quarterfinals, she had just enough time to walk from the circle on Field 1 to the circle on Field 5 for a semifinal matchup with Anoka.
The swift turnaround, after all, was partly to accommodate Stober. She was one of two Lakeville South seniors who had to rush home to graduation on Thursday night.
The game was bumped up three hours from its originally scheduled start time. Her impressive effort made sure the seniors returned to the south metro on time.
Stober gave up just five hits, one earned run, struck out 21 and walked four in 13 innings pitched on Thursday. She threw 12 consecutive scoreless innings after giving up a home run in the first inning against Orono.
The Cougars got by Hannah Bergh, one of the state’s top pitchers, with some help. Bergh walked four, including the eventual winning run that scored on a wild pitch in the top of the eighth.
Lakeville South left nine runners on base in the quarterfinals, but converted most of its opportunities in the semifinals. Five players had RBI, led by Amanda Bloomquist’s grand slam in an eight-run fifth inning against Anoka. Bailee Jackson led all hitters with four hits on the day.
“There was more energy,” Bloomquist said about the effect of the quick turnaround. “We just had to stay prepared and stay in the game. We were all a little tired this morning. We were all exited for [the semifinals].”