Chanhassen senior Taylor Manno, a Rutgers pitching prospect, had a knot in her shoulder before Friday’s matinee at home.
Manno decided to play through it and took the start, getting some added support from her teammates as a line of them began tapping each other's shoulders during the national anthem.
“We really like to have a lot of energy before the game, during practice, even at school we’re trying to hype ourselves up and stay really excited for games all the way through,” Manno said.
As the anthem reached its coda, they began massaging out any pregame jitters they may have had approaching the showdown with North Dakota juggernaut West Fargo, a team that has won the state title 19 years in a row.
Manno showed no discomfort, throwing a 16-strikeout no-hitter to preserve a one-run lead the Storm established in the first inning. That lead stuck as Chanhassen dealt the Packers their first loss of the season in a 1-0 nailbiter.
Coming off their first state championship in school history and scoring 43 runs in their first three games, the Storm’s challenge this season has been maintaining their competitive energy.
“I think with us, its battling our inner selves. Can we perform to our ability every game,” coach Joe Coenen said.
Minnesota commit and leadoff batter, Alex Velazquez, was wired from the jump as she struck a pitch to the center field fence that caromed off the top padding and back into play. Her hit was initially called a home run before the officials met and ruled it a ground-rule double.
No matter. Velazques showed off her speed and baserunning prowess by stealing third and then Kali O’Keeffe drove her in.
Velazquez combined her strength and speed as Channhassen’s sparkplug slapper, curling a shot down the third baseline for another double in the third that kept the Storm’s fans buzzing.
“We have a great student section everyone always comes out and supports us. All the parents, students, teachers and little kids,” Velazquez said. “It’s a great atmosphere to play in and you really feel at home when you’re here. It just boosts our confidence to have people like that to support us.”
Manno took care of most of the work on defense, retiring all but three batters on strikeouts.
But when Chanhassen needed a play behind her, they got it from Julia Bock.
With one out in the seventh, Bock made a diving catch in foul territory to take the Packers (10-1) down to her final chance. Manno took care of the final out with her 16th strikeout of the game.
“Julia [Bock] made such an amazing catch in the outfield,” Manno said. “That was one of the coolest plays of the day.”
Ranked No. 1 in the Class 4A coaches’ poll, Chanhassen (5-0, 4-0) seems to be building off each performance. The Storm will need the trend to continue as they got on a bus to go play Class 4A, Section 2 runner-up Eden Prairie immediately after the win.
West Fargo heads to North St. Paul to take on Burnsville in the first game of a weekend tournament coach Pat Johnson booked for the betterment of a team that has been the gold standard in North Dakota.
“It’s good because we know we’re in for a game,” Johnson said. “That’s why we come down here, win or loss it doesn’t really matter. We come down here to get better and prove we’re just as good as anybody else and I think we did that.”
Rutgers commit Taylor Manno threw a 16-strikeout no-hitter in defending Class 4A state champion Chanhassen's 1-0 victory over North Dakota state champion West Fargo Friday afternoon at Chanhassen High School.
Ranked first in the Class 4A coaches’ poll, the Storm (5-0, 4-0) scored the winning run after Minnesota signee Alex Velazquez smacked a leadoff ground-rule double in the bottom of the first and was driven in by Kali O’Keeffe.
Stephi Dullum threw six innings on the hill for the Packers (10-1), scattering six hits and striking out four in West Fargo's first loss of the season.
The MN Softball Hub polls are for entertainment purposes only.
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