New Prague catcher Taylor Koehnen tags out Orono's Audra McKenzie, preserving a 2-2 tie early in the game. Koehnen also had two doubles and drove in six runs in the Trojans' 13-3 five-inning victory. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Mia Kraimer pitched five innings and picked up the win for New Prague. She also had four hits in four at-bats. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Hitting is sometimes regarded as an attitude more than a skill by softball pundits.
New Prague is a team that’s thrived off its presence at the plate, winning 17 straight games this spring, until last Thursday, when the Trojans were shutout 2-0 against Wright County Conference foe Hutchinson.
Coach Anna Borwege said it was a lack of confidence and a sluggish start that led to a cold day at the plate for her team.
New Prague bounced back from its uncharacteristic performance at the plate to tally 15 hits in a 13-3 five-inning romping of the Spartans Tuesday night at Orono High School.
“I feel like we had a different demeanor today and were ready to play,” Borwege said of her team that’s garnered respect across the state as the eighth-ranked team in the Class 4A coaches’ poll.
Leadoff batter Mia Kraimer wasted no time letting uncertainty settle in as she drove the game’s opening pitch down the third baseline. Emily Schmitz followed Kraimer with a single through the center of the infield, leading to Taylor Koehnen, who drove a ball opposite side down the first baseline for a two-run RBI double.
That trio went 4-for-4 on the day with Koehnen cleaning up with a pair of two-run RBI doubles and a two-run triple in the top of the fifth.
“We always look to them and have confidence in them, but they’ve never produced like that,” Borwege said of the trio. “Going into our last regular season game and into the postseason, that makes us feel really strong about what we’re going to put up against other teams.”
Koehnen finished the game with six RBI and scored two runs herself with the help of the latter half of the lineup that heated up as the game progressed. She quickly passed credit to Kraimer who got on base early and often for the Trojans (18-1, 8-1).
“It helps when the first batter gets on base. It got us going right away,” Koehnen said. “It’s a huge start-off, getting everyone’s energy up, and knowing that everyone can do it and it’s possible.”
Kraimer and Koehnen feed off each other on defense as well. Kraimer, New Prague’s sophomore ace on the mound, has developed a chemistry with Koehnen behind the plate at catcher over the past two years.
This year the team’s taken a laid back approach in its leadership. Instead of a few key leaders, it’s a team of peers who all take responsibility for each other's actions.
“She makes me not feel like a sophomore. Like I’m not an underclassman. We’re at the same level and she’s helped me out a lot,” Kraimer said of Koehnen.
After a six-run fourth-inning, Kraimer struck out the first batter she faced in the bottom of the inning, further galvanizing her team as freshman Kennedy Buckman made a diving save at shortstop against the following Spartans (9-8, 6-4) batter.
Kraimer notched the win over Orono, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out three through five innings.
Alyssa Denneson took the loss for the Spartans, allowing 10 hits and seven runs through four and two-thirds innings. She struck out four batters in that span.
With one regular season game left to play and a stifling 150-31 scoring advantage against competition, New Prague’s bounce back against Orono has helped the Trojans return to their dominance at the plate in time for the postseason.
“We came out hitting like we normally do,” Koehnen said. “We had a rough start the last couple games, but this was a good one.”
"This is who we are," she added.
Taylor Koehnen tallied six RBI and hit 4-for-4 to push New Prague to a 13-3 five-inning victory over the Spartans Tuesday evening at Orono High School.
Ranked No. 8 in the Class 4A in the coaches’ poll, the Trojans (18-1, 8-1) hit around the rotation and plated six runs in the fourth inning and followed that up by scoring an additional five runs in the fifth to run away with the game.
Sophomore pitcher Mia Kraimer and junior Emily Schmitz also batted 4-for-4 at the top of New Prague’s order.
Kraimer notched the win, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out three through five innings.
Alyssa Denneson took the loss for Orono (9-8, 6-4), allowing 10 hits and seven runs through four and two-thirds innings. She struck out four batters in that span.
Taylor Koehnen connects for a two-run double that broke open a close game in the fourth inning and ignited an 11-0 two-inning output for New Prague. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
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