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Rosemount slugger's big swing brings softball state title to the Irish

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 06/16/21, 9:15PM CDT


Rosemount’s Paige Zender hit a grand slam to key the Irish's 5-1 victory against Forest Lake to win the Class 4A championship.

Rosemount’s Paige Zender (5) hit a grand slam in the fifth inning of the Class 4A championship game against Forest Lake Wednesday. Photo: ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com

NORTH MANKATO, MINN. – Paige Zender was miffed.

Rosemount’s sophomore cleanup hitter watched Forest Lake’s third pitcher of the Class 4A softball championship game intentionally walk the batter in front of her, pitcher and leading hitter Jessa Snippes, to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning.

“I was like, ‘If they’re going to walk her, then they’re going to have to face me,’ ” Zender said with firm confidence. “Pick your battles.”

Zender lofted a deep fly that cleared the fence in left-center at Caswell Park for a grand slam, turning a tenuous 1-0 lead into a comfortable 5-0 margin and sparking the Irish to a 5-1 victory Wednesday.

It’s the third state softball title for Rosemount (24-1). The Irish won the Class 2A title in 1979 and the 3A crown in 2006.

Zender said she felt overdue at that point, having not hit up to her expectations. She broke through with a run-scoring single in the third inning, setting up her big blast two innings later.

“I was struggling a little bit earlier,” she said. “I’ve had some quality at-bats, but I hadn’t had a hit yet. So it was nice to do it for the team and do it in this atmosphere. It was amazing.”

Rosemount coach Tiffany Rose never had any doubts about Zender’s ability to come through in big situations. In fact, it surprised her when Zender’s early tournament struggles were mentioned.

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